Academic journal article Management Revue

E-HRM: Innovation or Irritation. an Explorative Empirical Study in Five Large Companies on Web-Based HRM**

Academic journal article Management Revue

E-HRM: Innovation or Irritation. an Explorative Empirical Study in Five Large Companies on Web-Based HRM**

Article excerpt

Technological optimistic voices assume that, from a technical perspective, the IT possibilities for HRM are endless: in principal all HR processes can be supported by IT. E-HRM is the relatively new term for this IT supported HRM, especially through the use of web technology. This paper aims at demystifying e-HRM by answering the following questions: what actually is e-HRM?, what are the goals of starting with eHRM?, what types can be distinguished? and what are the outcomes of e-HRM? Based upon the literature, an e-HRM research model is developed and, guided by this model, five organizations have been studied that have already been on the 'e-HR road' for a number of years. We conclude that the goals of e-HRM are mainly to improve HR's administrative efficiency/to achieve cost reduction. Next to this goals, international companies seem to use the introduction of e-HRM to standardize/harmonize HR policies and processes. Further, there is a 'gap' between e-HRM in a technical sense and e-HRM in a practical sense in the five companies involved in our study. Finally, e-HRM hardly helped to improve employee competences, but resulted in cost reduction and a reduction of the administrative burden.

Key words: Electronic Human Resource Management, Human Resource Management, Information Technology, Explorative Case Studies

1. Introduction

Technologically optimistic voices assume that, from a technical perspective, the IT possibilities for HRM are endless: in principal all HR processes can be supported by IT. Words are becoming even more provocative when some say that the question whether HR should become digital already is outdated: HR must become digital! Trapp (2001) warns against the idea that e-commerce is over because the dot.com bubble has burst. He is convinced that the internet will never go away: the use of the internet will keep on increasing as companies look for ways to reduce costs. According to Trapp, HR departments are not immune from such trends, in particular nowadays when they are being pressed to prove their added value to business performance. Jäger (2001) believes that HRM will acquire a new dimension with the emergence of ebusiness.

Wright and Dyer (2000) present a similar line of reasoning: e-business is emerging, and therefore HR and HR professionals are faced with the challenge of performing in ways that are in line with the business. In their view 'HR functions [can] become critical partners in driving success, but to do so requires that HR changes its focus, its role, and its delivery systems' (Wright and Dyer, p. 52). According to them, in e-business, the application of intranet technology for HR is inevitable.

We will review the literature and present five case studies. Based upon the literature, an e-HR research model is developed and, guided by this model, five organizations have been studied that have already been on the 'e-HR road' for a number of years.

Before starting to define e-HRM, it is important to identify terms that possibly carry similar meanings to the term e-HRM. In the literature, in addition to e-HR and e-HRM, terms are used such as virtual HR(M), HR intranet, web-based HR, computer-based human resource management systems (CHRIS), and HR portals. We are excluding HR information systems (HRIS), which have been discussed extensively (e.g. DeSanctis, 1986; Kavanagh et al., 1990; Cascio and Awad, 1981; Haines and Petit, 1997), since there is a fundamental difference between HRIS and e-HR in that basically HRIS are directed towards the HR department itself. Users of these systems are mainly HR staff. These types of systems aim to improve the processes within the HR departments itself, albeit in order to improve the service towards the business. With eHR, the target group is not the HR staff but people outside this department: the employees and management. HRM services are being offered through an intranet for use by employees. The difference between HRIS and e-HR can be identified as the switch from the automation of HR services towards technological support of information on HR services. …

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