The Human Resources department, HR, to me was, for the first many years of my working life, the guys whose job in life was to hire people, then conspire with management on how to get out of giving increments (or minimize it) to their employees, and then find ways to fire them. This was the way it looked to me till I got wiser in my older years and found out what HR actually did. And I saw that there was more to it after all. Let me try and put together the real picture for you. If you, like me, are one of those who still think that the HR department in your company exists for the three reasons I listed out in the beginning, then this should help change that perspective. That doesn’t mean they don’t do any of the above, yes they still do, but there is a lot more they do do and that is what I would like to show you.

To begin with, lets put a little context to it. The picture below shows the context in which the system operates. There are the stakeholders – the executive management, the business units, the HR department itself, the HR manager, and then there’s you, the employee.

The channels that support the functions of HR are Partner Portals (for finding talent – that’s guys like you), Recruiting Partners (who actually help out getting hold of you), the vast sea of social media channels, then the devices like mobile and the web.

The various business functions that comprise of the HR function are shown starting with the recruitment process till the time you decide (or the company decides) that you have to separate.

The functional architecture of a HRMS (Human Resources Management System) Platform is shown below.

The systems of engagement include the end user mobile apps and and web browsers on desktops and laptops as well mobile devices. The device applications would access the various applications through the API gateway which is part of the integration layer.

The systems of differentiation and systems of insight include the various applications like Recruitment, Hiring and Onboarding, Payroll Processing, Performance Management, Time and Attendance, Employee Self Service, Travel and Expense Management, Organization Management, Separations and Learning Management System.

The data layer includes the application databases, authentication databases, the reporting databases and analytics databases for providing analytics and insights from the data gathered from the various applications on the platform.

The integration layer provides for API based integration of the user apps and web based front ends with the various applications and databases, enterprise applications and with partner applications.

The entire platform should be secured with enterprise class security provided by the hosting providers. End to end governance provided for all the applications and systems as well as system management ensures minimum downtime across all applications.

A typical HRMS supports the following functions:

  • Recruitment
  • Performance Management
  • Learning and Development
  • Time and Attendance
  • Payroll
  • Travel and Expense
  • Employee Self Service Portal
  • Separations

Many innovations around various HR functions are seeing the development and deployment of apps using Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning technologies. Some of these are:

  • Robotic Interviews
  • Using ML in recruitment
  • Chat Bots
  • Face Recognition
  • Voice Forms

The access to the various applications and modules is through an HR portal which is usually available both as a web application as well as a mobile app on all the platforms. A single sign-on option ensures that the user need sign in only once into the HR portal or app. Once logged in, the user can access any other application without having to login separately into each application. These platforms can be integrated with business partners and 3rd party applications through the use of APIs and cloud integration.


The Recruitment function covers all the phases of recruitment and provides an end to end functionality from setting budgets to onboarding the successful candidates.

The high level process flow shown above includes the steps of setting of the budgets by the Business heads, getting the budgets approved by executive management, creation of requisitions by the business heads, assigning of requisitions by the recruiting head, talent acquisition by the recruiting team using various channels like hiring consultants, job portals and social channels, sourcing which includes identifying the potential candidates, shortlisting and setting up and conducting the interviews, and the onboarding process which brings the successful candidates on board the organization.

The platform supports the Recruitment team. The application can be used to plan the budget which is sent for approvals. Once approved, the requisitions are created which after approval are then sent to be actioned by the talent acquisition team. The application can be used to assign the requisitions to the team who will work on the requisitions assigned to them. The talent acquisition team then create the job postings for internal as well as external agencies to attend to. The identified resumes are then shortlisted for interviews. The resume collection, parsing and creation of shortlists are automated using machine learning algorithms which greatly reduces the time and effort spent by the teams manually.

The sourcing process will identify and shortlist candidates for the interview process. The shortlisted resumes are prepared with summary views by the recruitment team for the interviewing teams to conduct the interviews.

For companies that have innovated and have robotic interviewing capability, the shortlisted candidates are sent a link to download an app for the robotic interview to be conducted.

Machine learning based analysis of the robotic interviews is used by the team to further shortlist candidates for face-to-face interviews.

After the interviews, the selected candidates are then put through the checklist which include various background checks and verifications, a salary fitment is conducted which includes the approval for the salary and an offer letter is generated and sent to the successful candidates.

After the successful candidate receives the offer letter, he/she accepts/rejects the offer. If accepted, then the required documents can be uploaded. A checklist for verification and joining confirmation process generates an appointment letter and a joining kit which is then sent to the successful candidate.

Post joining verification and checklist is then conducted after the candidate has joined and the candidate details are then updated to the employee master.

The mandatory orientation courses from the learning management system can then be assigned to the new joinee to take and complete as part of the onboarding and induction process.

Performance Management

Performance Management will handle the creation and setting of goals and objectives for all employees and performance appraisals process using the goals, objectives and development needs of the employees as parameters.

The users involved in this process typically consist of the policy makers, the executive management who approve the polices, the HR management that is responsible for ensuring that the policies are implemented and the goals and objectives for all employees set accordingly. They are also responsible along with the business heads to ensure all the performance appraisals and development and growth plans for all employees are implemented.

The Performance Management module of the HRMS Platform ensures that all these processes can be handled smoothly and in a highly effective manner.

The process in the figure below shows the policy being setup and the policy approvals by the CxOs. The HR management and the business heads are responsible for goal setting configuration, competencies configuration and the calendar and scheduling configurations. The competencies are mapped to learning resources and this along with the development needs identified result in learning and development plans

The HR manager uploads the goals into the system. The employees create self-goals for the current year. These goals are then approved by the managers after adding their inputs to the goals. These are the goals and objectives that will be used during the performance appraisal process of the employee. During the performance appraisal process, which can be initiated by the HR department, the employees do a self-evaluation of the goals and objectives set for them. After they have completed the self-evaluation, the managers then do an evaluation of the goal and give in their inputs accordingly. Similarly a competency self-assessment is done by the employees and then by the managers. The outcome of this evaluation process results in new development and growth plans and the final performance appraisal result.

Learning Management

The learning and development needs that are identified and planned for in the Performance Management module during the goals settings and the performance appraisal phases are addressed by the Learning Management System. The relevant courses are setup in the system and the employees can be enrolled in multiple ways to enable them to take the courses as per their learning plans and development needs.

Most Learning Management System support e-learning, Instructor Led Training (ILT) and virtual classrooms. The courses can be taken online on both the desktop/laptop using a web browser as well as through an LMS mobile app available on all the mobile platforms.

The Learning Management System supports a wide variety of content types that can be used in the courses that are offered and these include video, presentations, assessment methods like quiz and assignments, documents like pdf, word, excel. The LMS has support to include SCORM compliant content in the courses.

The authoring tools available allow a wide variety of interactive content to be created and included in the courseto s. The interactive content that can be authored and included in the courses is interactive video, image based quizzes, audio quizzes and feedback, drag and drop image and text based quizzes and games, hotspot based exercises.

The language options enable the LMS navigation and the courses to be configured in many Indian languages as well international languages.

Some systems have support for configuring SQL based custom reports in addition to the standard reports available in the system.

The evaluation process follows the Kirkpatrick model which was developed more than 30 years ago. This is to determine the effectiveness of the trainings imparted to the employees over a period of time and to assess the return on investment of the trainings. There are 4 levels of the Kirkpatrick Model.

The 4 levels of evaluation are:

The first level Reaction is done right after the training is imparted. It is a feedback that is sought from the learners on the course content, the relevance of the course, the trainers competency in handling the course, the training environment etc. This is normally a quick feedback form that can be submitted online if it’s an elearning course.

The second level Learning is a bit more exhaustive and measures the learning of the learner. This could be quiz, test, or some other form of testing to gauge how much the learner has learnt in the course.

The third level is behavior and this is normally conducted 3-6 months after the training was imparted. This involves assessing how the training has helped the employee and in what way it has affected his behaviour in his work and ability to perform at his job. This is usually conducted for both the employee and the manager to get feedback on the effectiveness of the training.

The fourth level is results which looks at the return on investment of the training of the employee. It assesses and attempts to measure in actual terms the contributions made by the employee towards the company’s goals as a result of the training.

There is a 5th level in an extension of the Kirkpatrick model which is the Phillips model which considers ROI purely in financial terms. This is a bit of a challenge as the contribution of the employee is directly tied to the revenues and can only be determined for those employees who have direct revenue goals.

These are the main functions which are critical in any organization as they deal directly with developing and evaluation of the human capital of the company. This directly has an impact on achieving the business goals of the organization. Recruitment ensures that you hire the right talent, learning and development ensures that you train and grow that talent and performance management ensures that the talent is able to perform at peak levels by managing their performance using the right frameworks and tools.

The rest of the HR functions are mainly support functions for the above, and though admininstrative in nature, are equally important in keeping the performance of the employees aligned with company goals and achieving them. These are:

Time and Attendance

This function tracks the attendance and leave status of the employees in the organization.

The system can be used to setup things like the attendance and leave policy, calendar, the shift roster, geo location parameters and the swipe integration and online attendance system configuration setup. The employees will use the biometric devices to gain entry into the offices. Their attendance will be captured by the biometric swipes. They employees would also punch in/punch out to mark their attendance. The data collected from this will be used to provide calendar views and attendance and leave details to the employees.

Payroll processing

The payroll is responsible for handling all the payroll processing and the application is used by the company to  set up the the compensation and benefits for the employees based on various attributes. The payheads and paygroups are setup in the systems and the payroll compliance configuration is also done in this module. Employees being paid their salaries on time is a function of this application.

Travel and Expense Management

Travel and expense management is used to manage all travel related booking and claims of various types. The system can be used to build various rules around the different kinds of claims. Claim types can be configured in the system like local travel trips, food reimbursement, mobile claims, leave travel, Internet, domestic travel expense, international travel expense, car fuel and expenses for projects.

The approval workflow and mapping can be done in the system. The number of approvers required for the workflow, different approver ranges, the workflow verifier and violations applicable can be configured in the system. The eligibility and fuel configuration can be done in the system.

Employees are able to request travel bookings for all official travel and the system can accept the requests and then process it by putting it through the configured approval flows. The Travel Approver or authorized manager will be able to view all travel requests that are pending for approval and be able to take the necessary action on each request. Each action of approval or rejection is the sent by the system as per the configured workflow and the approvers are informed accordingly.

Employee Self Service Portal

The employee portal in any company is the one single window to the employee for all the services in the HRMS system. The employee is provided with a login and a password using which he or she is able to login and then using the single sign-on is able to access the various services that have been enabled for his or her role in the company. The employee portal is accessible to the employee either as a web portal from the laptop/desktop or as a mobile app on his or her mobile device

The employee portal can define roles and access rules for all the users configured in the system. Based on the requirements of each individual access to specific applications can be given as per the role based access rules configured in the system.

Once the employee has logged into the portal, he or she can view the dashboard. The dashboard can offer a view of Time and Attendance, News and Articles, Punch details – Punch in/punch out, Employee news, internal job postings, employee’s claims, HR handbook, job referrals, the Help Desk, FAQs, Company announcements.

The menu available provides access to the various other applications in the HRMS. This menu will show those items that the logged in user has been granted access to. The complete menu will list the applications Recruitment, Time and Attendance, PMS, Learning Management, Payroll Processing, Travel and Expense Management and Separations.


Employee exit management is handled by the HR department using the Separations module which has workflows for the employee initiated separation as well as the manager initiated separations.

Once an employee initiates the e-separation the request is sent to the line manager and once the separation is approved, the Full and Final checklist owners add the recovery amount as applicable and send the full and final details to payroll. All the employee IDs are deactivated on the last working day. An exit interview is conducted for the employee before the separation.

In the case of a manager initiated separation, once the manager initiates the separation, the full and final checklist is prepared. The required amounts to deducte/recovered are worked out and sent to payroll as inputs for further processing.

The Innovations in HRMS

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies have been applied to build innovations for the HRMS platform. Some of these are:

Robotic Interviews where candidates can be interviewed remotely over a video conference and ML services can be used to assess the candidate from the video captured and the resulting analysis can display various personality traits as well as the score and summary can be displayed on the assessment screen. This can help in the assessment and selection process by helping to shortlist candidates for face to face interviews.

Machine Learning is applied in recruitment by training of models using apt and inapt resumes which create training data sets. These are then applied to candidate resumes for scoring and stack ranking of the resumes.

Chat Bots are used to help employees get frequently asked questions answered in a fairly intelligent and reliable manner. Face recognition is used in attendance systems and voice forms can be used to help employees fill up various forms by speaking out the answers being asked instead of typing in the replies.

I guess by now you do have a fairly good idea about what the HR functions in companies are all about.  They do a lot more than what I had thought during the early years of my working life. The platforms that support the HR functions play a very crucial role in ensuring that the human capital of the company is nurtured and developed in the right way and is able to contribute usefully to the objectives of the company.