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Review the types of human resource information systems (HRIS) of the textbook. Then respond to the following:

  • Explain which HRIS types your current or previous employer utilizes.
  • If your current or previous organization does not utilize a HRIS, which types would you recommend? How does the utilization of those systems promote transformational HR activities?

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Human Resource
Information Systems

Fourth Edition

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Human Resource
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Fourth Edition
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Human Resource
Information Systems
Fourth Edition

Editors

Michael J. Kavanagh
University at Albany, State University of New York

Richard D. Johnson
University at Albany, State University of New York

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Human Resource
Information Systems
Fourth Edition
Editors
Michael J. Kavanagh
University at Albany, State University of New York
Richard D. Johnson
University at Albany, State University of New York
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Names: Kavanagh, Michael J., editor. | Johnson, Richard David, editor.

Title: Human resource information systems : basics, applications, and
future directions / editors Michael J. Kavanagh, State University of
New York, Albany, Richard D. Johnson, State University of New York,
Albany.

Description: Fourth edition. | Los Angeles : SAGE, [2018] |
Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2017008269 | ISBN 9781506351452
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Subjects: LCSH: Personnel management—Information technology. |
Personnel management—Data processing.

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BRIEF CONTENTS

Preface

xxii

Acknowledgments

xxvii

PART I • HUMAN RESOURCE INFORMATION
SYSTEMS (HRIS): THE BACKBONE
OF MODERN HR 1

Chapter 1 • A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR

2

Chapter 2 • Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS

24

Chapter 3 • Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS:
Planning for Implementations

45

PART II • MANAGING HRIS IMPLEMENTATIONS 67

Chapter 4 • The Systems Development Life Cycle and
HRIS Needs Analysis 68

Chapter 5 • System Design and Acquisition 91

Chapter 6 • Change Management and Implementation 118

Chapter 7 • Cost Justifying HRIS Investments 148

PART III • ELECTRONIC HUMAN
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT (eHRM) 181

Chapter 8 • HR Administration and HRIS 182

Chapter 9 • Talent Management 224

Chapter 10 • Recruitment and Selection in an Internet Context 257

Chapter 11 • Training and Development: Issues and
HRIS Applications 289

Chapter 12 • Performance Management, Compensation,
Benefits, Payroll, and HRIS 325

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PART IV • ADVANCED HRIS
APPLICATION AND FUTURE TRENDS 357

Chapter 13 • HRIS and International HRM 358

Chapter 14 • HR Metrics and Workforce Analytics 387

Chapter 15 • HRIS Privacy and Security 422

Chapter 16 • HRIS and Social Media 444

Chapter 17 • The Future of HRIS: Emerging Trends in HRM and IT 463

Glossary 480

References 497

Author Index 528

Subject Index 538

About the Editors 557

About the Contributors 558

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DETAILED CONTENTS

Preface xxii
Acknowledgments xxvii
PART I • HUMAN RESOURCE INFORMATION
SYSTEMS (HRIS): THE BACKBONE
OF MODERN HR 1

Chapter 1 • A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 2
By Richard D. Johnson and Michael J. Kavanagh

Editors’ Note 2

Chapter Objectives 3

HRIS in Action 3

Introduction 6

HR Activities 6

Technology and Human Resources 7
What Is an HRIS? 7
eHRM and HRIS 8
The Value and Risks of HRIS 9
Types of HRIS 11

Evolution of HRM and HRIS 12
Pre–World War II 12
Post–World War II (1945–1960) 13
Social Issues Era (1963–1980) 15
Cost-Effectiveness Era (1980–Early 1990s) 15
ERPs and Strategic HRM (1990–2010) 16
“The Cloud” and Mobile Technologies (2010–Present) 17

HRIS Within the Broader Organization and Environment 18

Themes of the Book 19

Summary 20

Key Terms 20

Discussion Questions 21

Case Study: Position Description and Specification for an
HRIS Administrator 21

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Chapter 2 • Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 24
By Janet H. Marler and Barry D. Floyd

Editors’ Note 24

Chapter Objectives 25

Introduction 25

Data, Information, and Knowledge 26

Database Management Systems 27
Early DBMSs 29
Relational DBMSs 30
Data Sharing Between Different Functions 31
Data Sharing Between Different Levels 31
Data Sharing Across Locations 32

Key Relational Database Terminology 33
Entities and Attributes 33
Tables 33
Relationships, Primary Keys, and Foreign Keys 34
Queries 35
Forms 36
Reports 37

MS Access—An Illustrative Personal Database 37
Designing an MS Access Database 38
HR Database Application Using MS Access 39
Other HR Databases 39

Data Integration: Database Warehouses, Business Intelligence,
and Data Mining 41

Big Data and NOSQL Databases 42

Summary 43

Key Terms 44

Discussion Questions 44

Case Study: Building an Application Database 44

Chapter 3 • Systems Considerations in the Design
of an HRIS: Planning for Implementations 45

By Michael D. Bedell and Michael L. Canniff

Editors’ Note 45

Chapter Objectives 46

HRIS in Action 46

Introduction 47

HRIS Customers/Users: Data Importance 48
Employees 49
Nonemployees 51
Important Data 52

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HRIS Architecture 52
HRIS Evolution 52
Client-Server (Two-Tier) Architecture 53
Three-Tier and N-Tier Architecture 53
Cloud Computing—Back to the Future?! 56
Mobile Access 57
Security Challenges 57

Best of Breed 58
Talent Management 59
Time and Attendance 59
Payroll 60
Benefits 60

Planning for System Implementation 61

Summary 62

Key Terms 63

Discussion Questions 63

Case Study: Vignette Revisited 63
� INDUSTRY BRIEF 65

PART II • MANAGING HRIS IMPLEMENTATIONS 67

Chapter 4 • The Systems Development Life Cycle and
HRIS Needs Analysis 68

By Lisa M. Plantamura and Richard D. Johnson

Editors’ Note 68

Chapter Objectives 69

HRIS in Action 69

Introduction 70

The Systems Development Life Cycle 71

Analysis 73

Needs Analysis 74
1. Needs Analysis Planning 75
2. Observation 77
3. Exploration 80
4. Evaluation 84
5. Reporting 85

Summary 87

Key Terms 87

Discussion Questions 88

Case Study: “Planning the Needs of Other Organizations” 88
� INDUSTRY BRIEF 89

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Chapter 5 • System Design and Acquisition 91
By Richard D. Johnson and James H. Dulebohn

Editors’ Note 91

Chapter Objectives 92

HRIS in Action 92

Introduction 93

Design Considerations During the Systems Development Life Cycle 94
Logical Design 95
Two Ways to View an HRIS: Data Versus Process 96
Logical Process Modeling With Data Flow Diagrams 97
Creating and Using the DFD 99
Physical Design 100

Working With Vendors 104
Vendor Selection 108

Assessing System Feasibility 109
Technical Feasibility 109
Operational Feasibility 110
Legal and Political Feasibility 112
Economic Feasibility 112

Summary 113

Key Terms 113

Discussion Questions 114

Case Study: Vignette Continued 114
� INDUSTRY BRIEF 116

Chapter 6 • Change Management and Implementation 118
By Richard D. Johnson and Michael J. Kavanagh

Editors’ Note 118

Chapter Objectives 119

HRIS in Action 119

Introduction 120
Change Management 121
The Change Management Process: Science and Art 122

Models of the Change Process 123
Overview of Organizational Change 123

Selected Change Models 124
Lewin’s Change Model 124
Change Equation Formula 127
Nadler’s Congruence Model 127
Kotter’s Process of Leading Change 129
Important Reminders Regarding Change Models 129

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Why Do System Failures Occur? 131
Leadership 131
Planning 133
Communication 133
Training 135

HRIS Implementation 136
Data Migration 136
Software Testing 137
System Conversion 137
Documentation 138
Training 139
Resistance to Change 139
User Acceptance 141

Critical Success Factors in HRIS Implementation 142

Summary 144

Key Terms 144

Discussion Questions 144

Case Study: The Grant Corporation 145

Chapter 7 • Cost Justifying HRIS Investments 148
By Kevin D. Carlson and Michael J. Kavanagh

Editors’ Note 148

Chapter Objectives 149

HRIS in Action 149

Introduction 150
Justification Strategies for HRIS Investments 152
Evolution of HRIS Justification 152
Approaches to Investment Analyses Make a Difference: Some Guidelines 153

HRIS Cost-Benefit Analysis 156
Identifying Sources of Value for Benefits and Costs 157
Direct Benefits 157
Indirect Benefits 158

Implementation Costs 161

Estimating the Value of Indirect Benefits

163

Estimating Indirect Benefit Magnitude 163
Direct Estimation 164
Benchmarking 164
Internal Assessment 165

Mapping Indirect Benefits to Revenues and Costs 166

Methods for Estimating the Value of Indirect Benefits 167
Average Employee Contribution 168

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Estimating the Timing of Benefits and Costs 171
The Role of Variance in Estimates 171

Avoiding Common Problems 172

Packaging the Analysis for Decision Makers 174

Summary 175

Key Terms 175

Discussion Questions 176

Case Study: Justifying an HRIS Investment at Investment Associates 176
� INDUSTRY BRIEF 178

PART III • ELECTRONIC HUMAN
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT (eHRM) 181

Chapter 8 • HR Administration and HRIS 182
By Linda C. Isenhour

Editors’ Note 182

Chapter Objectives 183

HRIS in Action 183

Introduction 184

Technical Support for Job Analysis 184
Approaches and Techniques 185
HRIS Applications 186

The HRIS Environment and Other Aspects of HR Administration 187

HRM Administration and Organizing Approaches 187
Service-Oriented Architecture and eXtensible Markup Language 188
Advantages of XML-Enhanced SOA 189
Theory and HR Administration 191
Self-Service Portals and HRIS 193
Shared-Service Centers and HRIS 196
Outsourcing and HRIS 199
Offshoring and HRIS 203
Summary of HR Administration Approaches 205

Legal Compliance and HR Administration 205

HR Administration and Equal Employment Opportunity 207
U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, and the EEO-1 Report 207
EEO-1 Report (Standard Form 100) 208
EEO-1 and HRIS 209
Occupational Safety and Health Act Record Keeping 211
OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and HRIS 212
Technology, HR Administration, and Mandated Governmental Reporting 213
Summary of Government-Mandated Reports and Privacy Requirements 215

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HR Strategic Goal Achievement and the Balanced Scorecard 215
HRM and the Balanced Scorecard 217
HR Scorecard and Balanced Scorecard Alignment 218

Summary 219

Key Terms 220

Discussion Questions 220

Case Study: Talent Management at CalleetaCO 221

Chapter 9 • Talent Management 224
By Kevin M. Johns and Michael J. Kavanagh

Editors’ Note 224

Chapter Objectives 225

HRIS in Action 225

Introduction 227
Defining Talent Management 227
Importance of Talent Management 228
The Talent Management Life Cycle 228
Attributes for Talent 230

Job Analysis and Human Resource Planning: Part of TM 232
Job Analysis 232
Human Resource Planning (HRP) 232
Phase 1: Setting HRP Objectives 233
Phase 2: Planning HR Programs 235
Phase 3: Evaluation and Control 236
Workforce Management/Human Resource Planning With an HRIS 236
Long- and Short-Term Strategic Importance of Talent Management 236

Talent Management and Corporate Strategy 237

Anticipating Change and Creating an Adaptable Workforce 239

Talent Management and Corporate Culture 240

Talent Management and Information Systems 242
The Link Between Talent Management and Human Resource
Information Systems 242
Talent Management Software Packages 245

Trends in Talent Management Software 247
Recruiting Top Talent Using Social Networking Sites (SNSs) 248
Using Information Systems to Set Goals and Evaluate Performance 249
Using Analytics for Talent Management 249
Workforce Analytics and Talent Management 250
Measuring the Success of Talent Management 251

Summary 252

Key Terms 253

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Discussion Questions 254

Case Study: Vignette Case Continued 254
� INDUSTRY BRIEF 255

Chapter 10 • Recruitment and Selection in an Internet Context 257
By Kimberly M. Lukaszewski, David N. Dickter, and Brian D. Lyons

Editors’ Note 257

Chapter Objectives 258

HRIS in Action 258

Introduction 260

Recruitment and Technology 260
The Impact of Online Recruitment on Recruitment Objectives 261
Attributes of the Recruiting Website 269
Recruitment Strategies and Social Networking 272
The Relationship of e-Recruiting and HRIS 272

Online Recruitment Guidelines 273

Selection and Technology 274
What Are Selection Tests and Assessments, and Why Are They Used? 274
Why Is Understanding Assessment Important for HRIS? 276
Technology Issues in Selection 276
Applying HRIS to Selection and Assessment 281
Demonstrating the HRM’s Value With HRIS Selection Applications 282

Summary 285

Key Terms 285

Discussion Questions 286

Case Study: Recruitment and Selection in a Global Organization 286

Chapter 11 • Training and Development:
Issues and HRIS Applications 289

By Ralf Burbach and Steven Charlier

Editors’ Note 289

Chapter Objectives 290

HRIS in Action 290

Introduction 292

Training and Development: Strategic Implications and
Learning Organizations 293
Systems Model of Training and Development 296

Training Metrics and Cost-Benefit Analysis 310

HRIS Applications in Training 312
HRIS/Learning Applications: Learning Management Systems 316
HRIS T&D Applications: Implementation Issues 319

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Summary 321

Key Terms 321

Discussion Questions 322

Case Study: Training and Development at Meddevco 322
� INDUSTRY BRIEF 323

Chapter 12 • Performance Management, Compensation,
Benefits, Payroll, and HRIS 325

By Charles H. Fay and Renato E. Nardoni

Editors’ Note 325

Chapter Objectives 326

HRIS in Action 326

Introduction 328
The Meaning of Work 328

Performance Management 330
Overview 330
Typical Data Inputs 334
Typical Reports 336
Data Outflows 336
Decision Support 336

Compensation 338
Overview 338
Typical Data Inputs 341
Typical Reports 342
Data Outflows 342
Decision Support 342

Benefits 344
Overview 344
Typical Data Inputs 346
Typical Reports 347
Data Outflows 347
Decision Support 348

Payroll 350
Overview 350
Typical Data Inputs 350
Typical Reports 352
Data Outflows 352
Decision Support 352

Summary 352

Key Terms 353

Discussion Questions 354

Case Study: Grandview Global Financial Services, Inc. 354

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PART IV • ADVANCED HRIS APPLICATIONS
AND FUTURE TRENDS 357

Chapter 13 • HRIS and International HRM 358
By Michael J. Kavanagh, Miguel R. Olivas-Luján, and John W. Michel

Editors’ Note 358

Chapter Objectives 359

HRIS in Action 359

Introduction 360
Types of International Business Operations 362
Going Global 364
Differences in HRM in MNEs 367
Key HR Management Issues in MNEs 368

HR Programs in Global Organizations 370
International Staffing 370
Selecting Global Managers: Managing Expatriates 370
Training and Development of Expatriates 374
Performance Appraisal in MNEs 377
Managing International Compensation 378

HRIS Applications in IHRM 381
Introduction 381
Organizational Structure for Effectiveness 381
IHRM–HRIS Administrative Issues 382
HRIS Applications in MNEs 383

Summary 384

Key Terms 384

Discussion Questions 385

Case Study: Global Issues in a Multinational Company 385

Chapter 14 • HR Metrics and Workforce Analytics 387
By Kevin D. Carlson and Michael J. Kavanagh

Editors’ Note 387

Chapter Objectives 388

HRIS in Action 388

Introduction 389

A Brief History of HR Metrics and Analytics 390

Limitations of Historical Metrics 396

Contemporary HR Metrics and Workforce Analytics 397
Understanding Workforce Analytics Practices 397
HR Metrics 397
Workforce Analytics 397

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HR Metrics, Workforce Analytics, and Organizational Effectiveness 399
A Common and Troublesome View 400
Maximizing the Impact of Workforce Analytics Efforts 400
Triage in Evaluating Workforce Analysis Opportunities 401

So Where Are the Best Workforce Analytics Opportunities
Likely to Be Found? 402
HR Process Efficiency 402
Operational Effectiveness 402
Strategic Realignment 403
Starting With the End in Mind 403

An Example Analysis: The Case of Staffing 405
Evaluating Recruitment Effectiveness (D3) 407
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Job Offer Decisions (D4) 408
Evaluating Job Acceptance Performance (D5) 410
Assessing the Financial Impact of Staffing Decisions: Utility Analysis 412

Building a Workforce Analytics Function 413
Getting Started 413
Understanding Why 413
Putting HR Metrics and Analytics Data in Context 414
Reporting What We Find 415
HR Dashboards 416

Useful Things to Remember About HR Metrics and Analytics 417
Don’t “Do Metrics” 417
Bigger Is Not Always Better 417
HR Metrics and Analytics Is a Journey—Not a Destination 417
Be Willing to Learn 418
Avoid the Temptation to Measure Everything Aggressively 418
Workforce Analytics and the Future 418

Summary 419

Key Terms 419

Discussion Questions 420

Case Study: Regional Hospital 420

Chapter 15 • HRIS Privacy and Security 422
By Humayun Zafar and Dianna L. Stone

Editors’ Note 422

Chapter Objectives 423

HRIS in Action 423

Introduction 423

Employee Privacy 425
Unauthorized Access to Information 426
Unauthorized Disclosure of Information 427

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Data Accuracy Problems 427
Stigmatization Problems 428
Use of Data in Social Network Websites 429
Lack of Privacy Protection Policies 429

Components of Information Security 430
Brief Evolution of Security Models 430
Security Threats 432

Information Policy and Management 436
Fair Information Management Policies 436
Effective Information Security Policies 438
Contingency Planning 440

Summary 441

Key Terms 441

Discussion Questions 442

Case Study: Practical Applications of an Information Privacy Plan 442

Chapter 16 • HRIS and Social Media 444
By Stephanie Black

Editors’ Note 444

Chapter Objectives 445

Introduction 445

Global Usage of Social Media 446

Social Media and HR Practices 448
Organizational Recruitment and Selection 448
Training and Development 451
Internal Communication and Engagement 452

Concerns Over Social Media 453

Corporate Social Media Policies 453
Recruitment and Selection 454
Validity of SMWs in Selection 455
Privacy Concerns 456
Diversity Concerns 457
Federal and State Guidelines 458

Research-Based Tips for the Use of Social Media in HR 459

Summary 461

Key Terms 461

Discussion Questions 462

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Chapter 17 • The Future of HRIS: Emerging Trends in HRM and IT 463
By Richard D. Johnson and Michael J. Kavanagh

Editors’ Note 463

Chapter Objectives 464

Introduction 464

Future Trends in HRM 465
Health and Wellness 465
Business Intelligence and People Analytics 466
Demographic Workforce Changes 467
Employee Engagement 468
Growing Complexity of Legal Compliance 468
Virtualization of Work 469

Future Trends in HRIS 470
Bring Your Own Device 470
Gamification 471
Web 2.0 and Social Networking 473
Internet of Things 474
Open-Source Software 476
An Evolving Industry 477
Evolving HRIS Technology Strategy 477
HRIS Moves to Small Businesses 478

Future Trends in Workforce Technologies 478

Summary 479

Key Terms 479

Glossary 480
References 497
Author Index 528
Subject Index 538
About the Editors 557
About the Contributors 558
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xxii

PREFACE

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins notes, “Great vision without great people is irrel-evant.” In a sense, this quote gets at the heart of human resources—attracting, hiring,
motivating, training, and retaining the best people for your organization. However, to be
truly successful in this mission, organizations have to invest in technology to support all
aspects of their human resources. In this fourth edition of Human Resource Information
Systems: Basics, Applications, and Future Directions, we have several goals. First, we want
to update the text to reflect the current use of technology in organizations. The core
human resource information system (HRIS), although still the center of any human
resources (HR) technology investments, is no longer the only technology supporting
HR. New technologies such as mobile devices and social media are driving changes in
how organizations deploy technology in HR. Second, we wish to continue to improve
the content and the usefulness of the content for faculty and students. Third, we continue
with our goals of presenting a broad-based perspective on HRIS, one which includes a
focus on developing and implementing these systems, an understanding of how these
systems impact the practice of HR across a number of functions, and finally, a discus-
sion of timely and important developments in these systems (e.g., metrics, social media,
international human resource management [HRM]). Although there have been several
books on HRIS published, most authors have focused only on one aspect or dimension
of the HRIS field, for example, on e-HRM, Web-based HR, or the strategic deployment
of HRIS in a global context.

In the preface to the first edition of this book, we note that Kavanagh et al. (1990)
stated that “among the most significant changes in the field of human resources man-
agement in the past decade has been the use of computers to develop what have become
known as human resource information systems (HRIS)” (p. v). We also argued that the
introduction of computers to the field of HRM during the 1980s and early 1990s was
a revolutionary change. That is, HRM paper systems in file cabinets were replaced by
HRM software on mainframes and PCs. To keep up with these technological changes
in HRM, companies were forced to adapt, even though it was quite expensive, in order
to remain competitive in their markets. Although we have previously suggested that
the changes since the early 1990s were evolutionary, it is clear that in the past five
years, we have entered another period of revolutionary change. No longer are compa-
nies purchasing an HRIS, customizing it to fit their needs, and installing it locally.
Instead, today organizations are moving to cloud computing where they “rent” space
to maintain their data and rely on the vendors to manage and support the system. In
addition, HR is taking advantage of systems outside of organizational control, such as
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and more to support employees throughout
the employment life cycle. Thus, managers and organizations must develop policies to
address this vastly different environment, where much of the data supporting HRIS

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Preface xxiii

is accessed remotely and often is stored on systems not under the direct control of the
organization.

Along with these changes in technology, a revolution has come to the practice of
human resources. By adopting software to support HR functioning, HR now has more
information on employees, and can use this understanding to better attract candidates,
hire better employees, and more effectively manage them. In other words, these changes
have meant that there have been significant advances in the use of people resources in
managerial decisions. Thus, the role of HRM has evolved so that now it is increasingly
viewed as a strategic partner in the organization. In addition, the role of an HR profes-
sional is changing, and the most successful HR professionals will have both HR exper-
tise, as well as strong knowledge and appreciation for a how a variety of technology tools
can support “people practices” within HR and within the firm.

What do these changes mean for the new learner with a background in HRM or
information technology (IT), who is trying to understand the HRIS field? Although
it may be tempting to think that the optimal approach is to train students on the latest
HRIS software and the latest trends in HRIS, in reality this would be like starting with
Chapter 17 of this book and then proceeding backward through the book. Unfortunately,
many people do, in fact, focus on learning the actual software tool itself (e.g., the HRIS)
and the technological advances in HRIS without understanding the basics first. The
approach we take in this book, and one we recommend, is to start with an understanding
of the evolutional changes to technology and how these changes have transformed HR
practices (e.g., how HRM moved from using paper records in file cabinets to the com-
puterization of the HR function), and how this interplay between technology and human
resources has changed, and will continue to change, the field of HRIS. Only after under-
standing these changes will the learner be able to effectively understand how advances
in technology can help their organization manage their HR function more effectively.

NEW ASPECTS OF THE FOURTH EDITION
As we do in each edition of the text, we have made substantial revisions in response to
feedback from adopters and advances in the field of HRIS. Consistent with the previous
version of the text, we have four main parts to the book, but we have adjusted the chapters
to more directly relate to the themes of

• HRIS: The Backbone of Modern HR

• Managing HRIS Implementations

• Electronic Human Resource Management (eHRM)

• Advanced HRIS Applications and Future Trends

In our first section, we discuss the modern HRIS, the role that databases play
in HRIS, and the key IT architectures and people who interact with the HRIS.

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xxiv Human Resource Information Systems

Chapter 1 has been rewritten to more clearly describe how technology is transform-
ing human resources, define what an HRIS is, discuss how an HRIS contributes to
HR functioning, and the advantages and risks of using HRIS. In our second section,
“Managing HRIS Implementations,” we focus on the development and implemen-
tation of an HRIS in an organizational setting. Chapters 6 and 9 from the previ-
ous edition were combined with a greater focus on change management and systems
implementation issues (Chapter 6). The major motivation for this change is that with
the increased influence of cloud-based systems, fewer and fewer organizations are
choosing to build or customize HR software. Thus, success is increasingly dependent
upon strong change management processes.

Section 3 focuses on eHRM, or the management and delivery of HR functionality
enabled by technology. In this section, each chapter focuses on a major functional area
of human resources (e.g., recruitment, selection, training, etc.) and discusses how tech-
nology is changing its practice. In addition, these chapters bring in some of the latest
research-based recommendations for using HR technology. In Chapter 11, we welcome
aboard Steven Charlier, who has brought in some of the latest research findings on
e-learning to inform the recommendations made in the e-learning chapter.

The final section of our book focuses on advanced HRIS topics. The chapters in this
section have undergone substantial changes. Miguel Olivas-Luján has joined the authors
of the international HRIS chapter and has updated the chapter to more fully bring out
the issues associated with implementing HRIS in a global organization. Chapter 14 (pre-
viously Chapter 7) has been updated to bring out the importance of the decision-making
processes to metrics, as well as provide fuller examples of the use of metrics in staffing.
Stephanie Black is has joined us in this edition and has contributed a new chapter on the
role of social media in HR (Chapter 16). This is an important and timely topic as many
organizations are embracing social media despite the potential risks involved. Finally,
Chapter 17 has been updated with a discussion of the latest trends in HR and HRIS that
will shape the future of the field.

In addition, we have added a number of “industry briefs” to several chapters in the
book. In each industry brief, leaders briefly discuss the importance of the chapter’s topic
and how it plays out in their firm or industry. Continued positive feedback has con-
tributed to our decision to retain our feature “HRIS in Action.” We did these things to
improve the text as a learning and teaching tool—we wanted the text and each chapter
within it to present a complete learning experience. Thus, we also continued the consis-
tent structure across all chapters that was introduced in the previous edition. Chapters
contain, in the following order, (1) an editors’ note, (2) chapter objectives, (3) chapter
content, (4) chapter summary, (5) a list of key terms, (6) chapter discussion questions,
(7) a case with student discussion questions, and (8) the industry brief (where included).
This internal consistency for each chapter was established by emphasizing the same chap-
ter learning points for the chapter objectives, chapter summary, key terms, and chapter
discussion questions. We felt that this within-chapter consistency would aid the learn-
ing process of the students and aid the faculty in identifying the important content of
each chapter. Likewise, the websites and additional readings have been expanded because
of recent changes in the field. In determining to make these changes in the book, the

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Preface xxv

coeditors worked to make the fourth edition a textbook they would personally be com-
fortable using to teach their HRIS courses.

FOURTH EDITION SUMMARY
In summary, in this fourth edition, we have described the major advances in the field of
HRIS and the relation of HRIS to managerial decision making while, at the same time,
exploring the basic concepts of developing, implementing, and maintaining an HRIS.
The book represents the intersection of the best thinking and concepts from the two
fields of HRM and IT. It was the early intersection of these two fields that changed the
role of HR in organizations from record keeper to strategic partner. After introducing
the basic concepts of an HRIS combined with new approaches to the operation of HRM
in the organization, we then proceed to the more advanced, and evolutionary, techni-
cal changes. The basic philosophy of this book is that the integration or harmonization
of technology with people management in an HRIS will create a distinct competitive
advantage for organizations. We hope that you, the reader, gain this understanding and
that you enjoy this book.

COMPANION WEBSITE
A password-protected instructor resources site includes test banks, PowerPoint® presentations,
case notes, detailed lecture outlines, sample answers to discussion questions in the text,
suggested class activities, a selection of full-text SAGE journal articles, and web resources.
These materials are available at study.sagepub.com/kavanagh4e.

Students can also log on to the companion site and access the SAGE journal articles,
eFlashcards, and Web resources at study.sagepub.com/kavanagh4e.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Undertaking a book like this cannot be done without the contribution of many individu-
als. Each of you have our thanks, for without you, this book would not be as successful
as it has been. First, to both the new and returning authors of the chapters, thank you!
For some of you, this is your fourth time, and we greatly appreciate all the time and
effort you have placed into your chapters each and every time. We know how difficult
it is to write a chapter for an edited book, particularly when the editors have defined the
philosophy and approach used. In addition, special thanks go to those individuals who
provided invaluable insights through their evaluations of the edition of this book and
its chapters: Dr. Mesut Akdere, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Dr. Yvonne Barry,
John Tyler Community College; Gery Markova, W. Frank Barton School of Business,
Wichita State University; Marc S. Miller, Adjunct at NYU-Poly—NYC and Long Island
University; Frank J. Mueller, MSM, MS, Oakland City University; Jan Mason Rauk,

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xxvi Human Resource Information Systems

MBA, University of Idaho; and M. Shane Tomblin, Marshall University, College of
Business. We also thank the individuals who developed the digital resources for this
edition: Sheila Boyson-Rotelli of Lewis University, Tarona Lee of Baruch College, and
Todd McKeever of Virginia College.

Again, we again thank Dianna Stone of the University at Albany, SUNY, and Virginia
Tech, who has helped us identify potential authors, provided feedback on the book, and
co-authored a chapter on privacy and security. Our thanks go to the professionals in
the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM)
and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), who patiently listened and
responded to our ideas regarding this book. We would also like to thank Abbie Rickard
and Maggie Stanley for their guidance and help in keeping us focused and on track, as
well as for their suggestions for resolving technical issues we encountered in writing the
book. Finally, we would like to thank Lana Arndt, Ashley Mixson, and Bennie Clark
Allen for correcting our grammar as needed, finding missing keywords, and finding
those mistyped words and grammatical errors that were done by gremlins.

In particular, we would like to thank our families, who provided the warmth and sup-
port we needed when frustration and writer’s block crept in!

—Michael J. Kavanagh and Richard D. Johnson

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xxvii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

SAGE Publishing gratefully acknowledges the following reviewers for their kind
assistance:

Syed Adeel Ahmed, Xavier University of Louisiana

Mesut Akdere, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Yvonne Barry, John Tyler Community College

Dan Farrell, Western Michigan University

Ray Gibney, Penn State Harrisburg

Jonathan Halbesleben, University of Alabama

Heidi Helgren, Delta College

Tarona Lee, Baruch College

Gery Markova, Wichita State University

Marc S. Miller, New York University

Frank J. Mueller, Oakland City University

Jan Mason Rauk, University of Idaho

M. Shane Tomblin, Marshall University

Lee Whiteman, La Roche College

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P
A

R
T

I

1

HUMAN
RESOURCE
INFORMATION
SYSTEMS (HRIS):
THE BACKBONE
OF MODERN HR

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2

16
A BRIEF HISTORY

AND OVERVIEW OF
TECHNOLOGY IN HR

RICHARD D. JOHNSON AND MICHAEL J. KAVANAGH

1

EDITORS’ NOTE

The purpose of this chapter is to provide an introduction to the field of human
resource information systems (HRIS), which lies at the intersection of human
resource management (HRM) and information technology (IT). A central focus of
this chapter is the use of data from the HRIS in support of managerial decision
making. The chapter starts with a brief discussion of HRIS and electronic human
resource management (eHRM). The history of the field of HRM and the impact
of information technology on HRM is covered, as well as the advent of using a
human resource information system and the subsequent effects on both HR and IT
professionals. The different types of HR activities will be discussed as well as the
different types of information systems used in HRIS. The chapter will also discuss
the role of an HRIS within this broader organization environment, particularly its
alignment with HR and organizational goals. This first chapter lays the groundwork
for the remainder of this book, and, consequently, it is important to understand
thoroughly the concepts and ideas presented. This chapter contains definitions for
a number of terms in common use in the HRM, IT, and HRIS fields. (Note that a
glossary defining these terms is also provided at the back of this book.) The cen-
tral themes of this book in terms of the development, implementation, and use of
an HRIS will also be discussed. A brief overview of the major sections of the book
will be presented here as well, one discussing how each chapter is an integral part
of the entire field of HRIS. Finally, you should note that the key terms used in this
chapter are in bold and contained in a section after the chapter summary. The pat-
tern of sections for this chapter will be consistent for all chapters of this book.

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 3

HRIS IN ACTION

Situation Description

To illustrate the importance and use of human resource information systems in con-

temporary human resources departments, this vignette examines the typical memo-

randa that may appear in the inbox of HR professionals and managers. Assume you

are the HR director of a medium-size organization that primarily maintains and uses

manual HR records and systems. This morning, your inbox contains the following

memos that require action today.

Memo 1: A note from the legal department indicates that some female staff mem-

bers have filed an employment discrimination complaint with the local govern-

ment agency responsible for the enforcement of equal opportunity employment.

The female staff members allege that, for the past 10 years, they have been

passed over for promotion because they are women. In order to respond to this

allegation, the legal department requires historical data on the promotions of

both males and females for the past 10 years for all jobs in the company broken

CHAPTER OBJECTIVES

After completing this chapter, you should be able to

• Describe the three types of HR activities
• Explain the purpose and nature of an HRIS
• Describe the differences between eHRM and HRIS
• Explain the value and risks associated with the use of an HRIS
• Describe the different types of HRIS
• Describe the historical evolution of HRM, including the changing role of

the HR professional
• Discuss the evolution of the technology of HRIS
• Discuss how the information from an HRIS can assist organizational

decision making
• Understand how HRM and HRIS fit within a comprehensive model of

organizational functioning in global business environments

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4 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

down by department. It also needs the training records for all managers involved

in personnel actions, such as promotions, to ascertain whether or not they have

received training in equal employment provisions, especially in terms of unfair

gender discrimination.

Memo 2: The second item is a complaint from employees working in a remote

location of the company, about 150 miles away. The employees are complaining

that their pay slips are not reaching them on time and that they are finding it diffi-

cult to get timely and accurate information on the most recent leave and benefits

policies of the company.

Memo 3: A letter from the marketing manager states that he has not received

any updated information on the status of his request, made three months ago, to

recruit a new salesperson. The failure to recruit and hire a new salesperson has

had a negative effect on the overall sales of the company’s products over the past

quarter.

Memo 4: A letter from the HR professional in charge of the southwest regional

office says that she is swamped with HR administrative work, particularly per-

sonnel transactions on employees. As a result, she has not been able to meet

employees in her region to describe and begin to implement the recent Employee

Engagement Initiative as required by corporate headquarters.

Memo 5: A note from one of the production managers indicates that he has

received a resignation letter from a highly regarded production engineer. She is

resigning because she has not received the training on new technology that she

was promised when hired. She notes that most of the other production engineers

have attended this training program and have had very positive reactions to it.

Memo 6: A strongly worded note from the director of finance asks the HR depart-

ment to justify the increasing costs associated with its operation. The note

indicates that the HR director needs to develop a business plan for the overall

operation of the HR department to include business plans for all of the HR pro-

grams, such as recruiting and training. Further, the finance director indicates

that unless the business cases can demonstrate a positive cost-benefit ratio, the

budget for the HR department will be reduced, which will lead to reductions in

the HR department professional staff.

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 5

As the HR director, your first thought may be to resign since searching for the informa-

tion required by these memos in the manual records on employees will require several

days if not weeks to complete. However, you have just returned from a professional

conference sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and

remember how an HRIS may be what you need! As this chapter and the ones that fol-

low will illustrate, an HRIS enables an HR department to streamline its activities and

the demands placed on it by automating the HR data and processes necessary for the

management of the human capital of the organization. This automation helps develop

the capabilities to produce information and reports on the requests contained in the

memos in the vignette, and these reports will facilitate efficient and effective manage-

rial decision making. While an HRIS cannot make the judgment calls in terms of whom

to recruit or promote, it can certainly facilitate better inputting, integration, and use of

employee data, which will reduce the administrative burden of keeping detailed records

and should aid and enhance decisions about strategic directions.

Need for an HRIS in Decision Situations

If you read the above memos again, you will recognize that each one has a request for

human resource management information that will be used in a decision situation. The

information requested in Memo 1 will help the legal department determine the com-

pany’s potential liability in a workplace gender discrimination situation. This information

may help to determine whether the company should decide to rectify the situation in

terms of an informal settlement with the female staff members or to defend the com-

pany’s promotion procedures as valid—in court if necessary. The information required

in Memo 2 may help the HR department decide to change its payroll procedures as well

as its distribution of benefits information to remote company locations. The information

needed to respond to Memo 3 will impact decisions by the HR department to change

recruitment and selection programs. The response to Memo 4 clearly suggests the need

for the acquisition of an HRIS. The information required to answer Memo 5 may help

in decisions regarding the revision of recruiting and training procedures, especially for

new engineers. The information that would be provided in response to Memo 6 will help

decide the future of the HR department. As you go through this book, look at information

on the capabilities of various human resource information systems, trying to find an HRIS

that would allow you (as the HR director) to respond to each of the six memos in one day.

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6 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

INTRODUCTION

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.

—Walt Disney

W hat do you think is keeping CEOs up at night? Although you might think that it may be issues such as increasing stock price and market share, navigating and
surviving in a globally competitive environment, or government regulation, according to
a recent Harvard Business Review article (Groysberg & Connolly, 2015) the most often
mentioned concerns facing their organization are talent related. CEOs are worried about
hiring the right individuals; how to properly develop, promote, and retain top talent; and
how the employees represent the firm.

To maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace, firms need to balance their
physical, organizational, and human resources to achieve, profit, and survive. Leading
management thinkers (i.e., Drucker, Dyson, Handy, Saffo, & Senge, 1997; Porter, 1990)
argue that human resource management (HRM) will be the most critical and most
challenging for organizations in the 21st century. The most effective and well-respected
companies today have innovative and valuable people practices. These organizations
know that human resources (HR) cannot afford to simply focus on completing day-to-
day activities, but instead, they should focus on outcomes and capabilities that align with
the broader organizational goals (Ulrich, Younger, & Brockbank, 2008).

But to do this, they need timely and accurate information on current employees and
potential employees in the labor market. The ability of organizations to do this has been
greatly enhanced through the use of human resource information systems (HRIS). A
basic assumption behind this book is that the effective management of employee infor-
mation for decision makers will be the critical process that helps a firm maximize the use
of its human resources and maintain competitiveness in its market.

HR ACTIVITIES
The goals of HR are to attract, motivate, develop, and retain employees. Typical HR
responsibilities involve things such as record keeping, recruiting, selection, training, per-
formance management, employee relations, and compensation. Within each functional
area, activities can be classified as transactional, traditional, or transformational (Wright,
McMahan, Snell, & Gerhart, 1998). Transactional HR activities involve day-to-day
transactions such as record keeping—for example, entering payroll information, tracking
employee status changes, and the administration of employee benefits. These activities
are the costliest and most time-consuming activities that HR undertakes. Wright et al.
(1998) estimate that most HR departments spend approximately 65% to 75% of their
time on them. Traditional HR activities involve HR programs such as planning, recruiting,

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 7

selection, training, compensation, and performance management. HR departments spend
about 15% to 30% of their time on these activities. Traditional activities can have strategic
value for the organization if their results or outcomes are consistent with the strategic goals
of the organization. Transformational HR activities are those activities that add value to
the organization—for example, cultural or organizational change, structural realignment,
strategic redirection, and increasing innovation. Because of the time and effort to com-
plete transactional and traditional activities, HR departments typically spend only 5% to
15% of their time on transformational activities.

One of the major purposes of the design, development, and implementation of an
HRIS is to reduce the amount of time HR employees have to spend on transactional
activities, allowing the staff to spend more time on traditional and transformational
activities. This notion of using technology to improve transactional activities and accom-
plish them more efficiently is the central theme of this book and provides one of the
primary justifications for a computer-based system. In later chapters that discuss various
HR programs such as selection and training, we will see how a computer-based system
can aid in both traditional and transformational activities to make them consistent with
the strategic goals of the organization.

TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN RESOURCES
What Is an HRIS?
Since the 1940s, technology has been used to support HR processing. In fact, the ear-
liest organizational systems were built to support payroll processing due to increasing

FIGURE 1.1 ■ SuccessFactors Employee Home Screen

Source: © SuccessFactors, Inc. All rights reserved.

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8 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

tax regulations. But, despite its early start, the complexity and data intensiveness of the
HRM function has led to it being one of the last management functions to be automated
(Bussler & Davis, 2001/2002). This fact does not mean that an HRIS is not important;
it just indicates the difficulty of developing and implementing systems in HR compared
with other business functions—for example, accounting and supply chain systems. Only
recently has HR embraced the use of technology, with estimates suggesting that now
nearly all large organizations have implemented systems to support HR processes and
functions (CedarCrestone, 2014). These systems can support activities such as online
applications, Internet-based selection testing, management of employee information,
support of training, succession planning, and more. As a whole, these systems are broadly
referred to as human resource information systems. A sample employee home screen for
an HRIS is shown in Figure 1.1.

An HRIS is defined as an information system that is focused on supporting HR func-
tions and activities, as well as broader organizational “people” processes. A more formalized
definition of an HRIS is a system used to acquire, store, manipulate, analyze, retrieve, and
distribute information regarding an organization’s human resources to support HRM and
managerial decisions. An HRIS is not simply computer hardware and associated HR-related
software. It requires cooperation among departments for its best use. That is, in addition
to hardware and software, it also includes people, forms, policies and procedures, and data.
The major difference between a traditional information system and an HRIS is that the
HRIS contains data about people in the organization and can become both the face of HR
and the initial system with which new employees interact with the firm.

Note, an information system does not have to include computers. Many small busi-
nesses utilize paper-based systems (e.g., stored in files or folders), because historically, the
expense of implementing an HRIS were beyond their financial capabilities. Thus, if you
work for a small organization, you may find that much of the information in HR is paper
based. However, the expense and time associated with paper means that most organiza-
tions will invest in technology to support HR. As organizations choose to implement an
HRIS, the paper-based systems become the basis upon which the new HRIS is evaluated.
For the purpose of this book, however, we will use the term HRIS to refer to a computer-
ized system designed to manage the company’s HR.

There are three main ways that an HRIS can add value to HR and the organization.
First, by automating processes or transactions, it provides information to help HR con-
duct their transactional activities more efficiently. Second, by providing accurate and timely
information to the HR personnel and managers, it can help them make better decisions.
Finally, by providing more information, by helping HR reshape practices, and by freeing
up HR employees’ time, HRIS can help HR more fully support the strategic mission of
the firm. For example, HR can provide better information used to support planning for
needed employees in a merger, to identify potential discrimination problems in hiring, or to
evaluate the effectiveness of programs, policies, or practices (Dulebohn & Johnson, 2013).

eHRM and HRIS
The implementation of an HRIS has brought with it an opportunity for HR to update
and change their processes to be technology enabled. This technology-enabled collection

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 9

of HR processes has been called electronic human resource management (eHRM) and
reflects a new way of “doing” HR. eHRM uses information technology, particularly the
Web, as the central component of delivering efficient and effective HR services. This
can be best seen through the words of Gueutal and Stone (2005): “Things will look a bit
different here. No longer will you deal with an HR professional. . . . The HR portal will
take care of you” (p. xv). Essentially, technology becomes the nerve center for dissemi-
nating, connecting, and conducting human resources (Strohmeier, 2007). Organizations
embracing an eHRM approach don’t simply utilize technology in the support of human
resources but instead see technology as enabling the HR function to be done differently by
modifying “information flows, social interaction patterns, and communication processes”
(Stone & Lukaszewski, 2009, p. 136). It has also been defined as the “implementation and
delivery of HR functionality enabled by a[n] HRIS that connects employees, applicants,
mangers, and the decisions they make” (Johnson, Lukaszewski, & Stone, 2016, p. 536).

Whereas eHRM is a way of conducting HR, the HRIS is the technology through
which eHRM is enabled. An HRIS can include technologies such as databases, small
functional systems focused on a single HR application (e.g., performance manage-
ment), or a large-scale, integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) software
package and Web-based applications. In today’s environment, it can even be devices
such as smartphones and social networking tools that enable employees to access HR
data remotely or to connect with others in the organization. Another way of looking
at the differences between eHRM and HRIS is that eHRM tends to be more focused
on how HR functionality is delivered, and an HRIS is more focused on the systems
and technology underlying the design and acquisition of systems supporting the move
to eHRM.

The Value and Risks of HRIS
An HRIS can add value to HR in many different ways. Research has shown that HR
technology can lead to dramatic cost and time savings for organizations. Advantages of
HRIS include

• providing a comprehensive information picture as a single, integrated database;
this enables organizations to provide structural connectivity across units and
activities and to increase the speed of information transactions (Lengnick-Hall &
Lengnick-Hall, 2006);

• increasing competitiveness by improving HR operations and management processes;

• improved timeliness and quality of decision making;

• streamlining and enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of HR administrative
functions;

• shifting the focus of HR from the processing of transactions to strategic HRM; and

• improving employee satisfaction by delivering HR services more quickly and
accurately.

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10 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

Specific examples of cost savings include

• reduction of salary planning cycle by over 50% (Gherson & Jackson, 2001),

• reduction of 25% in HR staffing headcount when implementing self-service
(Gueutal & Falbe, 2005),

• reduction of 25% in recruiting cycle time (Cober, Brown, Blumenthal, Doverspike, &
Levy, 2000),

• reduction of recruitment costs by up to 95% (Cober et al., 2000), and

• training cost reductions of 40%–60% with e-learning (Gill, 2000).

The ability of firms to harness the potential of HRIS depends on a variety of factors,
such as

• the size of the organization, with large firms generally reaping greater benefits;

• the amount of top management support and commitment;

• the availability of resources (time, money, and personnel);

• the HR philosophy of the company as well as its vision, organizational culture,
structure, and systems;

• managerial competence in cross-functional decision making, employee involve-
ment, and coaching; and

• the ability and motivation of employees in adopting change, such as increased
automation across and between functions (Ngai & Wat, 2004).

The implementation of an HRIS doesn’t come without risks, though. As with any infor-
mation system, there are potential dysfunctional impacts that may occur when an HRIS is
implemented (Stone, Stone-Romero, & Lukaszewski, 2003). These include the following:

• Management by computer and substitution of technology for human judgment:
Managers may begin to base performance evaluations exclusively from the data
captured by the HRIS. Thus, soft skill behaviors such as teamwork and customer
service may not be fully considered.

• Privacy concerns: Employees and applicants may feel that their data are being
accessed and used by those internal and external to the organization.

• System rigidity and lack of flexibility: Standardization of HR processes can bene-
fit the organization, but some systems may not allow for the inevitable exceptions
that arise and as the HR legal environment changes.

• Employee stress and resistance to the use of electronic performance monitoring.

• Performance reduction in complex tasks when performance monitoring systems
are used.

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 11

Types of HRIS
Although there are multiple typologies for the classification of computer-based systems, we
are going to define the most basic types of systems that are most readily applied to the HR
context. One of the most common ways of categorizing information systems is to focus on
what level of organizational processing the system supports: daily operations, managerial
functioning, executive-level processes and strategies, and those that span organizational levels.
Table 1.1 catalogs the major types of systems, their major focus and goals, and examples of
how they can be used to support HR. As you go through this book, these systems and their
HR examples will be discussed, and you should refer back to this table as needed.

TABLE 1.1 ■ Information Systems Providing Support for HRM

Organizational
Level Type of System Major Goals and Focus HRM Examples

Operational Transaction
Processing

System

Improves transaction speed and
accuracy

Improves efficiency in the processing of
daily business transactions

Automates routine transactions

Reduces transaction costs

Payroll processing

Time and attendance
entry

Online creation and
dissemination of
application forms

Managerial Management
Information
System

Provides key data to managers

Supports regular and ongoing decisions

Provides defined and ad hoc reporting

Producing EE03 reports

Calculating yield ratios
for recruiting

Calculating per capita
merit increases

Executive Executive
Information
System

Provides aggregate, high-level data

Helps managers with long-range
planning

Supports strategic direction and
decisions

Succession planning

Aggregate data on
balanced scorecard

Boundary
Spanning

Decision Support
System

Supports interactive and iterative
managerial decision making

Supports forecasting and “what-if”
analysis

Supports business simulations

Staffing needs
assessment

Labor market analysis

Employee skills
assessment

Expert System Embeds human knowledge into
information systems

Automates decisions with technology

Resume keyword
searches

(Continued)

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12 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

Organizational
Level Type of System Major Goals and Focus HRM Examples

Office Automation
Systems

Enables designing documents

Enables scheduling shared resources

Facilitates communication

E-mail training-room
scheduling

Collaboration
Technologies

Supports electronic communication and
collaboration between employees

Supports virtual teams

Communication support
for e-learning

Online meetings and
shared documents

HR departmental wikis

Enterprise
Resources
Planning System

Integrates and centralizes corporate
data

Shares data across functional boundaries

Provides single data source and common
technology architecture

OrangeHRM

Oracle/PeopleSoft

Lawson HRM

SAP

TABLE 1.1 ■ (Continued)

EVOLUTION OF HRM AND HRIS
To fully understand the current state of technology in HR and its role in organizations,
it is important to understand both the evolution of HR and the technologies support-
ing HR. The historical analysis that follows will demonstrate the growing importance of
employees from being just one of the replaceable parts in organizations in the 20th cen-
tury industrial economy to being a key source of sustainable competitive advantage in the
21st century knowledge economy. This means examining the evolution of HRM inter-
twined with developments in IT and describing how IT has played an increasing role in
HRM. This historical analysis will show how the role of HRM in the firm has changed over
time from primarily being concerned with routine transactional activities and the utiliza-
tion of simple, inflexible systems to the support of more strategic activities through the use
of flexible, mobile, and Web-deployed systems. This evolution is illustrated in Figure 1.2
and will become evident as we trace the historical evolution of HRM in terms of five broad
phases of the historical development of industry in the United States. For more information
on this historical development, we encourage readers to consult Johnson et al. (2016).

Pre–World War II
In the early 20th century and prior to World War II, the personnel function (the precur-
sor of human resources management) was primarily involved in clerical record keeping of
employee information; in other words, it fulfilled a “caretaker” function. During this

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 13

period, the prevailing management philosophy was called scientific management. The
central thrust of scientific management was to maximize employee productivity. It was
thought that there was one best way to do any work, and this best way was determined
through time and motion studies that investigated the most efficient use of human capa-
bilities in the production process. Then, the work could be divided into pieces, and the
number of tasks to be completed by a worker during an average workday could be com-
puted. These findings formed the basis of piece-rate pay systems, which were seen as the
most efficient way to motivate employees at that time.

At this point in history, there were very few government influences in employment
relations; consequently, employment terms, practices, and conditions were left to the own-
ers of the firm. As a result, abuses such as child labor and unsafe working conditions were
common. Some employers set up labor welfare and administration departments to look
after the interests of workers by maintaining records on health and safety as well as record-
ing hours worked and payroll. It is interesting to note that record keeping is one of the
major functions built into the design of an HRIS today; however, there simply was no com-
puter technology to automate the records at this time in history. Of course, paper records
were kept, and we can still see paper record HR systems in many smaller firms today.

Post–World War II (1945–1960)
The mobilization and utilization of labor during the war had a great impact on the devel-
opment of the personnel function. Managers realized that employee productivity and

FIGURE 1.2 ■ Historical Evolution of HRM and HRIS

Early Systems
Mid-20th Century

Emerging Systems
21st Century

HR Role

Employee Advocate

Maintain Accurate Employee
Records

Legal Compliance

React to Organizational Change

Internal Focus: Serve

Employees

HR Role

Strategic Management Partner

Evidence-Based HR

HR Data Supports Strategic
Decision Making

External Focus: Serve “Customers”

Legal Compliance

System Characteristics

Inflexible

“Islands of Technology”

Batch Processing

Focused on Employee Record Keeping

System Characteristics

Flexible

Mobile

Web-Deployed

Integrated With Organizational System

Real-Time Processing

Focused on Information Sharing

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14 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

motivation had a significant impact on the profitability of the firm. The human rela-
tions movement after the war emphasized that employees were motivated not just by
money, but also by social and psychological factors, such as receiving recognition for
work accomplished or for the achievement of work goals.

Due to the need for the classification of large numbers of individuals in military
service during the war, systematic efforts began to classify workers around occupational
categories to improve recruitment and selection procedures. The central aspect of these
classification systems was the job description, which listed the tasks, duties, and respon-
sibilities of any individual who held the job in question. These job description classifica-
tion systems could also be used to design appropriate compensation programs, evaluate
individual employee performance, and provide a basis for termination.

Because of the abusive worker practices prior to the war, employees started form-
ing trade unions, which played an important role in bargaining for better employment
terms and conditions. There were significant numbers of employment laws enacted in the
United States that allowed the establishment of labor unions and defined their scope in
relationship with management. Thus, personnel departments had to assume considerably
more record keeping and reporting to governmental agencies. Because of these trends,
the personnel department had to establish specialist divisions, such as recruitment, labor
relations, training and benefits, and government relations.

With its changing and expanding role, the typical personnel department started keep-
ing increasing numbers and types of employee records, and computer technology began
to emerge as a possible way to store and retrieve employee information. In some cases in
the defense industry, job analysis and classification data were inputted into computers to
better understand, plan, and use employee skills against needs. For example, the U.S. Air
Force conducted a thorough and systematic job analysis and classification through its Air
Force Human Resources Laboratory (AFHRL), which resulted in a comprehensive occu-
pational structure. The AFHRL collected data from thousands in jobs within the Air
Force, and, through the use of a computer software program called the Comprehensive
Occupational Data Analysis Program (CODAP), it was able to establish more accurately
a job description classification system for Air Force jobs.

During this time, large firms began investing in technology to keep track of payroll,
but due to the complexity and expense of computers, only the largest organizations, such
as GE, could afford to develop these systems in house. In addition, companies such as
ADP were founded as payroll outsourcers and used mainframe computers to support
payroll processing.

With increasing legislation on employment relations and employee unionization,
industrial relations became one of the main foci of the personnel department. Union-
management bargaining over employment contracts dominated the activity of the depart-
ment, and these negotiations were not computer based. Record keeping was still done
manually despite the growing use of computerized data processing in other departments,
such as accounts and materials management. What resulted was an initial reluctance
among personnel departments to acquire and use computer technology for their programs.
This had a long-term effect in many firms when it came to adopting advancements in
computer technology, even though this technology got cheaper and easier to use.

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 15

Social Issues Era (1963–1980)
This period witnessed an unprecedented increase in the amount of labor legislation in
the United States, legislation that governed various parts of the employment relation-
ship, such as the prohibition of discriminatory practices, the promotion of occupational
health and safety, the provision of retirement benefits, and tax regulation. As a result,
the personnel department was burdened with the additional responsibility of legislative
compliance that required collection, analysis, and reporting of voluminous data to statu-
tory authorities. For example, to demonstrate that there was no unfair discrimination
in employment practices, a personnel department had to diligently collect, analyze, and
store data pertaining to all employment functions, such as recruitment, training, com-
pensation, and benefits. To avoid the threat of punitive damages for noncompliance, it
had to ensure that the data were comprehensive, accurate, and up to date, which made it
essential to automate the data collection, analysis, and report generation process. As you
go through the chapters of this book, these varying laws and government guidelines will
be covered within the specific HR topics.

It was about this time that personnel departments were beginning to be called human
resources departments, and the field of human resource management was born. The
increasing need to be in compliance with numerous employee protection laws or suffer
significant monetary penalties made senior managers aware of the importance of HRM.
In other words, HRM practices were starting to affect the “bottom line” of the firms, so
there was a significant growth of HR departments.

Additionally, computer technology had advanced to the point where it could deliver
better productivity at lower costs and was beginning to be used more widely. The decreas-
ing costs of computer technology versus the increasing costs of employee compensation
and benefits made the acquisition of computer-based HR systems (HRIS) a necessary
business decision. As a result, there was an increasing demand for HR departments
to adopt computer technology to process employee information more effectively and
efficiently. These technology developments and increased vendor activity led to the
development of a comprehensive management information system (MIS) for HRM.
In addition, early forms of integrated systems were being developed by SAP, the precursor
to the modern ERP. But interestingly, HR was still slow in adopting computer technology.
Thus, the major issue at this time in the historical development of HRIS was not the need
for increased capabilities of technology, but how to best implement it.

Cost-Effectiveness Era (1980–Early 1990s)
With increasing competition from emerging European and Asian economies, U.S. and
other multinational firms increased their focus on cost reduction through automation
and other productivity improvement measures. In HR, administrative burdens intensi-
fied with the need to fulfill a growing number of legislative requirements, while the
overall functional focus shifted from employee administration to employee development
and involvement. To improve effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery through cost
reduction and value-added services, the HR departments came under pressure to harness
technology that was becoming cheaper and more powerful.

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16 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

In addition, there was a growing realization within management that people costs
were a very significant part of a company’s budget. Some companies estimated that per-
sonnel costs were as high as 80% of their operating costs. As a result, there was a growing
demand on the HRM function to cost justify their employee programs and services. In
one of the first books to address this growing need to cost justify the HRM function,
Cascio (1984) indicates that the language of business is dollars and cents, and HR man-
agers need to realize this fact. But the challenge facing HR was that most leaders were not
thinking like business managers (Fitz-enz, 1980).

Technology was becoming more cost-effective, and an increasing number of organiza-
tions were increasingly able to afford using them. In addition, organizations began net-
working computers together, and the development of microcomputers (e.g., PCs) allowed
organizations to leverage the power of both the mainframe and local computer to sup-
port HR operations. This allowed managers and employees to have HR information
directly available on their workstations. This approach to computing was called client-
server computing. Specifically, client-server computing supported the processing and use
of HR data on both the mainframe computer as well as on the local personal computer
of an employee. Organizations could now distribute employee information to multiple
locations throughout the organization, providing more current information to managers
in support of their personnel decisions. An early leader in this space was PeopleSoft, who
developed one of the first, and most popular, HRIS during this time.

As noted earlier, the prevailing management thinking regarding the use of comput-
ers in HR was not that their use would result in a reduction in the number of employees
needed in HR departments, but that employee activities and time could be shifted from
transactional record keeping to more transformational activities that would add value to
the organization. This change in the function of HRM could then be clearly measured
in terms of cost-benefit ratios (CBR) to the bottom line of the company.

ERPs and Strategic HRM (1990–2010)
The economic landscape underwent radical changes throughout the 1990s with increas-
ing globalization, technological breakthroughs (particularly Internet-enabled Web
services), and hyper competition. Business process reengineering exercises became more
common and frequent, resulting in several initiatives, such as the rightsizing of employee
numbers, reducing the layers of management, reducing the bureaucracy of organizational
structures, creating autonomous work teams, and outsourcing. Firms today realize that
innovative and creative employees who hold the key to organizational knowledge provide
a sustainable competitive advantage because, unlike other resources, intellectual capital
is difficult for competitors to imitate. Accordingly, the people management function
became strategic and was geared to attract, retain, and engage talent. These develop-
ments led to the creation of the HR balanced scorecard (Becker, Huselid, & Ulrich,
2001; Huselid, Becker, & Beatty, 2005), as well as to added emphasis on the return on
investment (ROI) of the HR function and its programs (Cascio, 2000; Fitz-enz, 2000, 2002).

With the growing importance and recognition of people and people management in
contemporary organizations, strategic human resource management (strategic HRM)
became critically important in management thinking and practice. Human resources

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 17

and the intellectual capital of employees were increasingly viewed as a strategic asset and
a competitive advantage in improving organizational performance (Becker & Huselid,
2006). Organizations became more aware that there was not one best way to strategically
deploy HR resources. Thus, researchers increasingly emphasized the “best-fit” approach
to strategic HRM as opposed to the “best-practice” approach to strategic HRM.
They argued that it was “the fit between the HR architecture and the strategic capabili-
ties and business processes that implement strategy that is the basis of HR’s contribution
to competitive advantage” (Becker & Huselid, 2006, p. 899).

A good example of the importance of HR and the information provided by an
HRIS can be found in the human resource planning (HRP) function. HRP is pri-
marily concerned with forecasting the need for additional employees in the future and
the availability of those employees either inside or external to the company. Imagine,
for example, that a company is considering a strategic decision to expand by establish-
ing a production facility in a new location. Using the data from an HRIS, HRP can
provide estimates of whether or not there are enough internal employees or individuals
in the external labor market of the new location available with the necessary skills to
staff the new facility.

Another critical characteristic of strategic HRM is the adoption and use of HR
metrics (Cascio, 2000; Lawler & Mohrman, 2003). Most functional departments of
an organization have utilized metrics for decades due to the nature of their business
transactions. For example, the marketing department has set sales goals and the effective-
ness metric that is used is the percentage of sales relative to the goal. But, for HR, the focus
on the measurement of the cost-effectiveness of programs is relatively recent. Despite the
recent utilization of metrics, their use continues to grow and has deepened as organiza-
tions seek to compete globally.

During this timeframe, the technology supporting HR also underwent a dramatic
transformation. In the late 1990s, software vendors began developing integrated enterprise
resource planning systems, which integrated data from multiple functional areas of busi-
ness, such as finance, accounting, marketing, HR, production, and sales. Industry leaders
in this area were PeopleSoft, SAP, and Oracle. Other vendors focused on one specific HR
function (such as time and attendance, online recruiting, or payroll). This approach where
the organization would purchase the best system for each functional area became known
as best of breed. Some industry leaders who chose this approach were Kronos for time and
attendance, ADP for payroll, and Taleo for online recruiting.

“The Cloud” and Mobile Technologies (2010–Present)
Within the last few years, we have seen an additional shift in HR, and much of this
has been technology and regulation dependent. In 2010, the Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act was passed, and with it a host of new healthcare regulations were
placed on organizations. In addition, a number of new data requirements were needed by
organizations to ensure compliance with this act. Thus, the data needs for organizations
continue to grow.

In addition, the technology supporting HR continues to evolve. Rather than the tra-
ditional ERP, organizations are increasingly moving to cloud-based HR systems, which

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18 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

are accessible over mobile devices and which leverage the capabilities of social network-
ing and Web 2.0 tools. This creates a new hurdle for HR professionals as they learn to
navigate the distribution of data on many more types of devices and on systems that are
internally controlled by HR and by those systems outside of organizational control (e.g.,
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).

Ultimately as we will see in the ensuing chapters, although technology is a key
enabler of strategic HR M, it is not simply the best technology and best strategy that
leads to competitive advantage, but rather the fit between the environmental reali-
ties, technology, and strategic practices that lead to competitive advantage. A critical
aspect of an HRIS in supporting the implementation of organizational strategy is
how we can use data to make more effective decisions about employees, programs,
and initiatives.

HRIS WITHIN THE BROADER
ORGANIZATION AND ENVIRONMENT
Beyond supporting and providing data for human resources, an effectively designed
HRIS must also interface with individuals and systems within the broader organiza-
tion and organizational environment. The data centrality of the HRIS is pictured in
Figure 1.3. There are several aspects of this model that are critical. First, this model is
a framework to use in reading, organizing, and understanding the information given in
this book. At the core is the HRIS. The next layer focuses on the human resources envi-
ronment and the major components of that environment (e.g., HR programs). Outside
of this figure represents the organizational environment and its components. Outside
the organizational environment is the global business environment, which directly influ-
ences the organizational environment and indirectly affects the HR environment. Each
of these layers mutually influences each other and together can impact the development
and implementation of the HRIS. For example, differing labor laws across countries
mean that different HR policies may be implemented and may affect the type of data
collected by the HRIS and reported to regulatory agencies in different companies. The
figure also indicates the interrelatedness between the strategic management system; the
strategic HRM system; and the performance, business, and HR goals that are generated
during the strategic planning process.

Second, this is a systems model; that is, it is organic and can change over time, as
the environment changes (e.g., the increasing focus on unfair discrimination in society
and in the workforce will affect the HR environment and will, in turn, affect the orga-
nizational and global business environments). Third, the HRIS and the HR program
evaluation results, in terms of HR metrics and cost-benefit results (value added and
return on investment), are in continual interaction. This emphasis is consistent with
current thinking in the HRM field (Cascio, 2000; Fitz-enz, 2000, 2002) and has gen-
erated the HR workforce scorecard (Becker et al., 2001; Huselid et al., 2005). Finally,
as will be emphasized throughout this book, the alignment between the global business

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 19

FIGURE 1.3 ■ Overview of an HRIS Embedded in Organizational and
Global Business Environments

Global Business Environment

Government
Regulations

Societal
Concerns

Technology Competitors

Labor Markets

Organizational
Envirnonment

Human Resources
Environment

Human
Resource

Information
System

HR Programs
Recruitment,

Selection, Training,
Employee

Safety, etc.

HR Goals
Retention, Climate/

Morale, Productivity,
etc.

HR Evaluation
HR Scorecard, HR
Metrics, ROI, etc.

Research-Based
Best HR Practices

IT Knowledge

Strategic
Management

System

Strategic human
resource

management

Strategic Human
Resource

Management

HR Knowledge

Organizational
Information

System
Strategic
Management
System
Organizational
Information
System

environment, the strategic management system, the strategic HR management system,
the business goals, the HR goals, and the HR programs is critical to the organization’s
maintenance of its competitiveness in the market (Evans & Davis, 2005; Huselid,
Jackson, & Schuler, 1997).

THEMES OF THE BOOK
The overall theme of this book is that the HR and IT operate jointly with HR processes
and people to provide accurate and timely information in support of HR and operational
and strategic managerial decision making. The book itself is broken into four major
themes, each with a different focus:

• Part I: System Aspects of HRIS. In this section, you will learn about databases and
the different technical and design considerations underlying HRIS.

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20 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

Summary

The primary purpose of this chapter was to introduce the
field of human resource information systems to readers.
The field of HRIS has evolved greatly from simply auto-
mating simple HR transactions such as cutting a payroll
check to one of assisting HR in becoming a strategic part-
ner with the organization. The result of this is that HRIS
have evolved from simple mainframe systems with limited
capabilities to large-scale integrated, mobile systems that
support social networking capabilities. In addition, the
use of HRIS has allowed HR to rethink how HR functionality

is deployed, leading to an eHRM approach. The distinc-
tion between HRIS and eHRM was explained to help the
reader avoid confusing these terms when they appear in
the remainder of the book. Additionally, the role of HRIS
within the broader organization and environment and
its mutually influencing role were discussed. Finally, the
chapter briefly discussed four major themes covered within
the book. This chapter therefore serves as an introduction
to the field of HRIS and serves as a foundation for the
sections and chapters that follow.

Key Terms

“best-fit” approach to strategic HRM 17
“best-practice” approach to

strategic HRM 17
“caretaker” functions 12
cost-benefit ratios (CBR) 16
electronic human resource

management (eHRM) 9
enterprise resource planning

(ERP) software 9
HR balanced scorecard 16

HR metrics 17
human resource information

systems (HRIS) 6
human resource management (HRM) 6
human resource planning (HRP) 17
job analysis 14
job description 14
management information

system (MIS) 15
outsourcing 16

Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act 17

return on investment (ROI) 16
scientific management 13
strategic human resource management

(strategic HRM) 16
traditional HR activities 7
transactional HR activities 6
transformational HR activities 6

• Part II: Implementation of the HRIS. In this section, you will learn about the sys-
tems development process, change management, assessing the feasibility of an
HRIS, and how to implement them.

• Part III: eHRM. In this section, you will learn about how technology has trans-
formed the administration of HR as well as how it has transformed the various
functions of HR.

• Part IV: Advanced HRIS Topics. In this section, you will learn about advanced top-
ics such as including international considerations in HRIS, workforce analytics,
privacy and security, and social media. In concludes with a look forward to the
future of HRIS and technologies that are on the cutting edge.

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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 21

Discussion Questions

1. What are the factors that changed the primary role of
HRM from a caretaker of records to a strategic partner?

2. Describe the historical evolution of HR M and HR IS
in terms of the changing role of HR M and the inf lu-
ence of computer technology on HR M.

3. What is required for the effective management of
human resources in a firm to gain a competitive advan-
tage in the marketplace?

4. Describe the emergence of strategic HRM and the
inf luence of computer technology. What are some of

the approaches used in HRM to facilitate the use of
strategic HRM in a firm’s business strategy?

5. How does technology help deliver transactional, tradi-
tional, and transformational HR activities more effi-
ciently and effectively?

6. Justify the need for an HRIS.

7. Describe and differentiate the major types of information
systems.

Case Study: Position Description and
Specification for an HRIS Administrator

One way to assess the nature and importance of a particular func-
tion or position in an organization is to examine the job descrip-
tion and job specifications for this position, as they tell us what
activities, duties, and tasks are involved in the job as well as what
knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) are required to perform the
job. The following is an actual advertisement for an HRIS admin-
istrator. A large corporation placed this ad in the “Job Central”
section of the website for the International Association for
Human Resources Information Management1 (www.ihrim.org).

HRIS Administrator

Job Level: Senior (5+ Years), Full time
Reports to: Senior Director of Human Resources Operations

Position Summary

MOMIRI, LLC is an Alabama Native Owned Corporation,
providing shared services to the MOMIRI family of com-
panies and planning and incubating the next generation

of companies serving federal and commercial customers.
MOMIRI companies offer core expertise in telecommunica-
tions, information technology, product development, major
program management, open source software, construction
management, facility operations, and operations support.
MOMIRI companies realize that quality personnel are the
key to our success. An excellent benefits package, profes-
sional working environment, and outstanding leaders are all
keys to retaining top professionals.

Primary Function

The incumbent will serve as a key member of the HR Support
Services department and provide professional human resources
support in specific functions or disciplines to management and
staff for the MOMIRI family of companies. This position is
viewed as going to a midlevel professional who assists man-
agement and staff with HR programs at the tactical level and
performs all essential duties and responsibilities at the direction
of the Manager of HR Operations.

(Continued)
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22 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

• Provides technical assistance to senior-level HR staff
and management on several HR programs to include
employee relations, compensation, EEO compliance,
company policies and procedures, disability programs
(STD, LTD, FMLA, ADA), federal and state employ-
ment laws, and personnel actions as needed.

• Supports and maintains the Human Resources
Information System (HRIS) in addition to other systems
supported by the management of enterprise applications.

• Serves as technical point-of-contact for assigned func-
tional areas and assists subject matter experts with
ensuring data integrity, testing of system changes,
report writing and analyzing data f lows for process
improvement opportunities.

• Supports HRIS and other enterprise systems’ upgrades,
patches, testing, and other technical projects as assigned.

• Recommends process/customer service improvements,
innovative solutions, policy changes, and/or major vari-
ations from established policy.

• Serves as key systems liaison with other departments
and process stakeholders (e.g., Payroll).

• Writes, maintains, and supports a variety of reports or
queries utilizing appropriate reporting tools. Assists in
development of standard reports for ongoing customer needs.

• Maintains data integrity in ATS, HRIS, and other
enterprise systems by running queries and analyzing and
fully auditing data across all HR departments.

• Conducts new hire in-processing to include systems
training for new employees and entering new employee
information in Costpoint.

• Conducts termination out-processing to include enter-
ing employee separation information in Costpoint and
reporting attrition data.

• Develops user procedures, guidelines, and documenta-
tion for HR-related systems. Trains system users on new
processes/functionality.

• Provides HR tools and resources for management and
staff to accomplish their goals and objectives.

• Processes personnel actions (hires, terminations, pay
and title changes, promotions, employment status, etc.)
to include entering data into HRIS.

• Assists with special HR-related projects and provides
training to other staff members as required.

• Performs other duties as assigned.

Requirements

Specialized Knowledge and Skills

• Experience working with a multiple-site workforce.

• Working knowledge of federal and state employment
laws and related acts.

• Advanced to expert level computer skills.

• Excellent verbal and written communication and
presentation skills.

• Great interpersonal skills.

• Strong time-management and prioritization skills.

Qualifications

• Bachelor’s degree in HR and/or equivalent professional
experience.

• 3–5 years of technical HRIS experience in professional
HR environment.

• Self-directed, highly responsive, and detail oriented.

• Ability to maintain absolute confidentiality in all
business matters.

• Government contracting experience is a plus.

(Continued)
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Chapter 1  A Brief History and Overview of Technology in HR 23

Case Study Questions

1. How does this position help the HR function become a
strategic partner of the organization?

2. From the position description, identify the traditional,
transactional, and transformational HR activities that this
position is involved with.

3. Using the key responsibilities identified for this posi-
tion, explain why and how the HRIS function plays a
pivotal role in the organizational model as described in
this chapter.

Student Study Site

Visit the Student Study Site at study.sagepub.com/kavanagh4e for additional learning tools such as access to SAGE journal
articles and related Web resources.

1 The name of the company in the advertisement has been changed.

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study.sagepub.com/kavanagh4e

24

DATABASE CONCEPTS
AND APPLICATIONS IN HRIS

JANET H. MARLER AND BARRY D. FLOYD

162

EDITORS’ NOTE

As mentioned in the book overview in Chapter 1, this chapter is focused on under-
standing databases and the applications of IT to the development and use of an
HRIS. Databases are the backbone of all HRIS and a basic understanding of their
creation, structure, and use will help students better understand the data capa-
bilities and limitations of an HRIS. The chapter briefly reviews the history of data
and databases. The chapter next reviews the relational database management
system and discusses the key terms, concepts, and design issues associated with
it. The chapter closes with a discussion of business intelligence and data mining
applications in HR. This section helps acquaint the reader with an overview of this
critical area of growing importance to organizations. Although this chapter may
be a review for some students, the material in it is critical to understanding the
remaining chapters of the book. As such, students may want to refer to this chap-
ter as they are studying subsequent chapters. This introductory chapter is also an
excellent example of the contribution of IT to the field of HRM in building an HRIS.

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 25

CHAPTER OBJECTIVES
After completing this chapter, you should be able to

• Discuss the difference between data, information, and knowledge
• Identify problems with early database structures
• Understand what a relational database is and why it is better than older

database structures
• Discuss three types of data sharing and why they are important
• Know where data in a database are stored
• Know the different ways in which data can be delivered to the end user
• Know what a query is and discuss three different types of queries
• Discuss how queries are used to support decision making
• Discuss the key steps involved in designing a simple database in Microsoft

(MS) Access
• Identify key data fields in an HR database
• Understand the difference between operational databases and a data warehouse
• Discuss how business intelligence software, data analytics, and Big Data

can support HR decision making

INTRODUCTION

In God we trust, all others must bring data.

—W. Edwards Deming

W hether an organization purchases, leases, or develops its human resource informa-tion system (HRIS), the data and the information it produces are stored in and
retrieved from a database. Today’s HRIS have as their foundation electronic databases
that work in conjunction with business applications to transform data into information
that is essential for business operations and for decision making. Many believe that man-
aging electronic databases and turning data into accessible and actionable information
is a competency necessary to succeed in today’s marketplace. Indeed, data are produced,
stored, updated, and shared by human resources (HR) employees and managers on a
daily basis. This process is so pervasive that it often goes unnoticed. Yet the effective col-
lection, storage, integration, and use of data are essential for any business, and the most
successful organizations are masters of this process!

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26 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

In this chapter, we provide an insight into how commercially delivered HRIS data-
bases work. We define key relational database terminology, describe how a database is
structured, and show how to develop a basic database using MS Access, a basic database
management system (DBMS), as an example. We discuss how DBMSs provide the
capability to integrate HR data and to link this data with other data essential to the
operations of a business. We close by providing examples of HRIS built on MS Access
to provide a basic understanding of larger more complex commercially developed HRIS
databases.

DATA, INFORMATION, AND KNOWLEDGE
Data are the lifeblood of an organization. The production and maintenance of data are
critical to the smooth operation of every part of the organization. Data represent the
“facts” of transactions that occur on a daily basis. A transaction can be thought of as an
event of consequence, such as hiring a new employee for a particular position for a speci-
fied salary. The organization attempts to capture the data (facts) associated with each of
these transactions, such as the date hired, the name of the person hired, the title of the
position, the location where the new hire will work, and so on, and then store these data
for future use.

Information on the other hand is the interpretation of these data. An interpretation of
data always has some goal and context such as making a hiring decision for a particular
department or understanding the performance of an employee to make a promotion deci-
sion. Note that sometimes the data themselves can be informative without any additional
transformation (e.g., the salary range of the job). But other times, we must do additional
work (e.g., calculating totals or presenting the data in some order) to turn the data into
information to answer important questions such as “What is our full-time employee
headcount in Corporate Sales?” or “Which employee should be promoted?”

Knowledge is information that has been given meaning (Whitehill, 1997).
Knowledge is different from data and information. More than what and why, knowl-
edge is about how. Knowledge, therefore, consists of the procedures one follows to use
data and information to make decisions and conduct business. In many instances, such
procedural knowledge is mostly hidden, residing in the minds of individuals and groups
in the organization. For example, in HRIS, facts about age, gender, and education are
the data. Information created from these data includes average age, gender ratio, and
number and types of graduates at the business unit level. Such data and information
help HR managers plan recruitment, schedule training programs to bridge skill gaps,
and identify whether there may be employee discrimination. Knowledge represents
how HR managers can execute the recruitment plan, decide which training programs
are best to bridge skill gaps or determine what to do if employee discrimination exists.
In the HR function, data about employees and jobs are the foundation of most of the
information that is critical to analyzing and making HR decisions. Knowledge, on the
other hand, constitutes knowing what information is needed from a database and how
to use it to achieve HR objectives.

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 27

DATABASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
A DBMS is a set of software applications (i.e., computer programs) combined with a data-
base. DBMS electronically allows organizations to effectively manage data. Managing
data means

• identifying the data needed to create information that is necessary to make HR
decisions;

• defining the characteristics of those data (e.g., number data vs. character data);

• organizing those data in a manner that promotes integration, data quality, and
accessibility; and finally

• restricting access to the data to the right personnel.

By performing these functions effectively, a DBMS turns data into an organizational
resource.

A database is a set of organized data. Importantly, it is a permanent, self-descriptive
store of interrelated data items that can be processed by one or more business applica-
tions. Self-descriptive means that the database knows about the characteristics of the data
(e.g., the length of an employee’s last name can be no greater than 30 characters) or that
a paycheck can only be associated with one employee. Interrelated means that there are
links between different sets of data in the database. For example, there can be a link
between the data about employees and the jobs that they have. There can also be links
between HR data and other data in the organization such as linking a managerial posi-
tion to specific company facility resources such as office space or a production facility.
As a central repository of data, many different business applications and users can access
the data, making an organization’s database a very valuable organizational asset and,
therefore, it needs to be managed appropriately.

The main functions of a DBMS are to create the database; insert, read, update, and
delete database data; maintain data integrity (i.e., making sure that the data are correct)
and security (i.e., making sure that only the right people have access to the data); and
prevent data from being lost by providing backup and recovery capabilities. Database
management systems are also designed to have high performance, allowing data to be
retrieved quickly by the many users in the organization.

DBMSs and databases work in conjunction with business applications, such as
transaction processing systems (TPS), to make organizations run smoothly. As
shown in Figure 2.1, these business applications consist of a set of one or more
computer programs that serve as an intermediary between the user and the DBMS,
while providing the functions or tasks that the user wants performed (e.g., store
data about a new hire; Kroenke & Auer, 2014). The business application must talk
both to the user sitting at a computer terminal in an easy-to-use manner and to
the database in a way that is very efficient. For example, a payroll business applica-
tion involves collecting data from an employee’s time card, storing these data in a

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28 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

database, and then retrieving and manipulating these data to produce a paycheck.
Data from this transaction processing system can also be used to generate reports on
monthly personnel expenses. These reports are the basis of management reporting
systems (MRS). We’ll talk more about these later in the chapter.

There are thousands of commercially available business applications that work
in conjunction with a DBMS to process business transactions. In a 2000 census
of comprehensive HR software for the HR function, Richard Frantzreb catalogued
more than 150 HR applications (Meade, 2003). In another census of specialized
HR products under headings such as employment management, equal employment
opportunity (EEO), training management, career development, HR planning, per-
formance management, personnel policy, survey processing, employee scheduling,
attendance/timekeeping, payroll, and so on, Frantzreb counted 2,500 HR software
products from about 1,700 vendors (Meade, 2003). Recent innovations in HRIS
technologies including improvements in user experience, increased integration,
and increased functionalities such as social and mobile computing are leading
many companies today to acquire new software to meet their needs (Bersin by
Deloitte, 2013).

FIGURE 2.1 ■ Database, Database Management System, and
Business Applications

Payroll
data

Recruitment
data

Workplace
profiles
data

Performance
data

Database
management

system

Payroll
program

Recruitment
program

Workplace
program

Performance
program

Database Interface
Application
programs Users

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 29

Early DBMSs1

Early DBMSs were simply data-processing systems that performed record-keeping
functions that mimicked existing manual procedures. Thus, electronic data were stored
in computers in much the same way that they were stored in paper filing systems.
Paper filing systems typically consisted of a filing cabinet and a drawer for each type
of business document (e.g., an employee personnel form). These documents were also
called “records.” Inside would be paper documents with each document being a record
of a transaction (e.g., promoting Susan to senior manager). Computer systems mim-
icked this, creating individual computer files, typically one for each type of document.
For example, there would be an Employee File with employee records, a Time Card File
with time card records, multiple Employee Benefit Files with their associated docu-
ments, and so on. The main objective of these file-processing systems was to process
transactions such as update payroll records and produce payroll checks as efficiently
as possible. The goal was not on data sharing among different business applications
and users.

These traditional file-oriented data structures had a number of shortcomings.
These shortcomings included (a) data redundancy—an employee’s name and address
could be stored in many different files; (b) poor data control—if you had access to the
file you had access to all the data in the file, which may not be desirable because you
may want to restrict the data viewed by a particular user; (c) inadequate data manipu-
lation capabilities—it was very difficult to combine the data across files and to easily
update and to add new data; and (d) excessive programming effort—any change in
the structure of the data (e.g., adding a new field such as a mobile phone number or a
screen name to an employee record) required extensive changes in the programming
that accessed the data.

In general, early file systems were good at specialized transaction processing. They
were not designed to easily and quickly provide information to answer questions such as
“What was the average hourly wage for female programmers last year compared with this
year?” because the data to answer the more complicated questions came from different
files; for example, employee gender and salary would be in the master file on employees,
and hours worked would be in the time-card transaction file. Difficulties also arose when
managers in the organization wanted to share data across applications: Fundamentally,
there was no easy way to link information. For example, managers could not connect
information about employee salaries and sales projections.

To overcome the shortcomings of file-oriented structures, hierarchical and network
database systems evolved in the mid-1960s and early 1970s. The key to these systems was
that relationships between different records were explicitly maintained. Although rela-
tionships among the data were created between sets of data, as illustrated in Figure 2.2,
the relationships were created based on where the data were stored (e.g., the job records
for Employee X are located in Sector 3 of Disk 4). Thus, only the very knowledgeable

1 For a more detailed discussion, see Hansen and Hansen (1996, pp. 52–56).

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30 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

technical staff was able to effectively interact with the database. These database systems
also required an excessive programming effort and suffered from inadequate data mani-
pulation capabilities if the program was poorly designed.

The advent of relational database management systems addressed the many problems
associated with these older DBMSs and database structures.

Relational DBMSs
In 1970, E. F. Codd introduced the notion that rather than programming relationships
between data based on physical location, the information needed to integrate data should
reside within the data (Hansen & Hansen, 1996). Included in Codd’s proposal was that
data be stored in tables where each table represented one entity in the real world and
the information associated with that entity be stored only in that table. For example, a
company could have an employee table (i.e., employee is an entity), and so information
about the employee, such as name, address, date of hire, would only be stored in that table
and nowhere else. Such an idea removed problems with redundancies such as storing the
employee’s address in many locations and then not knowing which one is the correct one,
if the employee’s address is changed in one location and not in the other location. These
tables were called relations, and from this model came the name relational database.

In relational database systems, retrieval of data from different tables was based on
logical relationships built into the table structures, which made feasible the creation of a
query capability that was much more accessible to end users who generally had limited
programming experience. This technique also allowed for relationships to be easily built
among all the entities in the organization. We’ll talk more about this a bit later in the
chapter.

Perhaps the most significant difference between a file-based system and a relational
database system is that data are easily shared. There are three types of data sharing:

Hierarchical structure Network structure

Dept 1 Dept 2

Project 1 Project 2 Project 3

Employee 1 Employee 2

FIGURE 2.2 ■ Hierarchical and Network Database Structures

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 31

(1) data sharing between functional units, (2) data sharing between management levels,
and (3) data sharing across geographically dispersed locations. Data sharing requires a
major change in end-user thinking, particularly in those employees who are accustomed
to owning their own data on their PCs. Fundamentally, sharing data means sharing
power because both data and information are power. Sharing data also means being a
good citizen and making certain that the data you enter is correct.

Data Sharing Between Different Functions
Relational DBMSs facilitate data integration across different functions such that each
function might have access not only to its own data but also to other data as well. Thus,
the HR department is able to maintain its employee database, but also access cost infor-
mation from the accounting department’s database. As a result, relational database tech-
nology increased the feasibility and popularity of integrated business applications. These
integrated applications used in large organizations are referred to as enterprise resource
planning (ERP) business applications.

ERP software applications are a set of integrated database applications, or modules,
that carry out the most common business functions, including HR, general ledger, accounts
payable, accounts receivable, order management, inventory control, and customer
relationship management. ERP modules are integrated, primarily through a common
set of definitions and a common database (Brown, DeHayes, Slater, Martin, & Perkins,
2011).

Data Sharing Between Different Levels
Operational employees, managers, and executives also share data but have different
objectives and, thus, different information needs. Operational employees focus on data-
processing transactions to ensure smooth operation of critical business transactions. A
common business transaction is processing the information from an employee’s timecard.
At this level, transaction-processing information systems help conduct business on a day-
to-day basis to provide timely and accurate information to managers and executives.
For example, transaction-processing systems update employee work history, attendance,
and work hours. Operational employees are concerned with the accuracy and efficiency
with which these data are processed.

Managers, on the other hand, are more interested in summary data, such as reports
generated from daily operational data that can be summarized into daily, weekly or
monthly reports on hours worked by employee or absences by employee.

Executives rely on information produced at an even more aggregated level to evaluate
trends and develop business strategies. For example, executives might ask for reports that
compare turnover statistics across business groups and over time.

These three different levels of use correspond to three different types of software
systems that have evolved over the past three decades: transaction processing systems
(TPS), management reporting systems (MRS), and decision support systems (DSS)
(Hansen & Hansen, 1996). TPS were first applied to lower operational levels of the
organization to automate manual processes such as payroll. Their basic characteristics
include (a) a focus on data storage, processing, and f lows at the daily operational level;

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32 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

(b) efficient transaction processing; and (c) summary reports for management (Sprague
& Watson, 1989). Early ERP applications were used primarily for their transaction
processing functionality.

Note the similarity between the categorization of information systems into electronic
data processing (EDP), management information systems (MIS), and DSS discussed
in Chapter 1 (Sprague & Carlson, 1982). These terms correspond to TPS, MRS, and
DSS in this chapter. As you may recall from Chapter 1, an additional information sys-
tem was identified—the human resources management decision system (HRMDS).
The HRMDS was described as consisting of the reports managers and HR professionals
receive on a regular basis but that are actually used in their daily work, particularly in
their decision-making capacity. The HRMDS could be classified as a special instance of an
MRS or MIS system but focused specifically on information used in decision making—a
central theme of this book.

In addition to TPS capabilities, relational databases can also provide MRS capa-
bility. Characteristics of an MRS include (1) information aimed at middle managers;
(2) integration of TPS data by business functions such as manufacturing, marketing, and
HR; and (3) inquiry and report generation from the database (Sprague & Watson, 1989).
Management reporting systems can be designed to provide daily, monthly, quarterly,
or annual summary of key transactions such as employee headcounts by department or
distribution of employee absence reports to meet budgets.

Decision support systems assist senior managers and business professionals in mak-
ing business decisions. Data mining, data analytics, and business intelligence (BI) are
examples of information derived from a DSS, which relies on data warehouses. Data
warehouses represent aggregated data (e.g., the total salary information by department by
month) collected from various databases available to a business.

Data Sharing Across Locations
In today’s global environment, access to data from any physical location in the world is
increasingly important. Teams of employees may be stationed in Thailand, India, and the
United States. Two issues arise when data are shared across wide geographic locations.
These are (1) managing the day/time of a transaction and (2) determining where to store
the various components of the business application, DBMS, and database.

To deal with day/time, developers of DBMSs such as Oracle, MS SQL Server, and
IBM DB2 are building the capability to deal with recording dates and times according
to the time zone in which the data originated. So, for example, if a database is stored in
London and an employee records a transaction while sitting at a terminal in Los Angeles,
in addition to the time (say 1 p.m. in Los Angeles), the time zone (−08:00 from Greenwich
Mean Time) is also stored with the transaction.

As part of a global information system design, organizations have chosen to break
their business application and DBMS into components, often called “tiers.” More detail
on tiers will be covered in Chapter 3. Traditional client-server architectures broke an
application into two tiers, typically with the user interface and some business logic on
the user’s computer, such as a PC (the client) and the database and mainstream parts
of the application stored on a server. In today’s global environment with high-speed

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 33

data networks, N-tier architectures exist with databases and applications being dis-
tributed among many different computers around the world. So if, for example, you are
in an Internet café in Bangkok trying to get information about your benefit election,
the hosting computer may be in London and the data may be located on a computer
in Chicago. In sum, computer networks that provide instant access to these opera-
tional data are created, allowing real-time managerial decision capability regardless of
physical location.

A centralized database allows a company to confine its data to a single location and,
therefore, more easily control data integrity, updating, backup, query, and control access
to the database. A company with many locations and telecommuters, however, must
develop a communications infrastructure to facilitate data sharing over a wide geographi-
cal area. The advent of the Internet and a standardized communication protocol made
the centralized database structures and geographically dispersed data sharing feasible.

KEY RELATIONAL
DATABASE TERMINOLOGY
As discussed earlier, relational DBMSs are used to store data important to the organiza-
tion. Key terms in relational database management include entities, attributes, tables,
primary keys, foreign keys, relationships, queries, forms, and reports. Below we define
each term and describe its function in a database.

Entities and Attributes
Entities are things such as employees, jobs, promotion transactions, positions in com-
pany, and so on. They include both physical things such as desks and conceptual things
such as bank accounts. A company must analyze its business operations and identify all
the entities that it believes are important.

Each of these entities is made up of attributes. An attribute is a characteristic of
the entity. For example, an employee has a name, address, phone number, education,
and so on. Attributes also have characteristics such as the type of data (e.g., date,
number, or character) and size (e.g., number of characters or the largest number that
can be stored).

In addition to identifying the entities and attributes, the relationships among the enti-
ties must be defined. For example, a company may have an employee entity and a depart-
ment entity. Then the company must define the relationship between the employee entity
and the department entity (e.g., Does an employee have to be assigned to a department?
Can an employee be assigned to more than one department?).

Tables
How does this information fit into a relational DBMS? Tables are used to store informa-
tion about entities. As illustrated in Figure 2.3, one table is created for each entity—in
this example, driver table, car table, moving violation table, and parking violation table.

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34 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

Attributes are stored as the columns (also called fields) in the table. As noted earlier,
attributes represent a single data element or characteristic of the data table. For example,
a table of driver data would have the following columns or characteristics: first name,
last name, street address, city, state, driver license number, expiration, and so on. Each of
these characteristics represents an attribute or field of the table.

Each table in a database contains rows. Rows are also referred to as records and repre-
sent an “instance” of the entity. For example, in the driver table, each row contains data
about a particular driver, and each column contains data that represent an attribute of
that driver, such as name, phone number, and license number.

Relationships, Primary Keys, and Foreign Keys
To represent the relationships among the tables, we have to do a bit more work. In a
relational DBMS, relationships are created by having the same attribute in each table
with the value of the attribute being the same in each table. Most often, this is done
by taking the primary key of one table and including it in the related table. What is a
primary key?

Typically, each entity has an attribute that has unique values for each instance of the
entity. For example, each employee has a unique Social Security number. Other entities,
such as jobs, locations, and positions can be assigned a unique number if one doesn’t
exist. These unique attributes can be used as a table’s primary key. Given that we have

Driver’s
license
file/table

Citation
number

Moving
violation type

Date cited Driver’s license
number of
driver cited

Fines paid/
not paid

Citation
number

Parking
violation type

Date cited

Car license
number

Fines paid/
not paid

Key fields linked

Key fields linked
Key fields linked
Car license
number

Car make
and year

Owner’s
name

Street
address

City State Zip

Driver’s
name

Driver’s
license
number

Street
address

City State Zip Expiration
date

Car owner
file/table

Moving
violation
citation
file/table

Parking
violation
citation
file/table

FIGURE 2.3 ■ Relational Database Structure

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 35

a unique attribute, to create a relationship, we simply store that attribute in the related
table. So, if an employee is associated with a position, we have two tables, an employee
table and a position table. We then take the primary key of the employee table and store
it in the position table. In the example in Figure 2.3, the driver’s license number is the
primary key in the driver table, and it is also stored in the moving violation table. When
a primary key from one table is stored as an attribute of another table, that attribute is
called a foreign key. Thus, in Figure 2.3, driver’s license is the primary key in the driver
table and is the foreign key in the moving violations table.

Storing data in related tables allows users to utilize the database application to create
queries, forms, and reports that permit users to retrieve, update, or analyze data from
multiple tables together. The relationships between tables allow users to accurately com-
bine information that “go together” from two (or more) tables. For example, if a manager
wished to provide bonuses to his or her top salespeople, he or she would likely use data
from an employee file, a sales file, and some type of compensation table.

Queries2

A query is a question that you ask about the data stored in a database. For example, you
may want to know which employees live within a specific city. You could generate these
results by scrolling through the relevant table or by sorting the table by city and then
looking at the result, but this is time-consuming and you would have to do this task each
time you wished to find the answer to your question. A better approach is to create a
query. A query is a structured way of posing your question to the DBMS in a language it
understands. This definition (e.g., show all employees with city Albany) can be saved in
the database and used again and again. Importantly, each time the query is executed, it
searches through the current table records and lists the results. The results of a query on
a table(s) are always displayed in something that looks just like another table. However,
this result table is only temporary and is not stored in the database. It is important to
note that queries do not store data! All data are stored in tables. Queries only report on
data currently in the table.

There are three different kinds of queries: select queries, action queries, and cross-tab
queries. A select query allows you to ask a question based on one or more tables in a data-
base. This is the most commonly used query. These queries can be quite general or quite
specific. For example, a general query might extract all employees from the database who
have reached retirement age. A more specific query might retrieve employees who have
reached retirement age and who live in New York and are engineers.

An action query performs an action on the table on which it is based. Actions include
updating data in the table (e.g., increasing the base salary of all employees who were rated
above average in the latest performance rating), deleting records from the table (e.g.,
removing employees from the employees table if they no longer work at the company), or
inserting records (e.g., the query may add a new set of benefits to the benefits table). You
can also use this type of query to create new tables.

A cross-tab query performs calculations on the values in a field and displays the
results in a datasheet. The reason it is called “cross-tab” is that it tabulates the data for

2 For a more detailed discussion, see Cable (2013, Chapters 1, 2, and 3).

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36 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

a set of descriptor attributes, contrasting them or crossing them in a table format. For
example, we might want to see the total personnel count by gender by region. So we
would see the gender on the left-hand side and the different regions listed across the top
of a table. A cross-tab query could display different aspects of the data, including sums or
averages or minimum or maximum values. As another example, a cross-tab query could
determine headcount by department or determine pay range maximums and minimums
in pay grades by department.

Select queries and cross-tab queries provide the information that managers and executives
expect from IT. These queries can serve as the foundation for MRS and DSS information and
decision making. Action queries, on the other hand, improve the operational efficiency of
managing and maintaining a database and are most closely associated with TPS. These tasks are
important to the operational staff but of less interest to HR managers and executives.

Queries are also used as the basis for forms and reports. In addition to retrieving data,
they can add, update, and delete records in tables. You can define fields in a query that
perform calculations, such as sums and averages. The following list illustrates typical
capabilities of queries (Cable, 2013):

• Display selected fields and records from a table

• Sort records on one or multiple fields

• Perform calculations

• Generate data for forms, reports, and other queries

• Update data in the tables of a database

• Find and display data from two or more tables

• Create new tables

• Delete records in a table based on one or more criteria

Forms3

A form is an object in a database that you can use to maintain, view, and print
records in a database in a more structured manner. Although you can perform these
same functions with tables and queries, forms can present data in many customized
and useful ways. For example, you can design a form to look like the time sheet sub-
mitted by an employee. Well-designed forms can improve data input efficiency and
accuracy. Consequently, forms represent the main mechanism for creating end-user
interfaces.

A form can be based on a table, multiple tables, or queries. A form can display one
record at a time or many records. Often, we select only one record and then create a nice-
looking, easy-to-use layout to work with the data in that one record. To view and main-
tain or add data using a form, you must know how to move from field to field and from

3 For a more detailed treatment, see Tutorials 4 and 5 in Adamski and Finnegan (2013).

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 37

record to record. Forms provide navigation buttons that facilitate moving from field to
field and from record to record. Data that are entered or changed in a form automatically
change the values in the underlying table once you save the changes.

Reports
A report is a formatted presentation of data from a table, multiple tables, or queries that
is created as a printout or to be viewed on screen. Data displayed in a report are dynamic,
reflecting the latest data from the tables on which the report is based. Unlike forms,
however, you cannot change the data or add a new record in a report. You can only view
the data in a report.

Although you can print data appearing in tables, queries, and forms, reports provide
you with the greatest flexibility for formatting printed output. As with forms, you can
design your own reports or use a wizard to create reports automatically.4

MS ACCESS—AN ILLUSTRATIVE
PERSONAL DATABASE
MS Access is a relational DBMS in which data are organized as a collection of tables. Like
any relational database, the data in tables can be queried. MS Access also makes it easy
to create forms and reports through the use of form or report wizards. A form or report
wizard is a computer program or tool that guides you through the creation of a form by
asking you a series of questions. For example, which table is the form to be created from,
and which attributes do you want to be displayed on the form? The form or report is cre-
ated based on your answers.

MS Access is designed for relatively small databases and assumes limited knowledge
of database programming. MS Access provides the following functions (Adamski &
Finnegan, 2013):

• It allows you to create databases containing tables and table relationships.

• It lets you easily add new records, change table values in existing records, and
delete records.

• It contains a built-in query language, which lets you obtain immediate answers to
questions you ask about your data.

• It contains a built-in report generator and report wizard, which lets you produce
professional-looking, formatted reports from your data.

• It provides protection of databases through security, control, and recovery facilities.

Data in an MS Access table or query can be exported to other database applications or to
spreadsheet programs such as MS Excel. Once these records are in a spreadsheet program,

4 For a more detailed treatment, see Tutorials 4 and 6 in Adamski and Finnegan (2013).

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38 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

then further analyses may be conducted and graphs and charts constructed to enhance
analytical HR metric reports. Data can be exported by simply opening the database that has
the object—for example, table or query—that you want to export. Then select File, Export
from the database menu. Select the type of file—for example, .xlsx—you want the object
to be saved to and specify a name. Click Save. Now you can open the file in Excel. You may
also link the data in the database to the spreadsheet. When the spreadsheet is opened, the
most recent data from the database are retrieved and presented in the spreadsheet.

Unlike spreadsheet software programs, MS Access handles substantially more data
and contains the ability to model relationships. Each MS Access database, for example,
can be up to 2 GB in size and can contain up to 32,768 objects, including tables, queries,
forms, reports, and so on.

Designing an MS Access Database
The design process begins with an analysis of the data and information that the users
of the database will need to have stored and retrieved in order to accomplish their work.
Typically, we think of work as consisting of tasks within a business process, and so we
can think of the data that will be required to be stored in a database and of the informa-
tion that will need to be extracted. We find out the data to be stored by interviewing the
intended end users of the database. We ask about entities that they need to keep informa-
tion on, the attributes of those entities, and also how the entities are related. In addition,
we may watch users at work and look at the forms, reports, and other business documents
that they use to be successful. Gathering copies of all existing forms and reports currently
used may also act as guidelines for creating forms and reports, though sometimes our
intention is to change how they are doing business, and so some of these documents may
be significantly changed or even discarded.

In general, the database design process can be broken down into several steps that are some-
what sequential but oftentimes have to be repeated until the database meets the users’ needs:

• Determine what the users want from the database: What questions need to be
answered? What information needs to be tracked? What reports are produced?
What data are needed to provide the basis for those results?

• Identify the data fields needed to produce the required information; in doing so,
we also identify rules that define the integrity of the data, including data type
(number, character) and data limits (e.g., if we are storing days, we might only
allow the numbers 1 to 31).

• Group related fields into tables (entities).

• Determine each table’s primary key.

• Normalize the data: Make sure the data for an entity are really associated with
only that entity.

• Determine how the tables are related to one another and include common keys.

• Create the relationships among the different entities and ensure referential integrity.

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 39

• Create queries to define data needs that are not handled by only looking at indi-
vidual tables.

• Create reports to provide a structured view of the data.

• Create forms, and in doing so, identify a common design for the forms: Typically,
we create a form for each table along with a “main menu” form that allows the user
to navigate to each form associated with a table and to view queries and reports.

• Enter test data to verify the quality/accuracy of the system design.

• Test the system: Do all the queries work correctly? Are the forms easy to use? Are
the end users happy?

• Enter or populate the database.

HR Database Application Using MS Access
For small companies, generally with fewer than 1,000 employees, there are commercially
available HR database applications based on MS Access. One such system, popular in the
United States, is HRSource from Auxillium West (www.auxillium.com). This software
product offers a wide breadth of functionality and flexibility to import and export data
from and to Excel and to integrate with other database applications, particularly payroll.
It provides a centralized relational database with basic transaction processing and manage-
ment reporting systems.

HRSource utilizes the familiar MS Access forms as user interfaces. It allows users to
create custom queries and reports. However, it also offers 70 preconfigured reports and
queries. Customers also claim that with a little expertise in MS Access, they are able to
mine their HR information in a way that they never could before they utilized a central
database (Meade, 2003).

Other HR Databases
A few decades ago, database application programs were often written by companies for
their particular use; in today’s business environment, customized application programs
termed legacy systems are being replaced by commercially developed HR systems supported
by enterprise database application programs (e.g., Oracle Enterprise HCM, MySAP ERP
HCM, UltiPro HR, Workday). The most well-known HR database applications can
operate on various DBMS platforms (e.g., Oracle, MS SQL Server, IBM DB2). These
commercial database application programs can either be licensed and installed onto com-
puter hardware a company buys themselves or now, given the ability to share database
information regardless of geographic location, some vendors of HR database applications
are leasing HR DBMS and business applications to business customers. This new way
of acquiring an HRIS is called software as a service, or SaaS. The SaaS approach to
HRIS is discussed further in Chapter 3. Regardless of how complex your HRIS DBMS
is, you must ensure that you know what information can be derived from any database.
To know this, one must have an idea of what tables and attributes (fields) are in the data-
base. Software vendors should be able to provide this information to end users; however,

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40 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

Employee ID

First Name

Last Name

Address

City

State

Zip Code

Home Phone Number

Gender

Ethnic Code

Birth Date

Veteran

Status

Visa Expiration Date

Education

Past Employment

Skill Code

Training/Certification

Performance Rating

Next Review Date

Hire Date

Termination Date

Termination Reason

Rehire Date as Applicable

Job Code/Title

Pay Rate Type

Rate Effective Date

Salary

Bonuses

Status

Category (full-time/part-time)

Contract Employee Status

Department

Office Information

Manager

Division/Location

Company Property

Emergency Contact

Time-Off Accruals

Benefits

Work-Related Injuries

Disability

TABLE 2.1 ■ Examples of Common Fields in an HR Database

for the large complex HR applications, this may run into thousands of tables and fields!
Auxillium West offers a document to prospective customers that lists the data items com-
monly tracked (Table 2.1; Meade, 2003).

Although the list in Table 2.1 appears to be comprehensive, in fact, it is quite
sparse when compared with more complex database applications. More complex
database applications will also have fields that relate to business processes other than
HR, such as accounting and finance. Integrated databases allow sophisticated queries
and analytical reports, such as hours spent on recruiting, recruiters’ hourly pay, job
board posting costs, number of positions filled, number of declined offers, number
of open positions, number of voluntary terminations, and number of involuntary
terminations.

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 41

DATA INTEGRATION: DATABASE
WAREHOUSES, BUSINESS
INTELLIGENCE, AND DATA MINING
An organization’s ability to generate meaningful information to make good decisions is
only as good as its underlying database. As Dr. John Sullivan notes, “I have found that
the largest single difference between a great HR department and an average one is the use
of metrics” (Gur, 2006). Metrics are measures of organizational performance outcomes
that are derived from important individual and organizational outcomes (e.g., individual
job performance and absence rate). As was discussed in Chapter 1, the current emphasis
in HRM is functioning as a strategic business partner. A prerequisite to this goal is the
use of metrics to assess and monitor quantitative data from HRM programs like recruit-
ing and training. The primary objective of measuring HR metrics is to improve indi-
vidual and organizational effectiveness.

Much of the data used to create HR metrics come from an organization’s data
warehouse. A data warehouse is a special type of database that is optimized for report-
ing and analysis and is the raw material for management’s decision support system.
Business intelligence is a broad category of business applications and technologies for
creating data warehouses to analyse and provide easy access to these data in order to
help organizational users make better business decisions. BI applications include the
activities of decision support systems, query and reporting, statistical analysis, forecast-
ing, and data mining.

BI systems allow organizations to improve business performance by leveraging
information about customers, suppliers, and internal business operations from data-
bases across functions and organizational boundaries. Essentially, BI systems retrieve
specified data from multiple databases, including old legacy file database systems, and
store these data into a new database, which becomes that data warehouse. The data in
the data warehouse can then be accessed via queries and used to uncover patterns and
diagnose problems.

Patterns in large data sets are identified through data mining, which involves sta-
tistically analyzing large datasets to identify recurring relationships. For example, data
mining an employee database might reveal that most employees reside within a group of
particular ZIP codes. This may help if the organization wants to supply transportation
or encourage carpooling. Data mining is relatively new to business analytics and has not
yet been widely used for HRM decisions.

BI systems also provide reporting tools and interfaces (e.g., forms) that distrib-
ute the information to Excel spreadsheets, Internet-based portals, PDF files, or hard
copies. These results can also be distributed to key executives in specialized formats
known as executive dashboards, which are becoming a popular executive decision
support tool.

A major reason for a DBMS is to provide information from various parts of the orga-
nization in an ad hoc manner. Ad hoc means that a user can ask a question of the data
that no one has thought about yet. The user can sign into the data and pose his or her

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42 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

question in the form of a query. This is a very powerful concept that enables all levels of
the organization. Data warehouses and BI software enable managers to create informa-
tion from an even greater store of data.

BIG DATA AND NOSQL DATABASES
Successful organizations realize that data-driven decision making is key to organiza-
tional success, but to achieve this success, and as a result, they are capturing increasing
amounts of transactional data. However, they also realize that capturing the data is
not enough: They must better manage this data. Big Data is a term that illustrates the
challenges faced by organizations. Big Data is described by four dimensions: volume,
variety, velocity, and veracity. Volume refers to the amount of data, often measured in
terabytes that organizations collect today. Most large organizations in the United States
have at least 100 terabytes of data. The HR function produces and consumes increas-
ing amounts of data on activities such as payroll, talent management, social media,
email, I-9 forms, and so on. Variety refers to the different forms of data. Although
relational DBMSs provide a very structured view of a critical segment of HR data, HR
managers also need to store and access unstructured documents such as resumes, per-
formance reviews, disciplinary actions, images, video email, and many others. In fact,
Gartner estimates that 80% of the information generated today consists of unstructured
data (Bridgwater, 2010)! Velocity refers to the speed at which data is coming into the
organization. Sensors that track employees movement, audit logs of information access,
and many other sources of information stream with increasing speed and must be cap-
tured and stored. Lapses resulting in missing data may be problematic for organiza-
tions striving to meet regulatory obligations. Veracity refers to the quality of the data
collected by the organizations. HR is plagued by inconsistencies and inaccuracies, and
these problems must be fixed in order for planning and prediction to be meaningful
(Vorhauser-Smith, 2014). When these problems are fixed for structured data, HR will
then be able to embrace the wealth of value found in the relatively unstructured data
present in market and social data.

To manage unstructured data, organizations are turning to different data-
base approaches to support these different data forms. For example, MondgoDB
(http://mongodb.com) is an open source, document-oriented database that stores data
using JSON (JavaScript Object Notation). Figure 2.4 shows the creation of an object
named Alexx, which can have any number of properties such as age, hometown, gender,
and so on. MongoDB is designed to allow users to create these objects in a flexible fash-
ion (e.g., one could create another object named Steve that has the same properties plus
other ones such as height and eye color). MongoDB is an example of a NOSQL (not
only SQL) database. NOSQL are databases where data are stored and retrieved using
different methods than SQL. Importantly systems like MondgoDB provide a very flex-
ible means of describing, storing, and retrieving documents whose structure does not fit
well into a relational table scheme.

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Chapter 2  Database Concepts and Applications in HRIS 43

FIGURE 2.4 ■ Sample Object-Oriented Database

var Alexx = {

“age” : “38”,

“hometown” : “Boston, MA”,

“gender” : “female”

};

Summary

In this chapter, we have described the key aspects of cur-
rent DBMS technologies and how they work to create, store,
and manage critical data about an organization. Data are
transformed into information by relational DBMSs and
business applications that work together. The underlying
data in a database are collected from business transactions
and stored in tables that are related to each other through
shared fields called primary and foreign keys. Queries rep-
resent questions asked of the data and are used to access
specific data stored in tables. The results of queries can be
viewed in forms or reports that are customized so that the
end user can better interpret the data that are retrieved from
the database. More sophisticated data analyses and reports
such as executive dashboards are produced from specialized

databases called data warehouses and business application
software called BI software.

Most HRIS rely on an underlying database. Understanding
how database systems work, therefore, is relevant to HR
decision makers because knowledge about how to create,
store, and access data can be a key differentiator in a com-
petitive environment. Small HR databases can be created
using MS Access, or more sophisticated ones can be pur-
chased from software vendors. There are literally hundreds
of HR database business applications that create, process,
and analyze HR data. The challenge is to find one that
can most cost-effectively collect and share data from which
meaningful information can be extracted to support mak-
ing good decisions.

For HR to be successful in meeting the challenges of Big Data, though, HR
employees must develop new skill sets, ones with a “data scientist” perspective and
capable of mastering HR analytics. This effort will not be accomplished overnight.
“It takes organizations between five and eight years to put necessary people, processes
and infrastructure in place in order to become a data-driven culture” (Vorhauser-
Smith, 2014).

Thus, the sooner that HR invests in this expertise, the sooner they will be able to real-
ize greater returns on the Big Data investments. More information on the use of metrics
and Big Data in HR are discussed in Chapter 14.

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44 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

Student Study Site
Visit the Student Study Site at study.sagepub.com/kavanagh4e for additional learning tools such as access to SAGE journal
articles and related Web resources.
Discussion Questions

1. Explain the differences between data, information, and
knowledge.

2. What are the main functions of a database management
system, and how is it different from a database?

3. What were the shortcomings of early file-oriented data-
base structures?

4. What are the three types of data sharing?

5. Define the key terms in a relational database.

6. What is the difference between a primary key and a foreign key?

7. What are the three types of queries?

8. How are forms and reports similar, and how are they
different?

9. Take the list of HR database common fields and group
them into tables.

10. What are the differences between data warehouses, BI,
and data mining?

11. Can knowledge be turned into a database?

12. How can Big Data support HR decisions?

Case Study: Building an Applicant Database

You have been asked to create an applicant database for a
small recruiting firm that specializes in recruiting HR pro-
fessionals for small to medium firms. Describe the process

that you would use to design this database. Use MS Access
to develop a prototype of the database that you could show
your manager.

Key Terms

action query 35
Big Data 42
business applications 25
business intelligence (BI) 32
cross-tab query 35
data warehouse 41
database management system

(DBMS) 26
decision support systems (DSS) 31

electronic data processing (EDP) 32
file-oriented data structures 29
foreign key 35
management reporting systems

(MRS) 28
N-tier architectures 33
primary key 34
relational database 26
relationships 29

reports 28
select query 35
software as a service (SaaS) 39
transaction processing systems (TPS) 27
user interface 32
variety 42
velocity 42
veracity 42
volume 42

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study.sagepub.com/kavanagh4e

45

SYSTEMS CONSIDERATIONS
IN THE DESIGN OF AN HRIS

163

Planning for Implementations

MICHAEL D. BEDELL AND MICHAEL L. CANNIFF

EDITORS’ NOTE

This chapter focuses on the HRIS as one large information system. It starts with
a brief discussion of the various stakeholders who must be considered during
the design and implementation of a new HRIS. Next, it turns to a discussion of
the various hardware and software architectures that organizations may consider
when implementing an HRIS. This discussion traces the histor y of HRIS from early
mainframe systems to today’s integrated, mobile, and cloud-based systems. An
important consideration for all organizations is whether to select the best soft-
ware package from different vendors for each functional area of HR (e.g., best of
breed) or to select a system that integrates all the functions within one large soft-
ware package. The chapter touches on how organizations would integrate these
best-of-breed solutions so that they integrate as seamlessly as possible. Whereas
Chapter 2 focused on the key data considerations within an HRIS, this chapter
focuses more on the technology and processes underlying HRIS implementation.

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46 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

CHAPTER OBJECTIVES
After completing this chapter, you should be able to

• Understand the different types of users or customers of the implemented
HRIS and their different data needs

• Discuss the differences between the five general hardware architectures
that are presented, from “dinosaur” to “cloud computing” to “bring your
own device”

• Discuss, very generally, the main concepts of hardware and database security
• Discuss the “best-of-breed” approach to HRIS acquisition and the various

options available for each functional area of HR
• Develop an understanding of the general steps and factors that affect

system implementation
• Understand the pros and cons of implementing a changeover from one

software system to another

HRIS IN ACTION

A billion-dollar retailer with 4,000+ stores finds that it cannot move fast enough

to beat out the competition. The organization’s senior management arrives at the

conclusion that it would be easier to achieve the strategic goals enumerated by the

board of directors if the various organizational functions would share information.

Shared information would enable them to develop and deploy new actions and tac-

tics more quickly. The CEO and president have therefore ordered the major functions

to update their information systems immediately so that data sharing is possible.

The senior vice presidents (SVPs) of accounting and human resources immediately

conclude that the only solution is to decide jointly on an enterprise resource plan-

ning (ERP) software. An ERP software application is a set of integrated database

applications or modules that carry out the most common business functions, includ-

ing human resources, general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, order

management, inventory control, and customer relationship management (see www

.erpsupersite.com). To speed the installation along, the SVPs decide on a rapid-

implementation methodology that a company down the street used. The goal is to

have the new systems operational in nine months.

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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 47

Shortly after this decision has been made, the SVP of human resources (HR) calls

you into his office and tells you that you will be management sponsor for this project.

You have to decide on everything. You sit back in your nice office and think:

What’s the problem with this scenario? It shouldn’t be difficult to select a

vendor and then borrow the methodology from down the street. It worked for

them; it should work for us! We’ll call a few vendors in the morning and find

out about cost, time frame, and implementation methods. In the meantime,

I should find out a little more about how to do this and who will be using the

ERP. I remember from my information systems class in college that this is a

reasonable first step when it comes to buying software.

What do you think your response would be to this inquiry? As you go through this

chapter’s material, keep this vignette in mind, and see if your answer changes.

INTRODUCTION

There are two ways of implementing a software design; one way is to make it so
simple that there are obviously no deficiencies, and the other way is to make it so

complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. The first method is far more difficult.

—C.A.R. Hoare, James Martin
Professor of Computing, Wolfson College

Successful implementation is the central goal of every human resource information system (HRIS) project, and it begins with a comprehensive design for the system. As
the steps in the system development process are covered in this chapter, the foundation
knowledge that is critical to the implementation process will be emphasized. Only by
understanding the users/customers of the HRIS, the technical possibilities, the software
solution parameters, and the systems implementation process can we increase the prob-
ability that the completed software installation will adequately meet the needs of the
human resource management (HRM) function and the organization. The chapter will
begin by identifying the potential users and the kind of information that the HRIS will
be managing and storing to facilitate decision making. The chapter will next discuss the
technical infrastructure, how the technical infrastructure has evolved, and the many
choices that the organization must make. After the technology is discussed, the systems
implementation process will be presented.

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48 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

Those who have participated in a system implementation will tell you that success
is the result of careful planning, a dedicated team, top-management support, and an
awareness of potential pitfalls. These same people will also tell you that the imple-
mentation process provides a host of opportunities to reengineer and systematically
improve nonsoftware processes to ref lect best practices in HRM. These opportunities
should not be ignored, as they can benefit the organization as much as implementing
the software will. Finally, the implementation team members will tell you that get-
ting the system up and running was the most intense six months, year, or two years
of their work life but that they learned a lot and every moment of the experience was
worth the time.

There are four things that should be remembered throughout the chapter:

1. It is important to keep in mind the customer of the data, the process, and the
decisions that will be made.

2. Everything about HRM is a system of processes designed to support the achieve-
ment of strategic organizational goals. The HRIS, in turn, supports and helps
manage these HR processes.

3. An HRIS implementation done poorly will result in an HRIS that fails to meet
the needs of the HR function.

4. Successful implementation requires careful attention to every step in the system
design process. However, done well, the implementation process is full of oppor-
tunities to improve the organization and processes. More consistent processes will
contribute to enhanced organizational performance.

HRIS CUSTOMERS/USERS:
DATA IMPORTANCE
Individuals who will be using the HRIS can be split into two general groups: employees
and nonemployees. The employee category includes

• managers who rely on the HRIS and the data analyzed by the analyst or power
user to make decisions;

• analysts or power users who use the HRIS to evaluate potential decision choices
and opportunities;

• technical staff who are responsible for providing a system that is usable and up
to date for each user, or clerical employees who largely engage in data entry; and

• employees who use the HRIS on a self-service basis to obtain personal informa-
tion, for example, to look up paycheck information, to make choices about bene-
fits during open enrollment, or to see how much vacation time they have available.

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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 49

The nonemployee group includes potential employees, suppliers, and partners.
Potential employees are those who might log in via a Web portal to search for and apply
for a position. Suppliers and partners are organizations that interface with the HR func-
tion for a variety of purposes, from recruiting to benefits administration and payroll.

Employees

Managers
The managers referred to within this section may have a variety of titles: manager, direc-
tor, vice president, and even CEO. What they all have in common is that their primary
HRIS need is to have real-time access to accurate data that facilitate decision making
with regard to their people (Miller, 1998). The HRIS provides the manager with data
for performance management, recruiting and retention, team management, project
management, and employee development (Fein, 2001). The HRIS must also provide the
information necessary to help the functional manager make decisions that will contrib-
ute to the achievement of the unit’s strategic goals and objectives (Hendrickson, 2003).
Easy access to accurate employee data enables the manager for each employee to view
and engage in employee life cycle changes such as salary decisions, job requisitions, hir-
ing, disciplinary action, promotions, and training program enrollment (Walker, 2001;
Zampetti & Adamson, 2001).

Many HRIS products provide real-time reporting and screen-based historical infor-
mation that can provide managers with information about their employees or their
functional units. There are also several third-party software products available that
provide managers with almost continuous data about the status of their unit and the
organization—much as a dashboard on a car provides immediate information. The
analysis of more complex situations is beyond the capabilities of many of these report-
ing and query tools. To facilitate decision making on complex issues, the manager,
before making a decision, usually relies on the analyst or power user to complete some
type of analysis.

Analysts (Power Users)
The analysts or power users are perhaps the most demanding user of the HRIS. The
primary role of the analyst is to acquire as much relevant data as possible, examine it, and
provide reasonable alternatives with appropriate supporting information to facilitate the
decision process of the manager. The analyst is referred to as a power user because this
person accesses more areas of the HRIS than almost any other user. Analysts must be
proficient with reporting and query tools. Analysts must also understand the process used
to collect the data, how new data are verified, and how the HRIS and the employee life
cycle interact. They also need to understand the data definitions in terms of what data
exist, the structure of the data, and what data fields are up to date and complete. Some
HRIS also provide tools that the analyst can use to model scenarios or perform “what-if ”
analyses on questions of interest.

As an example, a recruiting analyst might be asked to provide a short list of poten-
tial internal candidates for a position that opened in the marketing function of a large

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50 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

retailer. The potential candidates’ characteristics of interest are queried and may include
(1) when they were last promoted, (2) whether they have engaged in continuous personal-
skills development, (3) what their undergraduate degrees were, and (4) whether they have
ever expressed any interest in marketing. The analyst would query appropriate tables and
develop a list of internal candidates.

Another example might have the HR analyst completing an analysis of corporate
headquarters turnover to determine if a particular function or salary issue is the cause of
the problem. This information would be drawn from existing reports, ad hoc queries, and
available salary information. Data could be compiled into categories by salary, function,
gender, or organizational level and examined to determine if the cause of the turnover
can be pinpointed and then countered.

Technicians (HRIS Experts)
Technicians (HRIS experts) straddle the boundary of two functions. Their role is to
ensure that appropriate HR staff members have all the access, information, and tools
necessary to do their jobs. HRIS experts do this by understanding what is needed
from an HR-process standpoint and then translating that into technical language,
so the technical employees—programmers, database administrators, and application
administrators—know exactly what to do. When the technical staff is planning to
install the latest update and one of the results will be a change in functionality, the
HRIS expert must take what the technical staff provides and translate that into
language HR users understand, so as to indicate how processes and activities might
change. For example, if an HR professional required that a new report be generated
every other Tuesday, the HRIS expert would learn what data the report requires—
perhaps mock the report up with the user—and then explain to the technical
people how to make sure that this report is automatically generated on the time
schedule.

Clerical Employees
Much like power users, clerical employees also spend a significant portion of their day
interacting with the HRIS. The difference is one of depth. The clerical employee must
understand the process required to enter information into the HRIS and may also need
to start the process or generate periodic reports. While clerical staff members in the
HR employment department do not generally provide input about whether to hire an
individual to a particular position, they bear considerable responsibility for seeing that
the new employee gets paid properly. Hiring a new employee requires that someone, for
example, a clerical employee, enter the appropriate information into the HRIS—such as
the reporting relationship of the new employee as well as his or her benefits, salary, and
direct deposit information.

Organizational Employees
Organizational employees are essentially all the other employees throughout the
organization who interact with the HRIS. These employees serve in roles such as

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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 51

bank teller, nurse, machinist, salesperson, and accountant. These employees are not
involved in human resources and are not likely to make decisions with HR data, but
they may utilize the HRIS to help manage their personal information. Typically, all
the employees in the organization may interface with the HRIS through a self-service
Web portal or secure employee kiosk, removing the necessity of an HR clerk or
staff member assisting with many routine HR record modifications (Walker, 2001).
Self-service capabilities encourage employees to manage their personal HR profiles
with respect to a variety of functions, such as benefit and retirement plan monitor-
ing or computerized training, in addition to using HRIS-based systems to complete
numerous personnel forms (Adamson & Zampetti, 2001; Zampetti & Adamson,
2001). Typical self-service applications are accessible most of the day throughout
the week. Employees log on to the system, where their identity is authenticated and
verified. Then appropriate change options are offered to the employee based on cer-
tain parameters that control the areas where the employee is allowed to make valid
alterations to the HRIS—such as personnel data updates, job postings, or desired
training enrollments (Adamson & Zampetti, 2001; Zampetti & Adamson, 2001).
One fairly large financial-services organization noted that self-service options sig-
nificantly enabled them to reduce the annual benefits open-enrollment process by
reducing the paper documents generated, reducing necessary mailings, and reducing
the data that had to be read and entered into the HRIS. Data entry time alone was
reduced from six to two weeks (Bedell, 2003b).

Nonemployees

Job Seekers
It is estimated that 70% to 90% of large organizations use online recruitment, and
that number continues to increase (Stone, Lukaszewski, & Isenhour, 2005). Online
recruiting tends to attract individuals who are well educated, Internet savvy, and
searching for higher-level positions (McManus & Ferguson, 2003). Online recruit-
ment also attracts people born since 1980, who have grown up with computers and
are therefore comfortable with obtaining information on the Internet (Zusman &
Landis, 2002). A successful recruitment website needs to be user-friendly and easy
to navigate, while attracting candidates to apply to an organization by clearly com-
municating the benefits of joining it.

Typical job seekers have little or no prior information about how to interface with the
HRIS and have had nearly zero training opportunities with it. Therefore, the recruiting
portal needs to provide ease of use and ease of access to up-to-date job information. The
Web form that is used to collect applicant data must also be reliably entered into the
appropriate fields within the company’s HRIS database. This online recruiting activity
will facilitate searches for new employees to fill existing and future positions.

Sourcing Partner Organizations
The partner organizations to HR functions require certain information to complete their
tasks. Sourcing partner organizations such as Monster.com, Adecco, and most executive

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52 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

recruiting firms require information about vacant positions, including a position descrip-
tion, job specifications, desired candidate competencies, potential salary range, and con-
tact information. The information provided is limited to specific searches for open jobs
and is updated as needed.

Business partners that are the recipients of decisions to outsource portions of the HR
function (e.g., benefit management firms) or that facilitate process completion on behalf
of the employee (e.g., banks) require information that is related to current employees.
This requirement increases the need for accurate data, training, and specialized security
assurances, as employee information is leaving the organization.

Important Data
As is evident in the previous sections, each customer or user of the HRIS has slightly dif-
ferent needs with regard to what information he or she will be using. Some users simply
input data and information, a few simply look at data and information provided in the
form of reports, while a few others analyze the data and information to make decisions.
What these users all have in common is that all the information is about potential and
current employees with a focus on managing the organization’s human capital to improve
decision making and help to achieve strategic organizational goals. Specific data from the
HRIS database fit into three categories:

1. Information about people, such as biographical information and competencies
(knowledge, skills, abilities, and other factors)

2. Information about the organization, such as jobs, positions, job specifications,
organizational structure, compensation, employee/labor relations, and legally
required data

3. Data that are created as a result of the interaction of the first two categories: for example,
individual job history, performance appraisals, and compensation information

HRIS ARCHITECTURE
HRIS Evolution
In the early days of human resource applications (just 30 years ago), large “dinosaurs”
roamed the IT landscape. These were called mainframe computers and were primarily
built by International Business Machines (IBM). These large systems hosted the payroll
applications for most enterprises. Users of the mainframe system, which mainly con-
sisted of IT personnel and HRMS administrators, executed large batch processes while
directly logged onto the mainframe. Although access to the mainframe could be done
via a desktop monitor, no processing was done locally. This architecture is commonly
called a single-tier computing system. Everything (user interface, application process-
ing, and data storage) resided on the mainframe and had to be accessed by the client
company locally.

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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 53

Client-Server (Two-Tier) Architecture
During the 1980s, it was discovered that many typical HR functions (such as employee
benefits, recruiting, training) did not require such high-powered and expensive process-
ing available on the mainframe computers. With the advent of the personal computer
(PC), many of these functions could be re-allocated to the local processing power of the
PC. The purpose of the two-tier (client-server) architecture was to spread out low-
powered processing capability to the dozens of PCs now being used across the enterprise.
High-performance applications such as payroll would still be run in a batch process on
the mainframe (or large Unix server). Ease of computer usage was a driving factor to
include individuals with lower levels of technology experience. By the end of the decade,
HRIS vendors such as PeopleSoft began the power of PCs and created the two-tier/client-
server) architecture (see Figure 3.1).

Finally, the HR software application technology could be divorced from the database
technology. This separation simplified the HR application and allowed an enterprise to
select the most appropriate database management system (DBMS) for their needs. Refer
to Chapter 2 for comprehension discussion of DBMSs. This time period coincided with
the maturation of the relational database model. This model standardizes how data are
physically stored on the computer and provides standard data access via the Structured
Query Language (SQL).

Three-Tier and N-Tier Architecture
From about 1995 to 2010, this division of labor concept expanded from two-tier into
three-tier and finally N-tier architectures. With a three-tier architecture, the “back end”

Application server,
database, and tools

Presentation
and logic

FIGURE 3.1 ■ Two-Tier (Client-Server) Architecture

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54 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

servers are divided into two components—the database server and the application server
(see Figure 3.2).

The client still managed the user interface, but more demanding processing occurred
in the middle—the application server tier. For example, if two recruiters updated the
same job position at the same time, a transaction processor would ensure that both
updates are committed to the database (if possible). This allowed many simultaneous
users to access the central database. There are a couple of drawbacks with both two-tier
and three-tier systems. First, there exists a large amount of network traffic or bandwidth
required to execute database transactions between the client and the server. Second, the
user interface client needs to be installed (along with database drivers) on every PC that
needs to access the HRIS (with a corollary issue being that employees need to be trained
on this application). Therefore, HRIS access tended to be limited to employees within the
“four walls” of the enterprise (residing within the local area network). Low-bandwidth
access, such as Internet dial-up, was impractical.

To truly provide for employee self-service (ESS) portals (discussed in detail in
Chapter 10), the Web browser was adopted to solve the above issues. First, the
browser created a “thin client” environment as opposed to the “thick client” envi-
ronment described in the two-tier model (architecture). An Internet Web browser
comes installed on all major operating systems (OS; e.g., Windows, Mac OS, Linux,
Android). The browser’s user interface has become universal. Therefore, very little
employee training is required to use a browser-based application. Finally, a browser
works well in a low-bandwidth network environment. So now the typical HRIS appli-
cation architecture looks like Figure 3.3. A standard Web server, such as Microsoft’s
Internet Information Server (IIS) or Apache’s Web Server, manages HTML (Hyper
Text Markup Language) communication between the browser and the application
server. And the application server also issues transactions to the centralized database
server. Instead of just limiting ourselves to a four-tier label, this has been labeled
N-tier architecture for the following reasons:

• It is expandable to multiple Web servers and application servers to handle load
balancing.

• Web servers can be geographically dispersed to provide world wide access.

• Additional file servers can be added to save documents, reports, error logs, and
employee data, which are generated on a daily basis.

• Multiple print servers or specialized printers can be added as needed. For example,
payroll check printing requires a security enabled toner called MICR to print
encoded checks for bank cashing. These check printers can be physically located
in a secure environment, but connected to the HRIS N-tier architecture like any
other printer.

• Additional “process schedulers” can be added to handle large batch jobs such as
payroll cycles. These servers offload “heavy” processing from the main applica-
tion server so that user interaction is not impacted.

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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 55

Laptop

Desktop Computer

Smartphone

Web Server(s)

Application Server(s)

DBMS

Cell Phone

Telephone

Internet

FIGURE 3.3 ■ N-Tier Architecture

Application
server(s)

DBMS Java or
.Net

SQL

FIGURE 3.2 ■ Three-Tier Architecture

The architecture diagram becomes even more complicated when other ERP com-
ponents are added. For example, when payroll is run, financial-related transactions
need to be registered in the company’s general ledger (GL) application. Typically, GL
exists within the financial/accounting component of large ERP systems from SAP,
Oracle, and Microsoft. Therefore, GL transactions must be interfaced between payroll and

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56 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

these systems. Thus additional application servers and databases enter the picture, as
shown in Figure 3.3. So even though the architecture may be more complicated, the logi-
cal view of the system remains relatively simple and this complexity is hidden from the
end user. For example, a consultant for a large IT services company can travel through-
out the world, work with multiple clients, but still be able to record his or her time and
expense reports with a single browser application from any hotel room.

Cloud Computing—Back to the Future?!
Around 2010, a new architectural model became more prevalent, called cloud computing.
Cloud computing can be defined as a computing architecture that uses the Internet and
central remote servers to maintain data and applications. Hosted services are then deliv-
ered over the Internet. Cloud computing technology allows businesses to use applications
without having to go through the complex installation process. It is notable that the
“cloud” in “cloud computing” was inspired by the cloud symbol that one uses to repre-
sent the Internet in flow charts and diagrams. There exist three general service categories
commonly recognized in cloud computing. These include the following:

• Infrastructure as a Service—This type of service basically provides access to an
operating system (such as Microsoft Windows or Linux) or cluster of connected
systems. For example, Amazon Web Services provides access to on-demand
operating systems.

• Platform as a Service —The next level of services includes application and Web
server technology prebuilt into the leased computer. Enterprises still build out
custom applications on top of these servers. Microsoft Azure is an example of this
type of service.

• Software as a Service (SaaS)—In this case, a complete application is deliv-
ered over the Internet. This can be as simple as an e-mail service (think Google
Mail) or as complex as the entire HRIS application (see Workday, Inc. at
www.workday.com) or ERP system (see NetSuite, Inc. at www.netsuite.com).

The underlying goal with cloud computing is to reduce the resources needed by com-
panies in maintaining and running databases and applications. To achieve this, a server
“cloud,” or group of computers, is operated off site and accessed through the Internet. In this
way, a company can utilize the processing and storage powers of these “clouds” of computers
without actually having to own and invest in them. This can reduce software and equipment
capital outlays as the company does not need to keep purchasing new software or hardware
to keep pace with technology changes. That investment becomes the responsibility of the
vendor offering the cloud computing services. Cloud computing can be sold on demand,
by the minute or the hour, and is elastic—meaning that an enterprise can consume as much
or as little of a service as they want at any given time. From an accounting perspective, an
enterprise leases a preset amount of computing power over an annual period. This can be
budgeted in a similar manner as telephony or electrical expenses. Computing charges then
become part of operational budget expense as opposed to large capital investments.

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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 57

In a sense, cloud computing is a return to the single-tier model of the 1980s. Instead
of a single, large mainframe running all of the applications, the Internet is acting as the
“supercomputer,” providing the application runtime environment. And instead of a
“dumb” terminal accessing the mainframe payroll system, the browser now provides the
interface to the entire set of human resources applications. In the ancient history of main-
frame applications, human resources departments had to rely upon corporate data centers
(or IBM) to provide high-performing and up-to-date applications. With cloud comput-
ing, the burden lies with software vendors such as Workday or Oracle’s Taleo (www.oracle
.com/us/products/applications/taleo/overview/index.html, a hosted recruiting and tal-
ent management solution) to provide the updating. And of course, leveraging the cloud
requires solid, high-performance Internet access all of the time.

Mobile Access
Increasingly, workforces are mobile and available 24/7. Today, most people have mobile
devices that have more computing power than even the fastest supercomputers in the
1980s. Mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS provide an easy to use inter-
face that nontechnical people can navigate. Instead of companies forcing mobile devices
onto their employees, enterprises encourage bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.
Employees can access the HRIS through apps installed on their phones in a similar man-
ner as installing consumer apps such as Facebook or Twitter. Major HRIS vendors provide
apps for user friendly access to the system. Think of mobile devices as the “thin client” in
the N-tier model. Tasks such as approving an expense report, viewing budget data, and
managing time cards are easily accomplished on mobile devices (from phones to tablets).

Security Challenges
Security ranks as a top priority for any human resource information system. Cloud
service providers now maintain sensitive corporate data (outside of the four walls and
possibly in other countries). So, when choosing a cloud solution, the evaluation process
must include a thorough security analysis. Security needs to be addressed to handle the
following situations:

• Exposure of sensitive payroll and benefits data between employees

• Loss of sensitive personnel data outside the enterprise (such as Social Security
numbers)

• Unauthorized updates of key data such as salary amounts, stock options (both
quantity and dates), and so on

• Sharing of personnel or applicant review comments with unauthorized employees

• Sharing data with external organizations and service providers

There are two auditing standards with which cloud vendors should comply. These are
the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements #16 (SSAE 16) and ISO 27001.

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58 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

SSAE 16 asserts that a provider meets security process requirements and has been audited.
ISO 27001 requires that a provider implements a management and control framework
related to security risks. HRIS cloud providers need to pass these certifications on a regular
basis. As you consider vendors, it is important to ensure that the vendor is in compliance
with these standards. Security for the HRIS is so important that there is an entire chapter
that covers this topic in detail. If interested at this point, read and examine Chapter 15 for
a comprehensive discussion on HRIS security.

BEST OF BREED
An HRIS, as discussed in the previous section, often exists as one of the main parts of
an overall ERP software solution for the company. Yet the HRIS is not a monolithic
solution even within HR business processes. There exist alternative software applica-
tions that solve specific HR business problems. This section addresses these types of
solutions, the pros and cons of using multiple applications, and technical infrastruc-
ture. In general, an architecture that combines products from multiple vendors is called
best of breed (BOB).

The most well-known example of these BOB architectures comes from the audio
industry—surround-sound receivers combined with CD players, DVD players, high-
end speakers, and even the occasional retro turntable. All these components “plug and
play” with each other to provide the best possible sound experience. This architecture
works because of the standards that have been established for decades and that enable
different devices to work together. We will see below that BOB software components
for an HRIS still need to mature somewhat to reach the capability of the analog audio
components. Yet the goal remains the same: deliver the best possible point solution to
meet the business need.

For this synergy to work properly, three conditions need to be present for each soft-
ware solution:

• First, there should be a perceived need for a specialized solution. For example, if
a company expects to receive electronic job applications over the Internet 90%
or more of the time, an optical character recognition (OCR) program, which
scans handwritten or typewritten forms into an electronic format, would not be
needed for resume scanning.

• Second, a universally agreed-on set of guidelines for interoperability must exist
between applications. This exists at both the syntactical level and the semantic
level. The syntactical level refers to the base “alphabet” used to describe an inter-
face. For any two applications to communicate, they will need to share data. This
data exchange can be done through databases, simple text files (such as Excel),
or, increasingly, XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Basically, XML is similar
to HTML, which is used in all Internet browsers. XML files can be shared or
transmitted between most software applications today. XML presents a structured
syntax—an alphabet—to describe any data elements within an HRIS.

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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 59

• Third, applications need to “speak the same language.” Just as the Roman
alphabet allows the spelling of words in multiple languages and formats, XML
enables data to be described with many different tags. At the semantic level,
the language needs to map between software applications. An employee’s data
description may consist of various tagged fields, such as Name, Address, Birth
Date, Phone, Title, Location, and so on. If one of the applications does not have
most of the same set of XML tags, it will not be able to exchange employee
data. As important as the shared data semantics between applications is having
analogous business process semantics. For example, a time-keeping system may
define a pay period differently from the payroll application that actually prints
employee checks.

An HR example would consist of selecting the most robust HR software applications—
regardless of vendor—for each need and then using the XML language to move data
efficiently among those applications. The HR department might select SilkRoad for tal-
ent management (recruiting), Workday for most HR applications and data management,
Kronos software for time and labor tracking, ADP software for payroll purposes, and
a proprietary vendor product for outsourced HR benefits administration. To integrate
these applications and create a seamless interface for users, companies will often utilize
middleware software that sits on top of the applications, and can give the different appli-
cations an overall look and feel and single point login. If the above conditions are met,
HRIS applications should be able to interoperate with many point solutions. What are
the typical solutions found in an HRIS implementation? The following sections will detail
examples of solutions for some of the HR functions in an organization.

Talent Management
The business process to recruit new employees for a company has many BOB
opportunities. Large HRIS applications tend to focus on the internal hiring processes of
the company—creating and approving job requisitions, saving applicant data, schedul-
ing interviews, capturing interview results, and, finally, hiring the new employee. Yet
there exist other software applications to fine-tune the hiring process. OCR scanning
applications can eliminate the rekeying of applicant data from paper-based resumes, and
other applications can perform applicant database searches, post job requisitions directly
to Internet job sites, and run applicant background checks. These examples of specific
functionality are typically not provided in an HRIS.

Time and Attendance
Most companies require employees to submit time-keeping data each pay period. For
hourly employees, this typically means using a punch card and time clock to track
hours. Some solutions use employee badges with magnetic stripes, thereby enabling
employees to clock in and out. Again, most HRIS vendors do not provide the hard-
ware needed to track time. Time-keeping systems will capture the hourly data from
various readers throughout a site. Employee scheduling for various shift coverages

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60 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

can be implemented with time collection or planning software. For example, transit
districts schedule bus operators to cover a very complex route system throughout the
week. Unionized rules force certain break periods and preferences for senior operators.
Driver schedules are posted for future pay periods, and actual hours worked, reported
sick, taken as vacation time, and so on, are collected for prior pay periods. Such data
will be reviewed each pay period prior to being transmitted to the HRIS payroll
application.

Payroll
In some cases, the entire payroll process may be outsourced to another vendor, such as
ADP. ADP specializes in providing payroll services for companies of all sizes. For some
enterprises, the cost of maintaining a payroll application and staff in-house may outweigh
the benefits of controlling the process. In this case, employee time data, pay rate, and
benefit information would be transmitted to ADP for processing. This choice of using
an outside provider is conceptually the reverse of the typical BOB motivation. The enter-
prise is not looking for the best technical or functional solution, but for a provider offering
a commodity service at the lowest cost. In the case of a large multinational corporation
with lots of employee levels, it would probably be prudent to purchase the HRIS payroll
application.

Benefits
Each year, most employers present their employees with what is called the benefits
open enrollment period during which signing up for benefits is similar to course
enrollment for students each semester. Instead of enrolling in courses, though,
employees enroll for major medical, dental, and insurance benefits. For example,
employees choose between health care providers such as Kaiser or Blue Cross for
their medical insurance. These providers support interfaces with the major HRIS
applications so that, as employees log into the enrollment software, they can review
offerings tailored to their company’s plan. Thus, when employees select a particular
insurance program, they can then transmit enrollment data to the provider through
their organization’s HRIS.

As one can see in Figure 3.4, BOB solutions introduce additional complexity into
the software architecture. This complexity can add IT expense in the form of new
software licensing and programming charges. The justification for the added func-
tionality needs to compensate for these additional costs. So a cost-benefit analysis
should be performed by the HR function to determine whether the BOB alternative
is to be used. Detailed procedures to compute a cost-benefit analysis are covered in
Chapter 7.

In summary, BOB options can create a much more powerful solution than a stand-
alone HRIS. The BOB alternative also creates system f lexibility, as each application
can be managed and upgraded independently. Yet this power and f lexibility may end
up costing the IT department by giving rise to more complex systems administration
issues.

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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 61

PLANNING FOR
SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION
A variety of authors, consultants, and others have discussed implementation methods
for information systems. Rampton, Turnbull, and Doran (1999) discuss 13 steps in
the implementation process. Jessup and Valacich (1999) divide the implementation
of a system into five steps, with a focus on the systems side of the process. Regan and
O’Conner (2002) provide eight steps for implementing information systems. Some
organizations have proprietary processes that they use for all implementations. Points
to remember in regard to system implementation as this section is examined are as
follows: (1) This is a process that will take a team of individuals anywhere from six
weeks to three years to complete; (2) a variety of ways to manage this process may
be attempted, so long as the key issues are examined and organizational goals for the
implementation are achieved; and (3) there is no single definitive approach to be used
in all situations.

The first key step is planning. This is an absolutely critical step in any business process
and especially in the design of any large-scale software implementation involving multiple-
process interfaces. Note that the planning process doesn’t guarantee success—rather,
it increases the probability that the implementation will be successful. The systematic
examination of the following topics provides the organization with the opportunity to
see how the implementation will work—to peer into the crystal ball—and identify some
contingencies for implementation steps that might not go perfectly. In other words, a
robust planning process provides a framework within which the implementation team
can proceed, and it provides some decision-making parameters for any unforeseen dif-
ficulties that might appear (Bedell, 2003a).

HRS
System

AP
I Layer

ERP
Connector

Legacy
Adapter

DBMS
Adapter

B2B
Adapter

External
Web

Services

DBMS

Mainframe

EAI – Message Oriented Middleware

FIGURE 3.4 ■ Best-of-Breed Solutions Architecture

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62 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

The topics that need to be discussed during the various steps of the planning process
include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Project manager

• Steering committee/project charter

• Implementation team

• Project scope

• Management sponsorship

• Process mapping

• Software implementation

• Customization (vanilla vs. custom)

• Change management

• “Go live”

• Project evaluation

• Potential pitfalls

Rather than go into a lengthy discussion of all of the topics above regarding systems
development, Chapter 4 address them more in-depth, and Chapter 6 discusses issues sur-
rounding change management processes in HRIS implementations.

Summary

The implementation of an HR IS goes beyond simply
placing a new technology into the organization. The
organization the challenges of coordinating different
organizational, people, and technical needs. The first
section considers the important internal and external users
or customers of the HR IS and organizational goals. In the
second section, four different types of HR IS architectures
are enumerated. The evolution of technology, from legacy
“dinosaur” systems to contemporary N-tier architectures
as well as cloud and mobile computing, has dramatically
affected the scope and inf luence of HR IS in organizations.
Therefore, the strengths and weaknesses of each architecture

are discussed. The third section of the chapter discusses
the best-of-breed approach to HR IS adoption and the pros
and cons of this approach in different functional areas.
Finally, the chapter concludes with a general discussion of
the steps that organizations might take to plan and imple-
ment an HR IS and of the factors that can affect these
processes. In summary, organizations that are able to man-
age the people, processes, and technology involved in an
HR IS implementation should be more likely to find that
the new HR IS is able to meet their goals more effectively
in terms of budget, functionality, and usability than those
who are unable to do so.

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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 63

Case Study: Vignette Revisited

This case is revisited with some additional information that
involves the understanding of the material in this chapter.
The additional information will be added to the situation
described in the vignette at the beginning of this chapter.

A billion-dollar retailer with more than 4,000 stores finds
that it cannot move fast enough to beat the competition.

The organization’s senior management arrives at the con-

clusion that it would be easier to achieve the strategic

Key Terms

bandwidth 54
best of breed (BOB) 58
cloud computing 56
enterprise resource planning (ERP)

software 46
eXtensible Markup Language

(XML) 58
Hyper Text Markup Language

(HTML) 54

implementation team 48
infrastructure as a service 56
load balancing 54
middleware 59
operating systems (OS) 54
optical character recognition

(OCR) 58
platform as a service 56
project manager 62

project scope 62
semantic level 58
software as a service (SaaS) 56
sourcing partner organizations 51
syntactical level 58
three-tier

architecture 53

two-tier (client-server)

architecture 53
Discussion Questions

1. Identify the various types of users or customers of an HRIS.

2. What are the three broad categories of data that an
HRIS manages?

3. How does network bandwidth affect a two-tier (client-
server) architecture?

4. How does an N-tier architecture simplify the IT
department’s task of maintaining client software?

5. Research www.hropenstandards.org. How many transac-
tions or interfaces do the standards support? How many
software vendors are involved with the organization?

6. Take a specific industry, say the K–12 education
industry. How might HireRight’s integration with

Oracle’s PeopleSoft assist the process of hiring employ-
ees such as bus drivers, janitors, or campus security?

7. When might BOB not be best?

8. The systems development process has been discussed by
many. Name five discussion topics that need to be com-
pleted during the planning process.

9. How does network bandwidth impact a two-tier (client-
server) architecture?

10. How does an N-tier simplify IT departments’ task of
maintaining client software?

11. How does the use of smartphones and other devices
make delivery of HRIS functionality more effective?
More complicated?

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64 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

goals enumerated by the board of directors if the various

organizational functions would share information. Shared

information would enable them to develop and deploy

new actions and tactics more quickly. The CEO and the

president have therefore ordered the major functions to
immediately update their information systems so that data
sharing is possible. The SVPs of accounting and human
resources immediately decide that the only solution is to
decide jointly on an ER P product. ER P software applica-
tions are a set of integrated database applications, or mod-
ules, that carry out the most common business functions,
including human resources, general ledger, accounts pay-
able, accounts receivable, order management, inventory
control, and customer relationship management. To speed
the installation along, they will install it using a rapid
implementation methodology that a company down the
street used. The goal is to have the new systems opera-
tional in nine months.

Shortly after this decision is made, the SVP of HR calls you
into his office and tells you that you will be management
sponsor for this project. You have to decide on everything.
You sit back in your nice office and think:

What’s the problem with this scenario? It shouldn’t
be difficult to select a vendor and then borrow the
methodology from down the street. It worked for
them; it should work for us! We’ll call a few ven-
dors in the morning and find out about cost, time
frame, and implementation methods. In the mean-
time, I should find out a little more about how to
do this and who will be using it. I remember from
my information systems class in college that this
is a reasonable first step when it comes to buying
software.

What do you think your response would be to this
inquiry? Has your response changed now that you have read
this chapter? If so, how?

New Information for the Case: Part 1

After some discussions with department heads from all the
departments in the organization, you realize that there are
a large number of people (stakeholders) who will be affected
by the new systems. Furthermore, you come to realize how
important HR data really are to these stakeholders. Based on
this information, you think, “Wow, there are far more people
who could be potentially using this information system than
I expected!” The old textbook and the vendor information
should provide a lot to think about.

Using the information from the section of this chapter titled
“HRIS Customers/Users: Data Importance,” please answer
the following questions:

1. Identify some of the customers who would be
logical members of the implementation team and
explain why.

2. Think through an HR process and sketch out what
data are necessary to complete your sample process
well. How much history does the organization need
to convert to continue functioning?

3. Pick one area of the HR function (e.g., recruit-
ing), and make a list of processes that will need to
be mapped and possibly reengineered during this
implementation.

New Information for the Case: Part 2

Over the next month, as you continue to obtain information
about the design and implementation of the new system, you
are still somewhat confused about what to do. Once again,
we find you in your office thinking:

There are so many potential decisions to make with
regard to hardware! I wonder what we need to schedule,
if we need to buy hardware, and how we should con-
figure the servers to ensure maximum security. And this

(Continued)
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Chapter 3  Systems Considerations in the Design of an HRIS 65

bring-your-own-device stuff is going to drive us nuts!
It’s time to make another list of questions!

Based on the information in the section of the
chapter titled “HRIS Architecture,” please respond to the
following:

1. Make a list of questions for each of the following
individuals: lead hardware technical expert, net-
work manager, and chief software manager.

2. What configuration should the company use? Make
a suggestion and support it!

3. Make some recommendations about security and
bring-your-own-device.

New Information for the Case: Part 3

As part of your investigation, you have uncovered a system
concept called “best of breed.” You are in your office again
trying to decide what to do, and you think, “Perhaps best of
breed might be the easiest and best way to go.”

1. Make a recommendation as to whether a BOB
option should be chosen or a more standardized
option with simpler interfaces between hardware
and software should be selected.

2. Think about what the best answer should be when
you have to connect your system with accounting
and finance. Make a recommendation and support it!

New Information for the Case: Part 4

You have just sat down in your office feeling as if there is way
too much to do! Your IS software professional has given you
the information from one of the potential vendors about the
various steps that need to be taken in implementation of the
HRIS. Your immediate reaction is, “Man, am I going to be at
work late for the next many months!”

Case Study Questions

Based on the information in this chapter, answer the follow-
ing questions:

1. Develop the first few steps of the project plan.

2. Discuss the potential political necessities outlined in this
section as they relate to this type of implementation.

3. Think about and create a list of steps that make
sense for your organization.

4. Is the nine-month rapid-implementation time
frame feasible? Or will it just lead to failure?

INDUSTRY BRIEF
JIM PASCARELL, VICE PRESIDENT, NFRASTRUCTURE

Designing and implementing an HRIS is one of those initiatives that every organization encounters,
yet most of the individuals within an organization usually have little or no experience in going through
the process. This combined with the continuous evolution of technology puts organizations in the
precarious spot of trying to figure out the best approach to successfully choosing and implementing
a solution that provides the organization with all of the necessary value-added benefits, yet manages
the risk of a potential failed implementation.

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66 Part I  Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): The Backbone of Modern HR

Organizations, whether they are commercial, education, or public sector, that have had the most
success follow a design methodology that is centered on people, process, and technology. Those of us
that have spent a great deal of our careers designing and implementing these systems have learned,
sometimes through trial and error, that the planning and design of the system arguably plays the most
critical part in determining success. Common characteristics shared by organizations that have been
and are most successful are as follows:

Commitment: A frequently used word that is only proven to be true by actions. Defining and under-
standing what the system needs to provide so that it can be an enabler for the organization and used
as a competitive differentiator.

Proper Resource Allocation: Having your best and brightest be part of the design, participating
throughout the lifecycle of an implementation. Insight is critical and to avoid sloppy design, it is
worth the sacrifice to dedicate some of the most knowledgeable resources in the organization. The
cost of not doing this will be paid later on due to rework and changes.

Understanding of Technology: Designing a system that will evolve along with technology, not one that
will be restricted as technology changes. There are too many organization design systems that are
somewhat outdated in a short period of time. This is primarily caused by the lack of understand-
ing as to what the capabilities of the technology are and how they can help the system continue to
be enhanced. I unfortunately have been part of many projects where once a system was “live” and
operational, it almost immediately needed to be “upgraded” due to improper design upfront.

Clear and Realistic Expectations: Once set, these expectations need to be constantly communicated
to all stakeholders. This provides a common bond and keeps everyone focused on what needs to be
accomplished.

Acceptance of Change: Through education and training, acceptance defeats resistance. Too many orga-
nizations choose the right technology yet fail to allocate the proper attention to change management.

Over 25 years of working and assisting with many diverse organizations as they design their HRIS, the
most successful have truly understood and successfully managed the points above. Through dedication
and perseverance, these organizations have become leaders in their industries by using all of the benefits
a properly designed HRIS can provide. As we continue into the digital age with access to more data faster
than we could have ever imagined, it has never been more important for organizations to “get it right”
when it comes to designing their HRIS.

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