HR Systems of Record: Re-Evaluating Their Importance In Digital Era


Organizations can spend weeks, even months, evaluating and purchasing an HRIS. If this purchase is the first-ever integrated HRIS for the organization, the process can take even longer as everyone is trying to make the best decision possible. After signing contracts, implementing the system requires more time and money. Finally, the go-live date arrives, and everyone is excited that the HR-related system deficiencies will be solved. After all, the lack of a system was the real problem, right?

Months pass, and the ROI of the new system still needs to be quantified. The uptake of the new system may be slow, and employees need to use it to its full potential. There may have been a lack of training or change management processes to help make a smooth transition, and resources are burned out from the implementation. The requests and HR system issues still exist, and everyone questions whether they should have selected the right system.

When you start doubting your decision, you pay more attention to articles and research that offer easy and quick solutions. For example, headlines like this in Forbes: "The Move from Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement" make you think you may have focused on the wrong thing. A system of record is necessary, but you should have been focusing on engagement. On closer examination, you see no cool gadgets people say they like to use for social collaboration, goal setting, peer recognition, or productivity analysis. You may feel that what you have needs to be updated and rethink your system.

But before you start ripping out your current system or buying new software solutions, take the time to understand your overall HR strategy and how technology can help achieve your goals. And don't dismiss the need for a solid HR system of record. This core system can provide the basis for engagement strategies.

When we look back at the history of HR and record keeping, systems had to evolve from purely tracking employees to becoming systems of compliance. Regulations from governments dealing with child labor, hours of work, and compensation meant that more was needed to know who was working for you, but you also had to track precise details of their work. After WWII, when resources were in demand, managers realized the importance of maximizing productivity and how hiring the right people from the start could make a big difference in overall profitability.

In the 1960s, computer technology became available for employee record keeping, and compliance reporting became more accessible, freeing HR's time and resources to focus on other employee management activities. No matter how technologically advanced the tools available have evolved, productivity, profitability, and compliance have been the constant themes behind HR systems.

HR has become more complex over the years. New ways of working, such as telecommuting, have made it crucial that technical tools be available to manage projects and the people doing the work. Compliance issues are ever-present, and we must ensure we have people with the appropriate competencies and authority in the correct roles. However, only some tools work with a solid and reliable HR system of record. There must be one source of truth about the employee or contractor that the organization can rely on. And let's remember the importance of authority and the security and network access attached to that authority.

As security experts have pointed out, today's SaaS-based companies quickly develop applications, but those processes' information security and vulnerability are sometimes overlooked [1]. If you employ a collection of apps and systems that do single functions, security and user setups must be replicated across systems, which is prone to error. When a change needs to be made to a user, you must change over and over in different systems. Having a core HR system of record that you pivot applications and functional add-ons off of can provide the level of security, consistency, and reliability required. Having one system can show the big-picture view necessary to understand how people and processes impact your organization.

While technology trends and tools have come and gone over the years, what remains consistent is the need for a core HR system of record to maintain compliance, track productivity, and analyze how people work. Better use of your HRIS and extending functionality off of that system is where you will see the actual ROI.


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