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Leveraging Technology - Retaining corporate knowledge in an Ageing workforce situation

Irrespective of the geography and services offered by Utilities today worldwide, a few challenges remain common. Utilities are constrained to meet those challenges and deliver without compromising operational efficiency and/or offering the best value for money to the end customer.  The industry in itself is facing challenges in terms of uncertainty on fuel prices, uncertainty in markets, government involvement in pricing and regulation, pressures from climate change imperatives etc. To mitigate these challenges, executives resort to their dashboards that offer a quick snapshot of their traditional financial and business performance measures.  In many cases, one of the key metric that doesn't come under the priority radar is the importance of employees who work for them has in the organisation's success.  The pace of change in utilities world-wide has accelerated market factors that influence the industry.  While technology is one of the means to prepare for these changes, organisations are beginning to understand that the role of 'employees' in their organisations is going to gain more importance in preparing for these challenges. There is a fundamental agreement across the board that these are the people who would have vital knowledge and experience that could fuel the success of the organisation. This blog focuses on few approaches that organisations can take to leverage the people advantage to stay ahead in competition.

Technology comes handy to organisations in managing their processes around recruiting the right talent, putting in a performance evaluation framework, accountability and ownership employee data, succession planning and leadership. Technology in general can assist organisations in actionising their strategy to achieve their vision.  The following are some areas where technology levers can be used to deliver

Collaboration & Empowerment: Accuracy and effective employee data management is a key success factor in ensuring a robust HR process model.  There is a noticeable shift in moving this responsibility and ownership of this data from the HR teams to the employees themselves. Web based applications facilitate connectivity from virtually anywhere anytime and also promotes collaboration.  Approval hierarchies and self service applications promote employees and their managers to take ownership and responsibility of transaction. Role base access privileges ensure that the roles and responsibilities of the employees are controlled.  Equally, this empowerment can also focus on the HR team itself by providing clear role definitions for people who manage transactions, specialists and business partners who provide inputs to HR strategies and measure effectiveness of the strategy deployed and administrators who manage and administer employee data.

Automation: Technology drivers can also be leveraged by HR teams delivering operational excellence to the employees.  This excellence plays a critical role in keeping the employee satisfied and encourages them to be with the organisation for a longer period of time.  Operational excellence can be achieved by inheriting best practices and automating them to improve productivity in delivering services to the employees. By making the HR processes consistent across the organisation and automating them, HR teams can actually focus more on delivering value added services and provide inputs to corporate HR strategy with the time that is at their disposal.

Competency Management: Clear definition of roles can facilitate managing the required competencies and training needs for the specific roles. This competency management can aid various other HR processes like career and succession planning, performance appraisal and compensation reviews, fulfilling regulatory obligations to assure employee health, safety and training needs.  A thought through competency management model provides a lot of objectivity, predictability and insight to the above mentioned processes, which ultimately can be tied up to the corporate and departmental goals.

Intelligence: Operational intelligence and alignment to HR strategy can be monitored through defined HR metrics which are best when integrated with the financial and other performance figures in the executive dashboard. In today's dynamic conditions, it is important to understand the quantitative impact of people issues on the corporate vision. This can be achieved by integrating quantitative HR metrics into executive's dashboard, along with financial and other performance metrics. Some of the new measures could be around employee attrition, revenue productivity per person, recruitment effectiveness, employee engagement and satisfaction survey scores and trends etc., In addition to the above, utilities benefit a log in integrating the FTE count, budgeted spend vs. actual spend at a cost centre level as a part of the executive dashboard.  This metric provides a continuous view on the regulatory spend.

Knowledge management: In an ageing workforce conditions, it is important to focus on not only retaining talent, but also retaining corporate knowledge from employees who are about to retire.  Structured succession planning processes, competency planning processes and training processes can address this challenge to an extent, but organisations have started focusing on developing a knowledge repository based on employee experience.  Portals, blogs to share experience, knowledge shops, User champions, Web 2.0 are some of the approaches which actually can assist organisations in providing an opportunity to tap experience and make it available for the next generation employees working for the organisation.

At the end of the day HR department or employees or technology alone cannot execute a people strategy and provide competitive advantage to organisations.  However, technology can play the role of the binding glue in bringing all these disparate teams to collaborate and execute this strategy. Technology can provide a platform hiring and retaining talent, promote a learning organisation, create leadership capabilities and opportunities, managing employee work-life balance and most importantly provide a platform where multi-cultural and multi-demographic workforce can be effectively managed to deliver a common cause.


 

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