7 HR Tech Trends Your SMB Should Jump On--And 3 to Avoid

HR is a hotbed of technology lately, as it is now a $14+ billion market. For small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) looking to become even better (or for those not yet enjoying the benefits at their fingertips), here are seven trending technologies that can have immediate and long-term positive impact on your business:

1. Cloud-based core HR system. I’d hate to be a file cabinet salesman these days. The days of locking paperwork in a filing cabinet (and then locking the filing cabinet in a closet) are over.

The speed of business is increasing and HR tech is helping by keeping employee data all on one central database, in the cloud, and accessible anytime from multiple devices … and it’s affordable. In a recent survey, almost 60 percent of respondents plan to save money by using cloud services in 2014. Great to see “plan to save” rather than “plan to spend.”

2. Applicant Tracking System (ATS). People are a company’s greatest asset, which means hiring is one of HR’s most valuable functions. To keep applicants and resumes organized and sorted in one central location, an ATS can be essential for your company.

The ATS is marching right behind core HR systems to take permanent residence in the cloud. No longer do recruiters’ email inboxes get flooded with applications and resumes. A study conducted by Software Advice showed that “over 95 percent of manual trackers want to be more efficient and effective.”

Most ATS providers offer a way to streamline the hiring process and collaborate between decision makers rather than deal with a mess of hard copy resumes and disjointed conversations about the right people to hire — helping you move fast to get the right person in the right seat.

3. Developing talent. Developing people is another crucial HR function. Using technology to remove redundant training and teaching processes makes a lot of sense. HR software for necessities such as performance-reviews and training tracking can help monitor performance and grow skills.

Employees really care when you take a genuine interest in them and their future, and the right HR software can help you develop talent, avoid costly turnover and build loyalty.

4. Benefits management. Benefits are one of the main deciding factors in recruiting and retention. HR spends a lot of time building a benefits plan to provide their employees with the best possible benefits solution that makes sense. Benefit-management software that tracks plans and providers keep HR up to date, including open enrollment deadlines and changes to plans.

Most SMBs know the exquisite pain of managing and maintaining spreadsheets containing medical, dental, vision and life insurance information — and that’s just the beginning. Add to that retirement savings plans, COBRA, FMLA, paid time off, disability and retirement. HR also can include added nonconventional benefits such as gym memberships, tuition reimbursement and other incentives that add value.

5. Payroll. Payroll accuracy, timeliness and completeness are three of the largest challenges SMBs deal with regarding payroll. And although payroll isn’t the most quickly innovating technology in the world, it’s definitely getting better.

HR’s sigh of relief is immediate when the time-consuming and burdensome responsibility of providing payroll data and annual tax documentation, and even updating tax-withholding information, can be passed to the employee.

Also, challenge your current payroll provider to get you your data when you want it, where you want it and how you want it. With fancy API and webhook technology, payroll is being forced to step up their game.

6. E-signature. Possibly one of the greatest time-savers ever invented is the e-signature. The technology has evolved, adoption continues and raving fans increase as SMBs adopt e-signature solutions.

Trees are big fans, as e-signatures help reduce onboarding and benefits paperwork. Lower costs, faster transaction times and increased productivity and compliance are just a few of the other benefits. In addition, everything is stored securely in the cloud — the icing on the cake.

More solutions for e-signatures are popping up every day. Ask around, read some blogs and do a few demos to make sure you are getting what you need. Be wise in reviewing your processes and don’t be oversold on the Cadillac, when you just need the Ford.

7. Mobile and social recruiting. Recruiting has been thrown on its head recently with social media recruiting. No longer is it a cut-and-dry method of posting a job listing with your local newspaper and then waiting while resumes came in through the fax machine or snail mail.

Ninety-two percent of companies use social media for recruiting. Technology has made recruiting lightning-fast and easier to connect. Now, applicants can just post their resume electronically and wait for companies to come to them, and companies can spread the word faster and more easily when they have job openings. In fact, “passive recruiting” technologies are making it easy to find and recruit people who aren’t looking for a new position (and let’s face it, sometimes those people are the best recruits).

3 HR Tech Trends SMBs Might Not Need

1. All-in-one HR. It may seem easier to just buy a one-size-fits-all solution; however, each piece still needs to be the right fit. It’s important when evaluating the right system to make sure each individual component (whether it’s performance, payroll, benefits management or core) is the one that will best function to help your company. If it’s not, it may be better to choose several best-of-breed solutions in the areas that are most important to your company. Remember, map your processes and find the best solution to meet your needs. Be cautious of the oversell, and make sure implementation is fast and simple.

2. Analytic tools. While there’s no doubt that “big data” and analytics can offer your company a huge benefit in making future decisions, smaller companies may be able to piggyback on their other solutions to get the type of analytic information they need. Many core HR solutions include analytic tools in the reports library (and even customized reports) that come standard. For startups and smaller companies, this is often enough. As your company grows, you may want to consider a focused analytic tool — but be patient.

3. Gamification. While it might seem fun to give kudos to your coworkers or get points for this or that, making talent management a game may not map to your culture. Some can be the right fit, while others may feel it’s gimmicky and your employees can start to feel “played.” Be cautious to have the more foundational HR processes nailed before adopting add-on functionality such as gamification.

Ultimately, it all comes down to “What makes the most sense for your company?” Consider your size, and figure out what you need. Then implement trends that align with those needs. Then rinse and repeat, because the trend of innovation is just going to continue — and it means great things are always in store for HR and SMBs.

About the Author

Ben Peterson is the co-founder and CEO of BambooHR, the leading online HR software for small and medium-sized businesses that have outgrown using spreadsheets to manage their employee information.