Business Administration and Human Resources (HR)
As a relative latecomer to the XML game, the needs of business management and human resources (HR) should not be neglected in their needs to exchange information with regards to employees, business operations, and other needs in the discourse of business information. In this section, we will explore HR-XML, a standard covering administra-tive and HR-related needs that aims to improve efficiency and hence reduce the cost of managing an effective organization.
Human Resources XML (HR-XML)
Paperwork is the day-to-day rigor that comes part and parcel with being part of a human resources (HR) organization. Simplifying these daily chores using XML is an almost obvious “Ah Ha!” However, despite the fact that the industry has a single name, there is nothing common about the way human resources is done from company to company, especially crossing geographic and industry boundaries. Yet, a human resources XML known simply as HR-XML aims to eliminate these paper processes by eliminating the lengthy “discovery” periods typical of setting up internal and external company transac-tions today.
The HR-XML Consortium is an independent, nonprofit association dedicated to the development and promotion of XML-enabled human resources–related data exchanges. The stated mission of the HR-XML Consortium (which is located at http://www.hr-xml.org/channels/about.htm) is to “spare employers and vendors the risk and expense of having to negotiate and agree upon data interchange mechanisms on an ad-hoc basis.” HR-XML actually consists of a number of related but separate working groups that address the different problem areas in HR. The Recruiting and Staffing Workgroup’s mission is to define XML vocabularies that enable recruiting and staffing transactions among employers, staffing companies, application vendors, job boards, and job seekers. The first fruits of its labor was the development of the Staffing Exchange Protocol (SEP), which enables the posting of job or position opportunities to job boards and other recruit-ing and sourcing venues and the return of job seeker, or candidate, data related to those postings. SEP supports the updating and recalling of job postings, the supplying of con-tact information for a job candidate (where only partial information initially was sup-plied), and the supplying of employer feedback to job seeker suppliers on postings that have been filled. The Cross-Process Objects (CPO) Workgroup aims to develop a com-mon vocabulary and data model for HR as well as developing schemas for common HR objects used across the consortium’s domain-specific workgroups, such as Person and Job objects.
The Payroll Workgroup is developing schemas to support a comprehensive range of interfaces into and out of payroll, including one-way integration from HR and Benefits systems to Payroll systems. The workgroup also has a draft schema designed to support the export of defined benefits and 401(k) plan participant data from payroll systems to third-party administrators. The Benefit Enrollment Workgroup is developing a universal schema for communicating employee benefit enrollment information between employers and insurance carriers, managed care organizations, and third-party administrators. Some of the immediate problems that the organization plans to address are enrollment in health, dental, vision, life, 401(k), and other types of benefit programs and ensuring that benefits enrollment specifications can map to the EDI transaction sets mandated by the federal Health Insurance Portability Protection Act (HIPAA). The Technical Steering Committee has developed a “Provisional Envelope Specification” that aims to provide a temporary specification for how HR-XML messages are transmitted, but it is expected that as other messaging protocols such as ebXML are widely adopted, HR-XML will become compliant.
With over 100 member organizations, clear focus, and advanced development of its XML vocabulary, the HR-XML Consortium is well poised to make an impact on the HR indus-try and its use of XML. It does, however, face some challenges in getting the many dif-ferent participants in the HR process using the standard, and the adoption issue is its primary challenge. However, in March 2001, over 24 major organizations involved in HR document exchange committed to using and adopting the HR-XML Consortium stan-dards as part of their day-to-day document exchange.