From e-HRM to Fast HRM

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  Damned If She Does, Damned If She Doesn’t: rethinking the rules of the game that keep women from succeeding in business

By Lynn Cronin & Howard Fine, 272 pages, Prometheus Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-61614-174-5
  Retooling HR: using proven business tools to make better decisions about talent

By John W. Boudreau, 200 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4221-3007-0
  Workforce of One: revolutionizing talent management through customization

By Susan M. Cantrell and David Smith, 260 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN (not available)
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By Jim D. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. and Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick, 240 pages, AMACOM Books, 2010. ISBN 13: 978-0-8144-1464-4
  One Page Talent Management: eliminating complexity, adding value

By Marc Effron and Miriam Ort, 176 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN (not available)
  What’s Next GenX? Keeping Up, Moving Ahead, and Getting the Career You Want

By Tamara Erickson, 244 pages, Harvard Business Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4221-2064-4

  Workforce Solutions Review Online  
  From e-HRM to Fast HRM  
  By Theresa M. Welbourne, Ph.D., eePulse, Inc.  

Human resources management (HRM) is a field that historically has been inundated with paperwork and bureaucracy. Thus, the promise of electronic HRM (e-HRM) to reduce administrative work was welcomed and applauded with much enthusiasm. The results of e-HRM were hailed to make the field more strategic. However, with all the improvements in technology and HRM, the reality of moving into a more strategic role is not a reality in many organizations. While there is agreement that e-HRM has helped the field progress, something is missing, and e-HRM has perhaps created a new problem.

e-HRM Leads to Information Overload
What we often hear from leaders, managers, HR executives and the general employee population is that e-HRM is often delivering “information overload.” And with too much data comes complexity and slowness, often the very things that e-HRM was implemented to reduce. Consider a few examples:

  • Online recruiting produces resume overload.
  • Management dashboards generate bar chart and pie chart overload.
  • Employee survey results with too many options for “slicing and dicing” overload.

The answer to being more strategic and adding higher value to the organization doesn’t lie in more technology, but with innovative thinking about core HR systems. It is time to go beyond putting tried and true HR practices on the Web and moving to creatively rethink the work of HRM. New HRM systems should be fast and light because in today’s fast-paced environment, if HRM does not keep up, we’ll miss the opportunity to be strategic. Replacing manual HRM processes with heavy or complex technology often creates more, rather than less, work.

Agile or Extreme Programming as a Model for Fast HRM
If HRM is going to help organizations grow, it must not only add technology but also become fast and light. There is a proven method of getting started, if we are willing to “shamelessly” borrow from another area of business that went through this same transition from slow to fast. Over the last few years, through work at the Center for Effective Organizations at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, we have tapped into agile and extreme programming research to speed up HRM. We are working with companies to alter the HRM strategy-making process, reinvent employee surveys, and apply new theories to deploy a role-based, three-minute 360-degree feedback tool. These experiments have led to innovative tools and practices for business executives, as well as applied research for both practitioners and academics. Also, our team is speeding up learning by blending social networking with traditional teaching, webinars, and real-time benchmarking. These fast HRM tools and processes, using a development cycle based on extreme programming, are examples of moving from e-HRM to Fast HRM.

Fast HRM is not about Reductions in Force
People often link Fast HRM with lean manufacturing. One of the first questions I hear on this subject is: “Isn’t Fast HRM just another way to downsize and cut costs?” The answer to this is “no;” in fact, a core focus of Fast HRM is improving the firm’s relational capital (quality and strengths of relationships among employees and other stakeholders). For firms that have gone through the evolution to e-HRM, reclaiming relationships is another benefit of the Fast HRM approach. As firms moved to self-service and e-HRM, many of the complaints registered were about lower quality relationships.

Fast HRM Builds Relational Capital
Evolving from e-HRM to Fast HRM requires trust and high-quality relationships. This is because Fast HRM focuses on developing smaller, faster, and lighter incremental changes to HR strategy, tools and process - and weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly iterations are done via dialogues with key stakeholders.

Human Resources starts out by searching for good stories. The starting point of Fast HRM is interactive dialogues about what stakeholders need. The conversations also focus on what employees are learning about the organization’s changing environment. The response to these conversations is small change efforts. Once the design change is done, it is reviewed with the key stakeholders who are informing the HR team. In the Fast HRM process, HR practitioners are listening, making change happen, and quickly getting feedback. This type of rapid interactive, results-oriented dialogue makes people feel valued, which improves relational capital.

The same positive impact on relationships is not usually mentioned as a byproduct of e-HRM. In fact, many large-scale technology implementations were done without much regard for the people side of the equation, most likely reducing the quality and strength of relationships. Jobs were altered, and new e-HRM processes changed in ways that were not considered positive by many people. But the enormity and cost of the e-HRM machine often did not lend itself to dialogue and feedback. In the aftermath of this type of work, Fast HRM methodologies can be useful and perhaps part of the healing process.

Thus, Fast HRM can build on the excellent work done in e-HRM, and the time is now for an organization to pursue this work, if and only if their managers and leaders move quickly. The pace of change continues to escalate in many organizations, and it is in those organizations that we see the desire and need to innovate differently in the HRM arena.

Fast HRM for HR strategy versus HR Program of the Month
It’s very easy to start down the Fast HRM path. The first step is to find out from your stakeholders’ perspective and work to create small improvements quickly. Also, engage in the dialogue by asking for stories about Fast HR processes so you can build on what’s working. Through sharing those stories, you can start to get ideas about how to become more strategic.

The next steps in Fast HRM are not big redesign efforts. Fast HRM is about being strategic by helping managers deal with what their barriers are today, and as their jobs change and the organization strategy alters, HR can be there to help create new strategies. Moving quickly with agility and grace is what strategic HRM is all about. Fast HRM is about dialogue, partnership, and continuous improvement. By learning and building strong ties to stakeholders who are fans, the Fast HRM agenda becomes critical for business versus one more HR program of the month.


About the Author
Theresa M. Welbourne, is the president, and CEO of eePulse, Inc., a human resource management consultancy and technology company helping organizations achieve high performance through employees. Using Fast HRM™ practices the Data and Dialogue Leadership methodology improves productivity, engages employees, increases sales, and transforms cultures – faster and more efficiently. Additionally, Dr. Welbourne is a research professor at the Center for Effective Organizations, USC and editor-in-chief, HRM. Her work turning HRM research into practical tools is being used by organizations around the world. For more information, please visit

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