HR software has for many years been revolutionising the processes and procedures of HR departments. But the growing power of intuitive technologies means the opportunities for forward-thinking HR professionals are ever-increasing. Keen to develop a greater understanding of organisations’ evolving HR goals, client services director at Cascade HR Heather Vitty recently surveyed her varied customer base. Here she shares her findings…

“The world of technology is ever-changing which means that the functional capabilities of Human Resources software are numerous. Often features can be introduced that clients wouldn’t have ever thought possible, so the scope for HR professionals to strategically excel is very exciting indeed.

When enhancing a software solution and providing complementary advice for clients, developers’ technological foresight is of course incredibly important. However for HR software to really add value it must meet the true operational requirements and strategic objectives of HR departments. This is why the more responsible system suppliers will keep their ear to the ground when it comes to developing their products and services.

Eager to uncover the key challenges that organisations want HR software to help them tackle over the next 12 months, Cascade recently commissioned an industry-wide survey of UK HR departments. When analysing the results three clear findings emerged – 68% of respondents are keen to learn more about how technology will aid the learning and development of staff, 67.3% wish to address employee outlook, and 60.8% want to reduce the cost of absence.

Such a detailed insight into client needs is incredibly important, and this will certainly underpin the themes for our user group agenda later this year. But what do these software findings signify for the wider HR arena?

Time and again when entering the procurement process, the benefits that clients state they wish to achieve from their software implementation are: the consolidation of data into one central source; greater departmental efficiencies; and better management of employees in terms of personnel records and entitlements.

These have long been the goals that HR software has been tasked to achieve, and it seems apparent that these benefits remain at the core of every new project we begin with clients today. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that once clients have been successfully operating the software for a period of time, and when processes have been streamlined and efficiencies achieved as a result, HR professionals then have more time to undertake the core element of their role – looking after employees.

HR specialist for Wesco Aircraft Europe Samantha Parr elaborates: “The more integrated into day-to-day organisational life the software becomes and the greater the number of benefits we experience, the more we look at what the software can achieve next. If you select a system that is much more than just a database or processing tool, this is when its technological capabilities will shine through. You can’t help but continually look for your next challenge because if the software encourages rather than restricts change, the opportunities almost seem endless.”

It is perhaps therefore unsurprising that, when no longer overwhelmed by administrative burdens, HR professionals wish to focus upon the enrichment of employees’ working life. An extended period of austerity has left many companies vulnerable, and the desire to retain hard-working, talented staff is strong.

Phil Silver, HR operations manager at Punter Southall Group concurs: “As the economy looks to full recovery, the success and sustainability of organisations depends upon the quality of staff and the efficiency with which they work. Now we need to utilise technologies not just to undertake the necessities of maintaining employee records and documenting absences, but to holistically and effectively engage with and develop our employees.”

So where exactly can HR software help and how important will its role be in helping clients actualise the departmental aspirations identified?

Software can aid the formation of learning and development plans by identifying individuals’ skills and competencies, pinpointing skills gaps and tracking high potential employees. This can then be used to identify on-the-job training and management mentoring needs, which should in turn impact positively upon employees’ sense of enrichment, fulfilment and workplace satisfaction.

Gradually the employee outlook should begin to improve as the level of dialogue and engagement increases, but appraisals and staff feedback surveys can be carried out using software to ensure constructive communication is maintained.

Stronger relationships with employees will contribute to the more effective management of absences, an incredibly significant issue given the CIPD’s findings that the median cost of absence was £673 per employee in 2011. Frank Vaughan, operational support manager at Leeds Housing Concern, has already utilised HR software to identify absence trends, devise best-practice absence management processes, and empower line managers to address absences effectively. This intelligent overhaul saw Leeds Housing Concern’s absence rate fall by 18% in only 12 months, staff morale was heightened due to alleviated workplace pressures when colleagues were absent, managers’ skills were enriched and employee wellbeing was protected.

The important thing to remember about HR software is that intuitive reports identify and monitor progress and trends, and workflows maintain best-practice throughout. So when wishing to retain valuable talent, boost employee wellbeing, reduce the cost of absence and labour turnover, and heighten productivity as workplace satisfaction rises, organisations are in safe hands with HR technology.