image depicting 'can't see the wood for the trees' related to hr industry

A Newbies View on the HR Software Space

Brian McDowell Longer Reads, Staff Posts

After 6 months at HRLocker our second-latest hire gives a view on the brand, the customers, the product, marketplace and People Management issues.

Coming from a different industry to HR (and experience of marketing only a couple of cloud / SaaS products before) Brian brought fresh views on how we approach the market landscape and to the HRLocker solution and company culture.

Before he ‘starts to see trees and not the wood‘ he decided to give a, quite blunt, newbies view on the HR software ecosystem.

This is everything I’ve learned as greenhorn so far:

Small companies are super agile. Time is money and small organisations react fast and don’t spend ages shopping around for solutions. They have fewer decision makers to get approval by and act fast.

Keeping it real – putting the costs in perspective

SMEs seem to realise that time spent comparing pricing and waiting for ‘budget approvals’ on an annual fees – that can be less than a night in a hotel for some execs – gets the company saving money instantly.

The time sucked by HR admin in almost all size of companies is staggering. One of first things I noticed here is that HR takes a lot of ‘Human Resources’ away – not to mention cost –  from the focus of any organisation and is basically a massive ball and chain, especially to growing teams.

Having systems in place automating admin means HR can focus on developing people, not running around collating and chasing the necessary paperwork.

… HRLocker really does deploy in hours. Found it hard to believe when I joined, but its true. The cloud rocks.

Predictably, big companies are slower at decision making. They have larger compliance issues and a chain of command and procedures that take time and patience if you’re a vendor.  They also have more to lose if they get something like a data security choice wrong.

image of fear the hr generalist t shirt

Image via alibaba

HR is slow to adapt to technology

(*Gulp. Ducks for cover for fear of  HR’s backlashing. ) The slumbering of larger organisations is all understandable. But what’s funny’s that the ‘design by committee’ culture means they often have one ‘stickler’, ‘deal-breaker’ box to tick – and sometimes that box doesn’t even exist – in anyones’s solution. And it’s usually the ones with old skool HR managers that are the slowest to move or open up to new technology and thinking.

So they often start their process over again after some time. And they’re still scared of the cloud. Yet happy to have all manner of other cloud services and sensitive company information on their easy-to-breach smartphones. The world of HR can be slow to trust SaaS suppliers.

That’s all time spent not saving money like the fleet-of-foot startups and fast-scaling young companies run by millennials and snap decision makers. A small minority of small companies are also slow decision makers and seem to shop around like someone spending their precious time of xx per hour hiking around town to save 30 cents. I guess that’s how it has to be.

But it’s kind of sad that they miss out on just getting something rolling that’s perfectly workable and ticking 8 or 9 of their 10 boxes to have their team working more efficiently right away. Trying to reach perfection in a system that either doesn’t exist,  or will never get to deploy before they next re-scope is kind of sad. Not to mention a massive waste of manpower.

I have however witnessed a couple of our enterprise-level customers move fast on decision-making and implementation and it’s almost frightening – but awe-inspiring too –  to see a big company acting like an agile small firm. Startups should fear truly agile big firms the most.

Just invest in a cloud system, any system, within reason. And then get on with your important work. Kind of. You know what I mean …

When you outline the ROI advantages to customers you wonder why some firms pay so many people such large amounts to [not] make decisions on small values. HR software is a small spend even for small companies. I also didn’t know employers have an obligation to record employee hours worked  – at any level in the hierarchy – to meet compliance.

Just push the button. We have lift off

Some perspective. We’re a small company. This week we upped our Zapier price plan (try Zapier by the way, its amazing!) and I realised their pricing (20 bucks a month) for some marketing automations isn’t far off the cost of our up-to-15 people starter packages that we’d be using ourselves. I don’t think many companies would take any longer than us to make the same decision over the same value. (And marketing apps have data implications too.)

image of space rocket launch demonstrating 'we have lift off' for implementing hr software

Image via pixabay
But as much as I ‘can’t live without’ Zapier – it does save us time and delivers clear ROI in the marketing silo – I marvelled to myself at the difference in how many more benefits than Zapier (no offence Zapier) that HRLocker would bring a company in terms of how it delivers value every day across the entire company as people record hours, ask for holidays, develop themselves with CPD plans etc. etc. And then made a mental note to mention to the boss that we should up our pricing asap.

Zapier saves a few people a few hours at a time and contributes to revenue generation. But HRLocker is working in the background for every employee every day and allowing the cost of at least one admin or manager to coordinate everything it does for us internally so we can all focus on revenue generation.

When we see customers push the button and send us their compliments on the differences HR software makes to their working lives we experience a genuine feelgood buzz. My observations’s that some companies overthink it a little and should just press the button – on any system that fits their needs – just like they might with a marketing app.

A lot of companies are unaware of compliance obligations

HR is therefore also a necessary spend. And with data security increasingly important, companies must invest in securely hosted solutions for employee – and past employees – information.

Keeping excel spreadsheets is not a safe data policy. (And neither are google spreadsheets.) And many HR managers do not realise this and should. Business owners can be forgiven for not knowing this but can relax about record-keeping obligations and archiving employee/former employee information once they have an HR solution in place.

And almost none of our new clients are ready for GDPR yet either …

Are spreadsheets the cockroaches of the HR admin world?

Speaking of spreadsheets. Yes. In this day and age a ton – make that kilotons –  of companies are still using excel to track staff holiday and timesheets. That’s madness. When will they die? (The outdated spreadsheet systems.)

Data security, especially with GDPR looming on the near horizon is usually less of a big deal with cloud vendors than those used to on-premise solutions think. If a provider has ISO 27001 certification and is using a similarly secure platform (HRLocker uses Microsoft Azure for example) then the due diligence is quite straightforward.

Many cloud vendors of HR software are compliant and secure and I see a lot of unnecessary fuss made. Dare I say it, but I get the feeling that some people are also just protecting their roles in the company by creating unnecessary fear over some of these issues.

Image via pixabay

How to choose HR Software

Can you judge a book by its cover? To some extent, yes, probably, in terms of HR Systems. But you still need to look ‘under the hood’ to be sure when shopping around.

Lots of startups have nice shiny websites but no experience of providing a service, no client list, no history of resolving critical issues – and most likely no background in or significant research into specific HR processes at all. But it’s pretty easy to swiftly choose wisely in this respect and looks definitely aren’t everything.

The earlier that customers looking for HR software demo the solution the faster and easier the decision-making process is for them. Less of the customer’s time is wasted when the demo’s tailored to their needs early in their evaluation period.

Often people trialling the software are comparing systems and having to present info to their board or managers/directors. Finding their way around a handful of providers is confusing and reduces their objectivity.

Demos are also necessary as nearly all HR software systems need some setup first. Yes they can deploy in hours when setup properly. But they’re no such thing as ‘instantly up-and-running’. A demo is the best time to show the customer how to make the most of the solution and have primary Users au fait with the most common processes.

The way we’ve been trained to deliver demos means a lot of the setup in deployment is already done. The User already familiar with the system. Lots of systems might be easy to use like HRLocker, but we see clients making better judgements (whether the best fit them them is HRLocker or not) when they trial one at a time.

Usually we hear from a few different types of prospective customers. The office manager. The CFO/Finance Director. The CEO/Founder and, occasionally an actual HR Manager! Before joining I thought I’d be dealing with HR managers almost exclusively. I honestly thought it was HR departments and HR managers that bought HR software.

Nope. It’s office managers, accountants and general managers that are the ones that seem to grow frustrated with spreadsheets and the limitations of other systems that might only calculate time and attendance but not CPD etc. They then ask google to solve their problems and often we’re the ones privileged enough to get to help.

But actually a lot of companies don’t have  – or need – HR departments and just get in contact looking for a simple timesheet and holiday planning system, an applicant tracking system or similar. The most common approach is when an office manager is set the task to trial a handful of HR systems for small businesses.

Usually they’ve been told to ‘trial five HR software systems report back to me about which ones tick these boxes (refers to list of things they want HR software to do for them) and the costs and we’ll have a board meeting and [eventually after too much discussion and the spent not saving money and freeing up the team to do ‘proper work’] then decide’.

HEY, THANKS FOR READING SO FAR  – THIS IS A LOOONG BLOG POST! NOT TOO LONG TO GO NOW …

How to trial HR software – don’t overthink it

The savvy General Manager does their homework first then shortlists just one or two to trial consecutively and then makes their own decision. So do most owner/managers.

The more ‘old fashioned’ companies involve loads of decision makers, mull over what are actually very small amounts of money, for ages, (all while on what must be quite healthy hourly earnings themselves!) before stalling on a decision because ‘rolling out a new system company-wide will take a lot more thought’. All while time and money could’ve been saved in the meantime!

These companies spend lots of money (and relatively little time) hiring employees – and deploy other systems that also deal with sensitive information – using far less vetting. Choosing their HR software provider doesn’t have to be such a big deal.

VW Bus Photo

The HRLocker story

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to join the team here is that HRLocker stands for the upsides that more efficient working practise leads to. And in this part of the world on Ireland’s west coast that means lifestyle. Working smarter not just harder.  The HRLocker team really do live and breathe their values – and the software’s at the heart of everything done here.

One of the most-used functions of HRLocker in house is the project/hours tracking tool. It’s great for measuring/reporting on how your time’s spent on various projects.

Being split across sales and marketing for example, this is useful for me. I can see where more or less of my or my team members’ time could be be better focused and kept in line with budget. Customers that bill hours to clients also love this feature.

We also love our HIRELocker ATS since we’re growing the team. It’s great for collboration on recruitment, for sharing CVs of interesting-looking candidates among the hiring managers, making notes and shortlisting etc.

The culture here is super. No blame when you fail. Trying new angles is encouraged. The approach to creative process and research into the roadmap is impressive. We don’t work without plans but sometimes you gotta throw mud at the wall and see what sticks! That freedom’s brought a great HR solution to the market, hundreds of happy customers and remarkably low churn.

If new techniques work in terms of attracting, retaining and pleasing clients they work for us! Our CEO’s a bit of an oddball and, like most entrepreneurs, dislikes ‘the norm’ and loves a radical idea! He might be cray but he’s built something that’s worthy and ‘human’.

Bottom line: introducing HR software that’s developed by true HR consultants, former recruiters and HR manages into your organisation will take the pressure off your team and both allow them to focus on your organisational goals and lead healthier, more productive, stress-free lives.

The fact that you can facilitate this for them for just 20 or 30 bucks per head per year is a pretty smart investment.

Call it what you like. HR Software is just another Business Process Management solution really

HR software. People Management solutions. Employee management system.  And the slave-labour-esque-sounding ‘Human Capital Management software’. (this attracts circa €150/click on google adwords by the way! Looks like Oracle are the big pusher of and payer-outer for that search term.).

All crazy terms for software that basically saves a tonne of time and money doing some of the heavy lifting admin work. For most customers this means ‘we just want a simple system to automate holiday requests’. Or to collect timesheets. Distribute key documents with a digital signing (and reporting to managers when they’re not read and signed!) And, increasingly: some software to coordinate CPD items such as training and certifications.

I didn’t know what CPD was before joining HRLocker. If you’re clueless like me, it’s basically when managers set a deadline for a certifications (building site safepass, first aid cert, manual handling qualifications etc.) has to be updated/complated by. (And it means Continuous Professional Development.)

The system notifies the employee, who then has responsibility to complete any training and gain necessary certification and then upload a scan of the certificate to the system. (There’s more to it than that. But you get the picture.)

I’d never heard of this concept of ’employee self service’ before either. So keeping their own info up to date is their responsibility. But the way the CPD works in HRLocker is that staff can submit and suggest a training plan to their manager to review, approve or reject.

I’m looking at training courses in Mauritius right now to suggest to my manager that he send me on. Oh well, it’ll test if the system works I suppose.

The manager then gets notification that it’s complete – or that a deadline was missed. The system lets Users run reports on who has or hasn’t and any other facet of the software’s functionality, all down to the office, departmental and individual levels. Pretty smart eh!

If you have a Performance Management workflow as well you can use the CPD functionality to execute all the scheduling and recording of the ‘Employee Performance Engagement’ (EPE) – or what I’ve always just had called a review – process.

Timesheet features give the most ROI (And the ATS.)

Most customers approach us looking for a nice, easy-to-use system for managing staff time-off. Having a leave planner system in place lets manager and colleagues in small businesses see who’s off work, out of the office, working from home etc. at a glance.

This also integrates with calendars such as apple, google (G Suite) and office 365 via the iCal format so that anyone out of the office shows in those calendars as well. The other big time saver is working out annual leave entitlement for teams that work any number of combinations of days of the week and hours/shift patterns etc.

But it’s the timesheet collection that saves the most money when you dig into it. Lots of small businesses also call us up wanting time and attendance systems or some software for managing timesheets. And increasingly this is for remote teams. We see the mobile-optimised format of HRLocker ideal for these needs.

For example: Workers clocking in on building sites can still have their timesheet approved electronically by a foreman who may or may not also have been on site. And there’s a neat feature too that allows staff to clock on from fixed IP addresses. Such as their office or home location. (You can leave a note in the system if you’re not where you’re supposed to be!

For example I’m always forgetting to clock out when leaving my desk and then clock out using my phone from the car park and just add a note to say why I’m not on the office network – and rushing out to get the best tide for surfing!)

Basically using these types of online timesheets  – and systems around chasing/checking/approving/rejecting and passing the data to payroll – is the part of HR software that delivers the most value.

Lots of clients come to us because they’ve been searching for a timesheets app (to replace those prehistoric spreadsheets), but then find those apps limited. If you can get the full set of people management software as well – that’s all entirely browser based and works on any kind of device – then that’s the best solution!

What’s an ATS?

That’s be an Applicant Tracking System. AKA Recruitment software. Our HIRELocker ATS is way too cheap. It’s included on our premium price plans. Some people buy it as a standalone but you effectively get the full HRLocker suite thrown in. We need to price it much higher as nobody else has one for that price with so much extra included.

HIRELocker’s definitely our most underrated product.  Did I mention that this solution delivers the most insane instant savings and value? To extoll the virtue of the HIRELocker and the benefits of a recruitment software system and advice on the hiring process you put through it will take a whole other blog post.

HRLocker have got your back

Support is the most valuable service we provide.  We call it Superhero support. The software’s cool. But the most impressive thing here is the reaction time from the support team. The backup is second to none.

And with the 100s of customers there are it remains quite a small crew that are super personable and on first name terms with nearly all the main admins that get in touch asking advice on X, Y or Z.

And the advice isn’t just technical, ‘how-to-use-the-system’, it really overlaps HR policies and processes and so needs a strong level of understands of the tasks and challenges managers face daily.

Summary

A lot of businesses have been carrying these needs and facing these challenges on their time and pressure on their workload and carrying it around like an injury for ages. So we often get to hear nice stories of how their lives are revolutionised! None of us get bored of hearing those comments and that feedback’s nice to pass on to others trying to solve problems of their own.

We also get to hear some interesting and unique business cases and try our best to find solutions for customers.

Our CEO’s indoctrinated me into the belief that there are no such thing as HR problems to solve. Only business challenges that slow things down. And make teams wade through mud. I’m sure he’s right. I’ll certainly revisit this post over time and see how these views of my own may be altered. Thanks for reading!

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A Newbies View on the HR Software Space was last modified: July 4th, 2017 by Brian McDowell

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