How a Volatile 2012 Will Bring IT and HR Closer Together

by Dave Hannon

December 20, 2011

By Dave Hannon


When business is growing and economies are strong, the challenge is to hire and retain the right talent in your company. When times are bad and economies slow, the challenge is to "right size" (yes I hate that term too) your workforce to match your business needs. But when times they are now (call it volatile, unpredictable, or varied) the challenge is to build enough flexibility into your talent strategy so your company will be well staffed for either possibility.

And unfortunately, 2012 looks to be another year of volatility and unpredictability in many global markets. There's a presidential election in the U.S., a debt crisis in Europe and political tensions in a number of other regions. It all adds up to more volatility.

When surveyed recently by Tatum about which factors will significantly affect the economic landscape in 2012, CFOs cite the following factors:

  • Unpredictability surrounding the upcoming U.S. election 
  • Continuing uncertainty of the marketplace 
  • Concerns over unemployment

As a recent Gartner report points out,  the European financial crisis will continue to impact HR for most companies in that r egion:

"CIOs and business executives face significant HR issues in terms of rewarding and motivating staff, securing funds to hire appropriate new talent, and dealing with the personnel hardships of individuals entering the work environment, which impair productivity. They must also plan for retention issues of foreign workers moving to better opportunities or the removal of non-EU work permits and visas in response to political backlash from rapidly rising unemployment, resulting in a 'brain drain'."

So your HR organization has a lot to take on this year and the IT organization must find new ways to help support the company's talent strategy in this unpredictable environment this year.

Feeling helpless? Don't. IT can be the solution to this challenge, especially at a company running a single ERP platform. The right HR IT strategy can go a long way toward smoothing over the HR challenges of a volatile market.

In a recent reoprt, Deloitte points out that "New technologies such as cloud computing, social media and mobile devices affect HR in two ways. First, they help enable HR to deliver services more efficiently and effectively. For example, cloud computing can reduce the cost and time required to develop new HR solutions and can improve scalability, enabling HR to effectively and efficiently grow or shrink its capacity and capabilities in response to changing business needs. Second and perhaps even more significantly, new technologies raise the bar on what HR’s customers expect." 

In the Tatum survey, CFOs express hope that cloud computing will reduce IT costs enough to provide more resources in other areas, such as staffing. (Note: SAP’s acquisition of SuccessFactors should give SAP users a double-whammy in that it will reduce HR IT costs directly.)

How else can IT help drive HR's strategy for volatile times?

Well, maybe your HR organization is a well-traveled group? Then it might be time to mobilize your HR platform. As Deloitte points out in a recent report"companies should look for opportunities to integrate their execution of global mobility with their mainstream HR or talent infrastructures, reserving global mobility specialists for the particular activities that require them."

Or maybe you are trying to better engage the younger members of your team, who are the biggest flight risk? It might be time to incorporate more social aspects into your HR system.

Maybe you're trying to give your employees a better view of the organization in which they reside? It might be time to roll out an org charting solution

And if you're ready to try something a bit more radical at the executive level, at least one person has floated the idea that HR and IT may both benefit from being led by the same person. Peter High, president of Metis Strategy, says in this CIO Insight article: In "having a single executive responsible for IT and HR, the needs of the most important resource at any company, its people, can seamlessly translate into IT solutions where appropriate."

So even if 2012 is another "Year of Volatility" then it's even more likely to be "The Year That IT and HR Really Got on the Same Page."

Here's hoping that first part is wrong and the second part is right.

Happy New Year!

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