Mobile phones have morphed from a communication device to a business tool. HR departments have noticed. They are putting mobile technology in almost every process—from talent acquisition to training to performance reviews. “We see this evolution becoming a revolution,” says Rayanne Thorn, vice president of product marketing and strategy for Technomedia, an integrated global talent management solutions provider.
“HR doesn’t just want a seat at the executive table anymore. It wants to put an icon on people’s iPhone,” adds Jim Bowley, VP of Product Management at Peoplefluent, a social talent management provider.
Today employees want their HR departments to have many open channels. Sometimes they want to use their laptops to request time off but sometimes they prefer to text. “Employees want to be able to select what’s easiest,” says Bowley. Enterprises are calling on outsourcing service providers to help them make the move to mobile.
- Ubiquity. Enders Analysis last year estimated the number of smart phones will pass the number of PCs in use by this June. And Jamie Turner, co-author of Go Mobile, estimates there are more mobile phone subscriptions (4 billion) than toothbrushes (3.5 billion) on the planet.
- Connectivity. “Today everyone’s devices are connected. This connectivity is driving the move to mobile,” says Kane Cochran, vice president of Digital Innovation and Mobile at Findly, an on-demand talent provider. This connectivity is possible because the costs of purchasing and using a smart phone or tablet have become affordable, he adds.
- Smart phones’ power. John Schwarz, CEO of Visier, which delivers work force analysis through the cloud, points out today’s smart phones have much more capability than when they first appeared in the 1980s. “Today’s smart phones are as powerful as laptops were two generations ago,” he says.
- Demographics. For the first time, the number of millennials in the workforce now outnumbers the retiring baby boomers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80 million millennials were born between 1976 and 2001. This year the government agency states they will make up 36 percent of the US workforce.
Have you seen anyone in this generation without a mobile phone? Technology is second nature to them. “Millennials expect mobile technology. They want to work anywhere, everywhere,” says Bowley of Peoplefluent.
- Executive acceptance. It’s not just millennials who have embraced mobility. Schwarz of Visier observes “executives are leaving their laptops behind and carrying their tablets. Executives don’t spend all their time in their offices. Mobility gives them instant access to the information they need to make decisions. They have everything at their fingertips anywhere.”
- Untethering. “Today people do more and more on their smart phones and tablets,” says Bowley of Peoplefluent. “People are breaking free from their PCs and Macs: becoming untethered. That’s because more and more work will happen in mobile teams outside static cubicles.”
All these factors make a mobile-enabled HR solution a necessity today.
What is HR using mobile for?
What are HR departments using their mobile apps and optimized sites for? That answer is easy: Everything. Cochran of Findly says enterprises are using mobile technology “for the full HR life cycle.” But he says the most-used mobile option is for job search. Beyond.com reports 77 percent of job seekers now use mobile job search apps.
Findly’s mobile solution lets job-seekers log in directly or through social media. The solution then suggests jobs based on the application’s social profile on places like LinkedIn and Facebook.
But other areas of HR work well with mobile, too. One is performance reviews, notes Schwarz of Visier. For example, once the manager has entered the data into a performance app, the employee can go in and instantly know if his or her performance is in line or out-of-bounds based on the company’s performance data.
The Visier CEO also mentions that several suppliers provide the ability to complete spot surveys. Companies typically perform them every six months and ask 30 or more questions. “Few people can remember what really happened in the past. Mobile technology allows users to complete spot surveys that ask only one question based on what just happened,” Schwarz says.
He adds surveys can be specific to just one employee. “You get much more accurate feedback over time this way,” he says.
Another use is workforce optimization. Schwarz says survey information is just one of the data sources HR can leverage using analytics and planning solutions. For example, with Visier users can share every visual, be it a complete dashboard or a single chart, as a link to an iPad, an online interactive presentation or a PowerPoint slideshow.
HR is also using mobile for training, according Bowley of Peoplefluent. He notes some employees in foreign countries don’t own PCs. But everyone has a mobile phone. “When you deliver learning programs on a mobile phone, you can reach people you couldn’t reach before,” he says.
Mobile’s many advantages
The outsourcing providers interviewed listed five advantages to adding mobile to the HR mix:
- Increases productivity. Bowley says mobile increases productivity by making HR “omnipresent.” He predicts increased productivity through mobile use will be the primary enterprise goal in the next 24 months.
For example, a manager can open the app and see the budget from anywhere. “You get better decision-making capabilities on the spot,” he says.
- Builds brand trust sooner. Greg Rokos, CEO and founder of GreenJobInterview, a virtual interviewing solutions provider, says mobile, linked with video, “builds brand way sooner than paper alternatives.”
- Expands the candidate pool. Cochran of Findly says candidates who search for jobs on their phones on a non-mobile-friendly site (not responsive) tend to get frustrated and move on. “We’re not so sure they will come back,” he says. “Having a responsive site helps employers not miss out on good candidates.”
- Adds simplicity. Employees can document events right there; they can click on an app instead of logging into the HR system.
- Creates community. Mobile technology certainly has a social component. “You can learn more about your colleagues or create new systems of engagement that are part of your corporate culture,” says Bowley of Peoplefluent. “Mobile use increases bottom-up communication by giving employees a voice on a platform they use every day.”
And that’s the key: HR is finding a way to create a friendly dialogue on a device today’s employees would never leave home without. Just as important, Rokos of GreenJobInterview says mobile “is fundamentally changing a workforce badly in need of reform.”