Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS)

In recent years information systems (IS) have been deployed by organisations for achieving efficiency, effectiveness, enhancing quality and gaining competitive advantage. Similarly Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) are used by Human Resource (HR) departments to achieve similar objectives. This research aims to investigate the impact of HRIS on HR Manager’s present and future roles and decisions making.

It is concerned with looking at the role of HRIS as a medium for HR managers for performing their job roles more professionally or perhaps as a means for reducing their status after years of hard-earned recognition. This research will investigate whether, and to what extent HRIS are enabling HR managers to enhance their job roles to attain increased professional status. It will evaluate whether HRIS are enabling current HR managers to achieve increased recognition and professionalism. This will be examined by looking at the nature of HRIS and the nature of HR managers’ job roles (traditional and new emerging ones) followed by a focus on the impact of HRIS on HR managers’ job roles.

Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS):

Rapid changes in information systems (IS) in last five decades have been strongly influential on modern organisations. Many organisations are using IS as a tool for enhancing efficiency. This is consistent with the writings of IS writers like Edwards et al (1995), Elliott and Starkings (1998), Renkema (2000), and, Laudon and Laudon (2002) the use of IS, which includes systems such as HRIS, has become widespread in most organisations and more employees and departments in all types of organisations are heavily reliant on such systems. Softworld (1996/7) also reported a rise in the use of HRIS. The reducing cost of personal computers has provided medium and smaller businesses access to both hardware and hardware for the use of HRIS.

The use of IS in organisation can enable them to increase efficiency, effectiveness and integration. Three general uses of IS in organisations are:

Business operations: Day to day activities of the organisation, such as producing its products or delivering its services.

Management of organisation: The activities for controlling and monitoring the day-to-day activities of the organisation in the context of its aims and goals.

Strategic objectives: The long-term, objectives and goals of the organisation.

A contemporary use of IS has become more advanced and enables organisation to make a more strategic use of them. Different types of systems and their use is: Transaction Processing Systems (TPS): TPS are used to undertake day-to-day activities, transactions and functions at operational level. These systems help to make Operational Decisions such as stock control. Management Information Systems (MIS): MIS are used for predicting the financial operations of the organisation as well as graphical models that provide a visual illustration of the information. These systems help to make Management Control Decisions such as comparisons of data or budget data. Strategic Information Systems (SIS): SIS type

systems ... provide information to senior executive managers on strategic areas of a business organisation’s activities, to aid strategic decision-making”. These systems help to make Strategic Decisions that involve decisions based on ill-defined problem. A summary of the use of these three levels of IS in the Figure 1 taken from Elliott and Starkings (1998) is provided below.

Therefore IS, including HRIS, can be used at various levels of the organisation to accomplish various types of tasks by various levels of organisational workers. Figure 1 shows that IS are used at three levels: strategic, tactical/middle and operational, hence there are three types of IS (EIS, MIS and TPS) that are used by three different level of workers (strategic, middle management and operational). Figure 1 illustrates that the number of people making strategic use of IS are usually low and situated in senior managerial positions in the organisational hierarchy. It demonstrates that senior organisational workers within the organisation are fewer in number than those at the bottom and they have shorter time horizon for making decisions than those at operational levels. It emphasises that authority to make decisions at the top of the apex is higher, are more uncertain and require a lot more authority than those at the bottom. Decisions made at senior levels of management are also more problematic and the problem scope of these is much wider. Such decisions are a rare occurrence. In that respect organisational workers, including those at professional grades, such as HR managers would have to use them at various levels to yield maximum benefits from them. What has not been established is the level they were using HRIS in their daily work, since such systems are being used at various levels, from very operational level used in undertaking routine work to more strategic level work for making judgements. Most early HRIS were used at operational levels in their early days and more recently they are being used at more strategic level as their functionality becomes more advanced.

A more advanced use of IS for strategic level work may be happening due to advances in technology

HRIS are used at different levels of the organisation to help HR managers to accomplish different levels of tasks hence the impact of HRIS on the role of a HR manager is likely to be a major one. HRIS are used at three levels of organisation as they offer a comprehensive set of functionality, such as training, career pathing and compensation analysis.

The requirements from HRIS have been changing in recent years. A full HRIS offers a wide range of modules ranging from strategic to operational, as shown in table 1. Usually when we use the term HRIS, we imply a fully developed HRIS. Most vendors offer full systems but some also offer partial systems.

Human Resource Management (HRM):

It is important to focus on the typical and traditional roles of HR managers as well as the new emerging changes to their roles, such as HR consultancy roles, forming HR plans and strategy and integrating them to organisational level strategy. HRIS have been designed to help HR managers to perform different types of duties both routine and higher level. But do HRIS allow HR managers to perform their roles more professionally overall and gain better recognition?


Personnel  Records  &  Report Generation
Flexible  Benefits
Disciplinary  Control
Organisational  charting
Buildings  Management
Holiday  Management
Testing  of  skills  and  aptitudes
Self  Assessment
Time  and  Attendance
Personnel  Development  Needs Assessment
Success  Planning
Shift  schedule  Management
Job  Evaluation
Test  Development  &  Evaluation
Data  Interface
Job  analysis
Company  Car  Management
Grievance  Procedure
Health  and  Safety  Records
Performance  Assessment
Nationalities  &  Permit  Processing
Training  Management  Expenses
Recruitment  Management
Absence  Monitoring

The HR profession has been changing constantly and reflects the wider changes to organisations, so the nature of their work, their professional recognition and even their use of IS would depend on the proposed changes to their jobs.

The perceived importance and non-importance of HR profession is likely to have an impact on the system use by HR managers.

HR professionals are more diverse than the traditional professionals. Farnham (1985) noted that unlike traditional professions, like lawyers, HR Management is not an homogeneous group being employed by different size, types and sectors of organisations. Another issue is how Human Resource Professionals gain power and status within organisations, Legge (1978) argues that the function can gain additional power and status by either conformity or challenging current business norms and paradigms to gain authority and power within organisations. Although this has been explored by both Shipton and McAuley (1990,) and Grant et al (1998) who argue that the enhanced of the personnel function by positioning itself within the organisation provides more power and status than the enhancement of professional status.

Types of HR Specialists/Managers :

Guest and Horwood (1981: cited in Armstrong, 1984) identified five types of HR specialists used by an organisations, distinguished by occupational category and status in the management hierarchy. Despite their diverse backgrounds HR managers, Cole (1997) argued, play a central role in their organisations. This importance of their role could be linked with McKinlay’s notion of “central wise man”. The purpose of HR manager should be judged to the extent they help the organisation to meet its objectives using their roles (Armstrong, 1984). There are 3 broad roles of HR manager (Advice on Policy, Advice on HR systems): advisory, service and functional roles (Hussain, 2002).

New emerging role of HR specialist:

Strategy and planning Organisations have begun to realise the importance of HRM in achieving a better competitive advantage (Greer 1995:p130-2; Husleid, 1995; Hussain, 2002). This recognition along with increased environmental uncertainty, greater pressure to control costs and increased governmental labour initiatives have highlighted the strategic role of HRM (Peters and Waterman, 1982) and the need to change organisational culture in 1990s to bring it in line with the new economic change (Johnson and Scholes, 1993; Miles and Snow, 1986; Pettigrew and Whipp, 1991).

Greer (1995) notes that HRM refers to the application of HR to meet organisation’s strategic requirements and objectives in an effective way.

So it involves:
... getting the strategy of the business implemented effectively ... getting everybody from the top of the human organization to the bottom doing things that make the business successful.

The use of HRIS increases the information base of HR managers and allows them to perform their job roles more professionally. In fact a strategic use of HRIS enables them to make more informed decisions and judgements. This would hopefully enable them to increase their personal recognition within their organisations.

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