Big changes are in store for human resource processes and delivery systems. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, many of those changes will be wrapped in new technologies. Is HR finally diving into mobile technology and shared services, as opposed just to dipping in a toe? A recent Towers Watson survey of HR and HR IT executives from 1,025 companies in 32 countries would indicate yes.

More than a third of respondents (36%) plan to make a change to their HR structure before the end of 2014. Towers Watson says that among those organizations planning change, 74% say it’s to improve operational efficiencies, 53% say it’s to improve quality, 37% want to reduce costs and 34% are pursuing a change in business strategy.

Despite cost reductions in other areas of HR, technology spending remains steady and strong. Fifty-three percent of organizations say their investment in HR technology will match last year’s investment levels, and another 27% will increase spending.

HR-enabled applications remain largely untapped – only 10% of those surveyed currently use mobile applications specifically for HR purposes – but more than 60% of respondents now provide mobile access via smartphones to employees, and 24% offer tablet access. In the next 12 to 18 months, 25% plan to offer HR-enabled applications. Fifty-nine percent of respondents offer an HR portal to employees and another 19% are in the process of developing one.

“Companies have been carefully examining both their HR structures and the way HR services are being delivered, and many have come to the same conclusion: The time is ripe for change,” says Mike DiClaudio, global leader of Towers Watson’s HR service delivery practice. “Many organizations see new opportunities to increase HR’s strategic contributions to the business. What is really interesting is the continued trend toward replacing core HR systems, and a willingness to invest in new technology and partners with a growing shift toward software-as-a-service.”

Among those changing their HR structure, 49% are moving toward a shared services environment with HR business partners and centers of excellence. The survey notes that the shared services model is the most prevalent among available options, followed by those intending to outsource additional functions (17%) or move to a single HR function for the entire organization (12%).

The primary HR service delivery issue this year was streamlining business practices, cited by 32% of respondents. Talent and performance management systems tied with greater involvement in strategic business-driven issues for second place at 29%.

“Without question, HR service delivery is in a state of change, and organizations need to embrace that change as the new constant,” DiClaudio says. “This means they can change the game by modifying their structure, rethinking long-held processes, adopting new HR technologies and processes, and extending capabilities to the organization via manager self-service and shared services. In the end, it means using new concepts, approaches and technology to provide better HR services.”

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