Technological development outpacing understanding, HR researcher says

The critical importance of technology is becoming more recognised in the 21st-century knowledge economy but the digitisation of our work lives is often misunderstood, a Griffith University academic has argued.

Associate Professor Mohan Thite set out to explore the fast-growing field of HR technology in his new book, e-HRM: Digital Approaches, Directions & Applications.

“Technology is everywhere and always changing, but two out of three HR tech-projects fail based on the criteria of time, budget, or delivering what was promised,” Dr Thite, a member of the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, said.

To illustrate how quickly this field is changing, Dr Thite recalls writing Human Resource Information Systems: Basics, Applications in 2009, which has had three editions since, and is now redundant.

“The world has completely changed,” Dr Thite said. “We are now surrounded by cloud computing, big data, social media and analytic programs, which weren’t around in 2009 and needed to be contextualised.”

Associate Professor Mohan Thite

Dr Thite’s book argues that although technology is a key enabler for faster, cheaper and better delivery of HR services, it can also have unintended negative effects.

“With more companies using cloud technology, the more exposed our data is to the world,” he said.

“The digital divide presents a problem, because if not everyone can afford the latest technology, equality of opportunity may not be possible.

“We must also be aware of information overload and anxiety.”

To develop a publication that would be relevant for academia and industry, and be internationally adopted, Dr Thite compiled the latest research topics to impact HR — virtual reality, augmented reality, social media — determined a structure, and then went on the hunt for talent.

He wrote six chapters himself, but recruited talent from all over the world, including Germany and USA, so that he could develop a publication that was truly an international endeavour spearheaded by a diverse panel of experts.

e-HRM: Digital Approaches, Directions & Applications has already been adopted as the teaching standard in USA, Denmark, India and Australia, as it bridges an important gap in HR for practitioners and students.

The book is used to teach two courses at Griffith, in which students gain practical experience with PeopleSoft, Griffith’s HR software. Griffith is one of the only universities in Australia providing this experience.

This research area led to a study with an Indian-based IT company, which revealed that although technology may improve productivity, its effects are marginal without transparent leadership.

Dr Thite’s study investigated employees’ perception and satisfaction levels with the revamped Performance Management System in three global Indian IT services and business solutions organisations.

The results indicated a positive, but only modest, trend in employee satisfaction and perceptions, and many contentious issues prevail despite the change.

Dr Thite’s study of HR technology also led to a ‘global talent management’ project on skill shortages in the high-tech industry, which he undertook with colleagues from USA and UK.

“Today, high-tech employers are grappling with political backlash from hiring overseas talent amidst domestic shortages. The solution lies in taking a long-term approach to developing internal talent.”

Dr Thite concluded: “Does technology level the playing field? Does more information equate to more power? The reality is that we need to accept that, with all its benefits, technology can always be exploited.

“Remember: it is always people over process, mindset over metrics and dignity over data. No matter what tech or how much you use, people, their dignity and privacy, need to come first.”