National Health Mission (NHM) in Arunachal Pradesh adopted a Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) believed to be the first of its kind in the State. The aim is to ensure transparency in work and timely disbursement of staff salaries through the PFMS platform across all the districts and programmes under the NHM. Timely payment of salaries is intended to motivate the staff working in far-flung areas of the state and ensure that health programs are not adversely impacted only due to low motivation levels of the staff.
The article caught my attention because management information system is largely considered a corporate process management system. Adoption of HRMIS by a government program shows the promise that adoption of such a system brings in the context of a health program in one of the most difficult terrains of India. Having worked in the public policy sector myself, I found that motivation of employees to keep up the quality of health services provided by a government funded program was indeed a novel way of approaching public policy.
The original purpose of HRIS had been to standardize information gathering about and for employees of the organization. However, the scope had been widened by the time; parallel to the efforts of human resources management function to transform into a new dimension, to respond to the dynamism and competitive business environment.
The implementation of HRIS is a sociotechnical challenge and requires using a different approach from other technology-driven innovations. If the benefits of the technology are not clearly delineated for the employees, the implementation can backfire into many psychological issues including a trust deficit.
The technical side of an organization is application of instrumentally logical methods for the completion of tasks; that is namely machinery processes, procedures and a physical arrangement. On the other hand, the social side of an organization consists of the needs and relationships of humans, that is namely people and their habits, attitudes, values, behavioral styles and formal and informal relationships. Sociotechnical paradigm is a holistic view which studies the relationships between the social and technical parts of any system.
Social challenges of HRIS Implementation
User values: Users do not have a choice to use the new human resources information system or not to use it. That choice has actually been already made by the management, in favor of the new system. Due to the ‘forceful’ implementation users may not have a positive approach for the new system regardless of its properties.
User profiles: Potential users of a human resources information system are usually either competent at the previous information systems but are not willing to learn a new system or do not have any computer experience at all but are willing to learn computers in general and the new software specifically. Both user profiles propose a challenge to the implementation and the process suffers from inertia.
In the case of health workers of NHM, the system can have negative effects due to lack of trust in technology and in face reduce employee motivation instead of increasing it.
User perceptions: Unless users have guidance to the objectives of the new information system, they have a tendency to perceive the new system as something bad and stay at a distance as much as possible, either consciously or unconsciously. Human resources professionals have a tendency to worry that the new human resources information system will result in their replacement or they will have critics for not already doing a good enough job.
Perceptions that control over tasks will be less, social interactions will be less or of lower quality, several jobs will be lost, resulting jobs will be worse etc. can worsen the effectiveness of the health schemes. The fact that social interactions are a core aspect of implementing welfare schemes in remote areas, the HRMIS system must not hamper the social interactions involved between different stakeholders.
TECHNICAL CHALLENGES OF HRIS IMPLEMENTATIONS
Usability: Usability of HRIS brings about lower effort expectancy in users and therefore increases user acceptance of information systems with easiness and speed for completion of a task. Users have high level of frustration and anger regarding technology and therefore universal usability should be the goal in order to ensure highest use of technology.
The quality of vendor adopted and the UI-UX of a government approved HRMIS can be questioned based on general experience with government e-initiatives. The abandonment of the HRMIS can yield great costs for NHM which is already struggling for funds in the era of the current government.
Complexity: The introduction of a new system coupled with programming errors, increasing user training needs, decreasing program stability creates the possibility of overwhelming the users. Introduction of information technology enabled novel processes that are distinctively different from the current processes increases the likelihood of resistance in the implementation, especially if the new processes contrast in the assumptions and values of the users.
The HRMIS tool may bring in increased transparency which may not be a value espoused by the government officials and workers. Thus a value-based dissonance may further worsen the implementation efforts of the new system.
Success story and lessons
In January 2000, Hewlett-Packard (HP) CEO Carly Fiorina provided a vision for the @HP Employee Portal, stating, “This worldwide entry point would be rolled out to every subsidiary around the world, connecting employees who can access corporate information, personal data, services, HP resources, and execute internal transactions.”
Analysing the case study using the Leavitt’s Diamond model to examine the critical success factors the following aspects of effectively implementing the change can be drawn out –
Leadership involvement – HP’s hopes for the success and utility of the @HP Employee Portal were demonstrated by the CEO personally and enthusiastically presenting the implementation plan.
Structural analysis and stakeholder mapping – HP staff analyzed its HR organizational structure and involved all groups, broken down into Corporate, European, and Local functions both horizontally (staff) and vertically (in the various divisions).
Communication plan and information dissemination – The HR Director carried out an elaborate communication plan to dispel the fears of HR Executives that they were going to be displaced. The communication plan was even altered to adopt to local cultural requirements.
Actionable feedback and support – The button “feedback/support” at the top of the portal interface was added to collect comments, suggestions, and, most important, proposals for the release of the second version.
Retaining ‘humane’ element – In some cases, employees still wanted to see their HR representative and continue to have face-to-face contact with HR. The HR Managers then specifically began to visit the employees or go on rounds because their mundane tasks were taken over by the new portal. Employees knew the face-to-face relationship was still intact in HR and available in critical moments of HR processes, and this helped to create a more favourable climate.
Thus even a simple technological upgrade in one area of the business will clearly have large effects throughout the organisation. For the change to be successful all the factors stated above will have to be evaluated and addressed.