On-the-go tech allows HR and employees alike to easily take care ofÂ daily tasks.
By Simon Kent
Artificial intelligence and automation are set to haveÂ a huge impact on business and the workplace. For HR,Â however, the tech in peopleâs pockets could be moreÂ game-changing. The oft-heard phrase, âThereâs anÂ app for that,â has permeated the function, leavingÂ HR directors with the task of working out how theseÂ potentially useful solutions can benefit their business.
Senior Stakeholder Lead at the CIPD Katie Jacobs sees noÂ reason why HR leaders shouldnât make the most of theÂ apps on the marketplace. The ubiquitous smartphoneÂ means this kind of technology is readily available andÂ usually requires no employee trainingâa huge plus forÂ organisations. Indeed, ease of use is one reason whyÂ workers often turn to external apps rather than usingÂ the tech provided by their employer. âBecause we useÂ apps to run our personal lives and relationships, whenÂ we get to work, the technology there can seem quiteÂ clunky,â says Jacobs. âPeople get frustrated by the toolsÂ in the workplace so they find ways to work aroundÂ them.â
Whilst admitting that the relatively recent popularity ofÂ apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram has made it moreÂ difficult for companies to establish guidelines or policiesÂ for their use, Jacobs argues that the misuse of such appsÂ is a reflection of company culture rather than the appsÂ themselves. âThere could be concerns about bullying orÂ harassment, but that is not the fault of the technology,âÂ she says. âThe technology might offer a channel whereÂ it can happen but at the end of the day, thatâs aboutÂ your company culture.â
Dawn Moore, group people director of Murphy Group,Â agrees that app use is a positive thing, allowing theÂ workforce the opportunity to access employee servicesÂ wherever they may be. âMy sector is infrastructure andÂ construction, and clearly not everyone works nine toÂ five,â she says. âMy experience as an employee shouldÂ be the same regardless of whether Iâm working atÂ different times or locations. For example, there shouldÂ be an easy way to book holidays without me needing toÂ be in an office with a computer.
âI always start from the premise of listening toÂ employees and thinking about what would make theirÂ lives easier,â Moore continues. âIf they say it would helpÂ them to have this technology to do these things, I feelÂ thatâs a much better starting point than consideringÂ technology in a boardroom situation and discussingÂ how this would be nice to have but how will employeesÂ react?â
Without a doubt, more business-specific apps areÂ already proving their worth for HR in a variety ofÂ ways. Keen to promote employee engagement withÂ his company-wide presentations, Daniel Danso, globalÂ diversity manager for the law firm Linklaters, has beenÂ using an app by Vevox to deliver real-time involvementÂ with his audience. âIn some countries, pointing atÂ people and asking for feedback simply did not work,âÂ he says. âIn others, everyone in the meeting wasÂ reluctant to speak up because they were afraid theyÂ did not have the right answer or were concerned aboutÂ being shown up in front of their colleagues.â
Not only did the app enable Danso to capture feedbackÂ anonymously, but it also gave him insight into firm-wideÂ data from the 5,000 people across 28 countriesÂ who attended a session. âIn a business context, it is aÂ very practical way for organisations to evidence theyÂ are including people in the conversation and takingÂ a diverse range of views on board when makingÂ decisions,â he concludes.
Apps can also help HR eliminate administrativeÂ headaches. Pat Woodfield, HR director at corporateÂ clothing company Dimensions, says the use of a mobileÂ app from Selenity has supported her companyâs flexibleÂ approach to working, ensuring that employees can claimÂ their expenses on-the-go. âWe run expense paymentsÂ twice a month and this frequency means that employeesÂ will always have their claims refunded in no more thanÂ two weeks,â she says. The new app-based system hasÂ reduced administrative work, removing the need forÂ company credit cards or cash advances. âThe process isÂ straightforward for employees and as a result, theyâreÂ much happier.â
Dedicated employee-orientated apps such as Zest andÂ Perkbox mean the workforce has access to their benefitsÂ and reward packages wherever and whenever theyÂ want. But they also offer communication channels forÂ HR.
âZest allows companies to communicate to theirÂ employees by creating messaging through the pages onÂ the site where they can communicate company culture,Â values, or a list of upcoming company events to keepÂ everyone in the loop,â explains Alistair Dunn-Coleman,Â head of product at Zest Benefits.
Whether a dedicated employer-related app or aÂ general use product, these mobile technologies donâtÂ necessarily require an additional official policy. AfterÂ all, theyâre simply another form of technology thatÂ should slot in alongside the tools that employeesÂ already use. However, HR leaders should ensure thatÂ employee use is consistent with and reflects theÂ companyâs general people-related policies, providing aÂ safe and positive platform where work can be carriedÂ out.
Jacobs also notes that whilst apps offer the chance toÂ manage some positive aspects of employment, such asÂ claiming rewards and understanding benefits whereverÂ the employee may be, they can also push work concernsÂ into home life. Businesses need to manage expectationsÂ around this possibility and respect their employeesâÂ work-life balance.
âIf youâre in a junior position, itâs unlikely that youâllÂ have a separate work phone, so the company needs toÂ be aware if they are messaging people out of hours,âÂ she says. âEven if the person sending out the message isÂ not expecting a reply, it can put pressure on someone.â
For some in the company, it may seem natural to be onÂ call 24/7; for example, senior managers may not feelÂ that such contact exerts any extra pressure on them atÂ all. However, for app use to be successful, all workersÂ should understand the boundaries and conditions ofÂ use from day one.