Get App and Go
By: Iain Hopkins, Editor, HR Magazine
HR, like so many other areas of business, is moving ‘on demand’ and becoming increasingly mobile. Human Capital looks at why this is happening and lists some of the best apps for HR professionals and recruiters.
From software providers to HR outsourcing services, the number of mobile offerings in HR and recruiting is on the rise. Some vendors are offering mobile versions of their web-based services. Others are developing mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows mobile platforms. The challenge for vendors is to determine which functions their customers most need on the go.
CONVENIENCE AND CONNECTIVITY
The convenience factor of mobile technology can’t be overstated. “It’s all about delivering tools and resources to your people – wherever they are,” confirms Kyle Lagunas, market analyst and Software Advice. Thus, with the right technology, a shift supervisor can view and approve time off requests or schedule changes without logging onto his desktop computer. A hiring manager outside sales can review candidates on her way to a client lunch. “That level of connectivity can foster a more productive – and engaged – workforce,” Laguna adds.
John Hansen, senior director, HCM applications development, JPAC at Oracle, says that connectivity has two flavours: being able to rapidly access the information you need to do your job in order to make the most informed decision; and secondly, connectivity across the business. “The collaborative aspect is where you can start joining people together across the enterprise that have mutual requirements for data or information.”
Ari Kopoulos, National Sales and Marketing Manager at EmployeeConnect, says the impact is wide-reaching. “The unprecedented connectivity, convenience and power mobile technology offers is revolutionising the way information is delivered, consumed, and responded to. It’s a medium that facilitates real-time decision-making,” he says.
For most executives, he adds, mobile technology is a way of life. Armed with dashboards, consumer details and content, they can enter conversations about products, services and be strategic decision-makers wherever they are. From a back-office perspective, many HR processes such as approval and notification can be accelerated.
Mobile technology has also redefined the user experience, offering a boost to employee engagement. Kopoulos explains: “That moment, where a fingertip meets the screen, creates a level of intimacy and control lacking in a keyboard or mouse. This action is so natural; the user focuses on outcomes rather than the process. It’s engaging, empowering and slightly addictive, and integration into every function of the workplace will be expected by the next generation of workers who live and breathe technology.”
Andrew Cross, Managing director, Technology, at recruitment firm Ambition, says the potential for HR to avail itself of technology solutions which streamline and improve its value proposition is exciting. What those applications might be is the question.
“With the volume of data that is now collected, there is a great opportunity for a tool that captures and aggregates the information to an employee and stores it in a secure manner. That one-stop shop, if you will, could contain previous work experience, skills and qualifications, pay and benefit entitlements and any other employment-related content,” he says.
Hansen adds that oracle and other vendors are now undertaking an evaluation into what’s appropriate to move into a mobile environment. “What are appropriate functions and capabilities to roll up into apps? It is solving an existing problem? Is there some new type of capability we need to support, some sort of new business process? It’s much more than just moving traditional desk-bound capabilities into a mobile environment.”
What is appropriate? Not all HR data is necessary; much of it is still processing and transactional data – this does not lend itself to the on-the-go functionality. However, Hansen says it’s “particularly interesting” to provide aggregated views of HR data to multiple constituents across the business, and then add in cross-functional information in order to answer relevant questions that managers or department managers may have.
For example, who are the best sales people in my team? What are out production results to date? What are our largest customers and which of my people are managing those? “Increasingly, we’re adopting this approach where we team HR data with cross-functional data so it’s contextualised based on the roles or department or sort of organisation that’s using mobile data. Mobile applications are purpose-built to display this type of information,” Hansen says.
THE ROAD TO NOW
The recruiting industry has always been quick to adopt new technology. From the fax machine to applicant tracking systems to social tech – and now mobile – there’s a large demand for tools that make their lives easier. This is evident in the number of mobile offerings in the recruitment space. Lagunas notes this development is much higher than, say, mobile performance management or training and development apps. While demand for mobile HR and talent management tech is growing, the market for mobile recruitment is still a step ahead of the rest.
Cross agrees that the focus to fate has been on acquiring and managing talent, yet he feels that no one system has captured the hearts and minds of corporates.
“What’s been missing for many is not so much the features and benefits but rather the correct customisation required to get the best sync with an organisation’s business process flows. I think we’’ see further development in this space for a couple more years but the exciting area for most business managers is in the analytics space.”
THE ROAD AHEAD
Indeed, Cross notes that while Australia has yet to heavily trade on the benefits available from mining employee data he believes this will start to happen in 2013 as Big Data tools will become more user friendly and accessible for the SME marketplace. “We don’t know what we might start to find if we creatively start to mine our employee data but the potential for improvements in all areas of the workplace is plentiful,” he says.
Lagunas adds that the video recruiting platforms are increasingly popular, as they are major time savers for recruiters. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see more mobile apps using video to deliver content and messaging – live streams for training courses, onboarding videos, etc,” he says.
Location awareness is a critical area for development. “We haven’t really thought about what this will allow us to do,” Hansen concedes. “When we talk about location we also need to talk about presence – not only where someone is, but also that presence dimension – are they online or offline? If they’re online are they active or idle? We’ve seen this in messenger applications and some of these areas, but if you do know where someone is you also need to know if you can access them or what sort of access mode they’re in.”
Even more interesting, Hansen says, is when other people are checking in and it’s possible to get a sense of who else is in that location or will be in that location. “Then we start thinking about more sophisticated things like receiving location-based alerts and having information tailored to the location you’ve just moved into, pushing quite specific info down to you, or even filtering or limiting the information you receive. It’s being smart about what options might be made available to certain business functions, certain transactions, and displayed in certain screen based in that particular location.”
Kopoulos believes mobile technology’s greatest value proposition for HR may come in learning. “On many levels it’s set to revolutionise the command and control nature of learning, evolving into a perfect learning companion,” he explains. “Naturally, it requires a partnership with the right application that’s native to social applications and facilitates collaboration and knowledge sharing.”
Online conversations are a vital part of learning and a significant source of new ideas and enrichment of the corporate knowledge base. In this regard, mobile offers an almost instantaneous exchange wherever you are. As such, Kopoulos notes, the way learning content is presented in the workplace is set to change. We are becoming less tolerant of complexity, long texts and delay in searching. Mobile technology offers a more immediate, richer learning experience. It gives us to choice to blend options such as media, content and access to thought leaders and mentors, addressing our personal learning styles and preferences,” he says.
Added to this is a burgeoning trend towards applying game mechanics and psychology to business processes in order to drive and align employees towards a common strategic goal. Applications that harness gamification express the process in terms of challenge progress, status, reward, social media recognition and expression.
“A rather new technology in late experimental stage, but slowly making its way into applications is augmented reality,” Kopoulos says. “AR enhances your perception of reality with interactive data and sensory input, in semantic context. An obvious and immediate application of AR is learning. Although a few years away, you can expect a future of truly 8immersive learning experiences where the content is truly sticky and reality is blurred.”
Other ‘what if’ scenarios that may benefit from adding a layer of additional information over the real view include performance reviews, competency analysis and learning milestones. Candidate interviews may also benefit, with feedback from references, body language analysis and real-time fact checking. Perhaps even health & safety, where a mere gaze across a site will bring up a real-time analysis of incidents, corrective actions and potential hazards.
WHERE TO GET THEM
While some mobile apps are available as standalone products on the Android Market or iTunes App Store, many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers have a mobile version of their web applications created specifically for use on a mobile device.
Apple iOS apps can be found on the iTunes App Store; Android apps on Google Play; BlackBerry apps on BlackBerry App World; and Windows Phone apps on the Windows Phone Marketplace.
Although it’s a rapidly changing market with new apps launched every day, Lagunas has created his own list of top HR apps via his online blog (blog.softwareadvice.com).