How today’s HR technology offerings can bring the mobile workforce to the next level.
By Brent Skinner
The future of work is not in a cubicle. Mobile technology is on the rise. Desktop computer sales are down while smartphones are flying off the shelves. Take a look at the numbers. IDC predicted delivery of 269.6 million smartphones in 2010, compared to 2009’s 173.5 million. The increase continues, according to IDC, which projects that 1 billion smartphones will have been distributed globally by 2015.
“Look back to the personal computer,” says Lisa Rowan, an analyst at IDC. “It was a departure from terminals at people’s desks, previously all connected through large iron to the mainframe. There was a drive to take advantage of all that latent capacity on every desk, and so, we had the advent of the client server. That was a bit of a revolution, and I think of mobile as the follow-on to that. All of a sudden, you have a lot of your workers with smartphones, and it’s a new source of untapped capacity. But that untapped capacity is not always a company-issued device. Often, it’s the employee’s own.”
The population of mobile workers is increasing at a rapid pace, with IDC forecasting that the number in the United States will be 119.7 million, or 75.5 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2013. By that same year, IDC predicts, mobile workers’ numbers will comprise more than a third of the world’s entire workforce. The marketplace for this growing mobile workforce is large and growing, too, expected to exceed $1 billion this year and grow another 20 percent by 2013, according to IDC.
So what’s applicable to the proliferation, deployment, and utilization of mobile computing devices and their latent capacity? “From an HR perspective,” says Steve Roth, senior director and mobile product manager at ADP, “there’s no business case to deploy smartphones to employees in order to pass on basic HR communications, such as company news, etc. But there certainly is a business case out there to enable employees’ existing smartphones for the enterprise e-mail and sometimes mobile application for field service. So the job of HR here is, really, to ride the existing infrastructure out there and thus deliver additional value.”
Making the Immobile Mobile
Given the proliferation of mobile technology and the in-tandem growing mobility of the workforce, it makes sense to retool as much of the enterprise resource planning (ERP)-based human resource management systems (HRMS) as possible to be compatible with mobile computing devices. Research by Aberdeen Group finds that the best-performing organizations “take full advantage of the capabilities that mobility offers,” and because of it, they’re reaping the inevitable benefits. The associated report Mobility in ERP 2011 (partially underwritten by Sage and SAP) labels organizations whose attention to the integration of mobile technology with ERP-based HR systems has resulted in their workforce spending far less time trying to access information as best-in-class organizations.
Additionally, more of these organizations’ employees turn in complete and on-time delivery. In 2011, the organizations themselves reported a 30 percent year-over-year improvement in time-to-decision, better inventory accuracy, and a low 2.2 days average cycle between service completion and invoicing. This last number stands in stark contrast to the 10-day average for all other organizations participating in Aberdeen’s study.
Mobile Technology Drives HR
Recent research, jointly conducted by VDC Research and the ADP Research Institute (ADPRI), the research arm of ADP, reveals a growing, industry-wide embrace of mobile technology’s ability to drive HR objectives. Their report, Mobile HR Solutions: Connecting & Empowering Your Workforce, reveals the majority of respondents from large organizations think HR-related mobile applications bring moderate to great benefits to employees’ productivity (75 percent), satisfaction (81 percent), and ability to make decisions in real time (78 percent). Similar majorities hold at midsized organizations.
“When we did the research, there were benefits people were looking for from mobility, and they’re pretty straightforward,” says Roth, of ADP. “You improve productivity, you improve real-time decision-making, you improve customer satisfaction—and you improve employee engagement. All of these are in the 70 to 80 percent range of what people are expecting mobility to do, to help within the arena of HR mobility.”
Majorities of those that have deployed mobile applications across the enterprise see improvements in workforce productivity and in their employees’ ability to make decisions in real time, according to the research from ADPRI/VDC. Also of note, the percentage of organizations that think it’s critical or at least important to consider mobile compatibility in evaluating their next-generation HR systems and services has risen since 2009.
Presently, HR technology vendors are developing increasingly robust versions of technology, integrating and bundling various core HR service delivery functions, enabling the implementation of them in aggregate and, thus, easing the HR professional’s job.
Mobility? There’s a Mobile HR App for That
ADP recently unveiled ADP Mobile Solutions, a free application that gives employees access to their HR, payroll, and benefits information via the iOS, Android, and RIM smartphone platforms. “If you look at the entire landscape of all the vendors in this space,” says Rowan, “a lot of mobile types of things are going on, but they’re more the sort of thing you’d get through a self-service application. ADP is taking it a little bit further, by actually taking it to core HR, whereas much of the other stuff out there is talent management related.”
Mobile employees have access to view pay statements from up to five previous pay periods; see their current 401K allocations, distribution percentages, account balances and rate of return; and clock in, clock out, indicate a late arrival, and create timesheets. Additionally, a corporate directory provides the ability to view, search, and contact employees listed in it, and a company news section allows employees to read updates posted by management.
“Our vision, from a mobile perspective, is to have the depth and breadth across the entire HR domain, from payroll, to time and attendance, to benefits, to talent management, retirement savings—all the things that a company knows and manages for the employees,” says Roth. “The whole intent is to encompass all that information within a single mobile application, with a single sign-on solution. So we’ve currently deployed some of those features.”
These types of solutions speak to practicality. The prospects of mobile technology to further simplify and streamline these HR activities are significant.
"About two years ago, we introduced the concept of a new generation of workforce management, which was focused on consumer-oriented technologies on enterprise applications" says Frank Moreno, director of product marketing for Kronos® Incorporated "We took that initiative and first applied it to our enterprise software suite, focused on a completely new user interface. We had three concepts around this next generation, including instant engagement, guided decision, and mobile management—providing connectivity to the entire workforce management suite through the mobile devices you use on a daily basis."
The idea is to improve the productivity of mobile workers, and in ways similar to ADP Mobile Solutions, the latest version of Kronos Incorporated’s Workforce Mobile™ applications does so by making it easier for managers and employees to complete a wide range of workforce-related tasks using a variety of mobile devices. Functionality of Kronos newest mobile solution includes MobileViews, enabling employees to gain mobile access to the self-service processes that most organizations have developed for frequently performed tasks, and giving organizations the ability to write their own such custom applications, for the Kronos mobile solution. Additionally, through new labor detail features, employees can select from a list of personalized labor levels to indicate which role they are performing, and can also complete pay code and job transfers via their mobile device. Barcode scanning eliminates the need for fixed mount barcode scanning devices and complex kiosk-based data collection stations in multiple locations around the workplace, and through a variety of improvements to HR administrative activities such as timecard approvals and schedule views, as well as GPS data collection and session timeout controls, Kronos’ tool eases the job of managers responsible for large groups of employees.
"The first version of Workforce Mobile had a two-pronged approach," says Moreno. "It focused primarily on manager productivity. Yes, it did have some functionality devoted to staff productivity, but most of the functionality was really focused on the manager—time card approvals and other things that might bog down their day. And the other part was providing native applications, not just connectivity to a Web portal, but actual native applications for the most common mobile devices. Fast-forward to the launch of the second version. Changes were driven by customers of the first version."
Mobile applications are also available for more strategic play. Take, for example, Infosys TalentEdge, a cloud-based and mobile-enabled talent management platform designed to deepen employee engagement. Applicable to just about every point along the employee lifecycle and built on Oracle’s PeopleSoft human capital management suite, Infosys TalentEdge facilitates employee interaction through robust social media functionalities and interactive self-service capabilities. Elements of the platform, for instance, support social collaboration, helping companies improve access to organization-wide expertise, generate ideas, and accelerate innovation.
By facilitating employee recognition, other mobile apps foster employee engagement and customer engagement. BI WORLDWIDE’s new, patent-pending mobile employee engagement solution, RAVE®, is a mobile-based platform that encourages workforce engagement and productivity through two-way social communication, recognition, rewards and just-in-time learning. RAVE works through employees’ own smartphones to deliver personalized, in-the-moment recognition, in any industry. At any time, managers can send e-cards to recognize an individual’s or group of employees’ contributions to the organization’s goals. The tool works especially well in retail, according to Lorraine Frias, interactive promotions strategist, BI WORLDWIDE: "From a branding perspective—especially for retail—marketers really like RAVE because they can continually be in communication with the front lines, whose interactions with customers are positively affected and driven."
“Mobile technologies, as they relate to HR, will help employees connect with their employers much better,” says ADP’s Roth. “Things are going global. Things are going mobile. People just don’t work the way they used to work. It’s all about what you get done versus where you are. At the same time, staying connected to a company becomes that much more difficult when you’re not necessarily within the four walls of the organization. So, it’s about extending the information out to employees in lots of different channels. For instance, web-based solutions are very useful when you, the employee, are standing in line at the supermarket. But that’s a viable scenario. Let’s suppose I’m at the supermarket, and I want to check my paycheck information. That’s plausible, and it blends the content that the company has about you into your personal life, and what better device is there to achieve this than a smartphone, a highly personal piece of technology almost always with the employee?”
Social media and mobile computing go hand in hand. Recruiters often reach mobile jobseekers best through social media, says Broadbean Technology’s North American Marketing Director Rayanne Thorn, who co-presented the recent webinar “Mobile: The Next Big Thing In Recruiting and HR.” Between Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn alone, hundreds of millions of potential jobseekers are potentially accessible to recruiters, and jobseekers tend to log into these social media destinations via mobile devices. “If you’re using mobile technology to reach candidates, it might set you apart from organizations that are not, in competing for sought-after candidates,” says webinar co-presenter, Ron Cariker, founder and president of the mobile and online development company 7 Media Group. Savvy jobseekers—the best kind—are apt to see organizations that use mobile technology in their recruiting as forward-thinking and a desirable place to work, says Cariker.
Text message might be the next communication channel for recruiting. Whereas industry research shows that the open and read rates for e-mail communication are extremely low, various studies show that the open and read rates for text messages easily exceed 90 percent.
“Text messaging technologies are opt-in strategies,” says Jessica Miller-Merrell, CEO of Xceptional HR, home of Blogging4Jobs.com. “Your candidate base selects to receive the message, meaning that it’s likely more engaged and active in searching for a job. Using text messages to engage your jobseekers allows you to be extremely specific, meaning that they can receive text alerts straight to their phone for specific jobs by degree, zip code, job title, and experience level. With mobile messaging, specifically text, it isn’t about having a massive community in which to text; it’s about having very specific and detailed information about your subscriber base. Texting is more about active communities than social media because the text messages are not as easily shared with friends.”
Mobile Tech and the Cloud
One promising area of growth is combining mobile technology with the cloud. Jobscience Mobile leverages the website Force.com (salesforce.com’s social enterprise platform for employee apps) to extend the efficiency, personalization, and compliance benefits of sourcing prospective employees to networking events, campus visits, and informal recruiting interactions in the field.
Using Jobscience Mobile from a smartphone or Internet tablet, recruiters can initiate the job application process by inviting just-met candidates to reply with their resume. The communication trail helps recruiters track the quality of sourcing events from the field. In tandem, jobseekers can personalize their resumes and job applications via the system, and their resumes are parsed into the Jobscience TalentCloud application, which works in concert with the Salesforce CRM. From anywhere, hiring managers can also use Jobscience Mobile to quickly provide feedback on applicants after interviews. After a candidate has been hired, HR professionals can use the tool to streamline rote elements of the on-boarding process through smartphone utilization. Internet tablet cameras can be used to take photos of passports and driver’s licenses.
Scaling the Mobile Mountain
“What makes sense when implementing mobile technology?” aks Rowan. “That’s the thinking right now.” Certainly, mobile technology improves several dimensions of the employer–employee relationship, according to additional Aberdeen research. Eighty-two percent of best-performing organizations—when it comes to incorporating mobile technology into their processes for human capital management—have employees that rate themselves as highly engaged, notes Mobile HCM: Workforce and Talent Management on the Move, a report published last year. At the worst-performing companies, that percentage is only 23 percent, according to the findings. More than three-fifths of employees at these best-performing organizations (vs. just 3 percent at the worst-performing organizations) exceed expectations on performance reviews, Aberdeen found, and their hiring managers displayed a 17 percent annual improvement in satisfaction.
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