Evolution of technology use in human resource management

Technological changes that took place in the last decades, with the advent of the computer and Internet, have had a considerable impact on the labor world. Indeed, they have contributed not only to process automation, but also to the appearance of new ways of work organization (e.g., telework). These changes forced organizations to adapt to a new reality. Particularly in what concerns HRM, they lead to changes in how to develop, among others, the recruitment, selection, training, and performance appraisal processes.

Until the 1960s, HRM processes were developed manually, but with the advent of new information and communication technologies, automated systems started arising, making it easier to perform HRM administrative tasks (e.g., workers' data record, wage processing) (DeSanctis, 1986; Stone & Dulebohn, 2013).

Later, in the 1980s, these automated systems evolved into software solutions that allowed HR departments to realize different tasks, namely, training, performance appraisal, information record/control about candidates to job offers, and reports development to top management, among others. These new systems were first named human resource information systems (HRIS) (Stone & Dulebohn, 2013). They are "information systems used to acquire, store, manipulate, analyze, retrieve, and distribute pertinent information regarding an organization's human resources" (Kavanagh, Gueutal, & Tannenbaum, 1990, quoted by Stone & Dulebohn, 2013). They are also systems directed, exclusively, to HR professionals (Marler & Fisher, 2013; Ruel, Bondarouk, & Looise, 2004; Strohmeier, 2007).

It was at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s that access (to consult and edit) to these databases by HR professionals, as well as by other organization members (e.g., top management, line managers, workers in general), from their workplace, was made possible by HR database installation in central servers attached to the local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN), with the appearance of the Internet (Stone & Dulebohn, 2013).

Later, with the appearance of the Internet, this database access became possible anywhere, even outside the organization. Moreover, organizations began to use the Internet to interact with their external stakeholders, for example, through online recruitment systems that allow people from any city in the world to apply to these organizations' job offers. Since then, the designation "electronic human resource management (e-HRM)" has been used to refer specifically to HR electronic systems that focus not only on HR professionals (as with HRIS) but all internal and external stakeholders (Lengnick-Hall & Mortiz, 2003; Marler & Fisher, 2013; Ruel et al., 2004; Stone & Dulebohn, 2013; Strohmeier, 2007).

Authors are not in agreement about the terms used to refer to these concepts. So it is not only possible to find in the literature a great diversity of concepts that are nevertheless related and do not have the same significance (e.g., HRIS, e-HRM, virtual HRM, web-based HRM, intranet-based HRM), but sometimes different authors use the same term to designate different concepts (e.g., they use the expression HRIS to designate what was defined as e-HRM). Here, we have decided to consider Strohmeier's (2007) definition of "e-HRM," as it is one of the most consensual in the literature.

According to Strohmeier, e-HRM systems are a way of "(planning and implementation) application of information technology for both networking and supporting at least two individual or collective actors in their shared performing of HR activities" (p. 20). This definition brings together some e-HRM-relevant aspects. First, it points out the possibility of using information technologies to make networking in HRM easy, allowing the interaction among organizational actors, regardless of the geographical distance between them. On the other hand, it also refers to these technologies as a potential support tool for the development of diverse HRM tasks, replacing (e.g., freeing) partially or totally HR departments in their performance. Furthermore, it still recognizes that e-HRM is a multilevel phenomenon that involves individuals, groups, organizational units, and the organization as a whole that interact with each other, in order to ensure HR activity development (Strohmeier, 2007).

Nowadays, e-HRM systems are used by many organizations in different HR management processes, namely, recruitment, selection, training, compensation, performance management, and HR planning (Eckhardt, Laumer, Maier, & Weitzel, 2014; Stone & Dulebohn, 2013). In 2009, approximately two-thirds of European organizations reported the use of e-HRM systems (Strohmeier & Kabst, 2009). In the United Kingdom, in 2005, the percentage of organizations that used some form of e-HRM was 77% (CIPD, 2005, quoted by Parry & Tyson, 2011).

This raise in this type of system use has also been followed by an increase in this scientific production area. Indeed, the first e-HRM studies had their beginning near 1995. However, the last decade has been fruitful in what concerns this subject. Although most of the studies have been conducted in the United States and Europe, the researchers' focus has been very heterogeneous, covering different kinds of technologies (e.g., HR portals, intranet, software), diverse HRM areas (e.g., e-recruitment, e-learning, e-compensation), different kinds of e-HRM consequences (e.g., costs, efficacy, workers' confidence degree), and at different levels (e.g., micro, meso, and macro) (Strohmeier, 2007). Nevertheless, due to some of these studies' limitations (e.g., a few longitudinal studies; many studies limited to contexts, systems, and specific consequences, not allowing a holistic view of the subject; inconsistent results and, sometimes, contradictory), there still are many e-HRM basic dimensions that need to be understood (Marler & Fisher, 2013; Strohmeier, 2012).

 
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