HR solutions not ready for Mobile Workforces.

Charlotte Nicol
Published on 20th January 2013
3 min read

Mobile Technology – IT stands in the way of Innovation….again?!

This has been the year of HR technology.  At least that’s what the investors who spent over $5bn on the recent Workday IPO, and the buyouts of Successfactors by SAP and Taleo by Oracle think. All have validated the SaaS delivery model of HR in the cloud and become a somewhat prerequisite to success.  Many believe future mobile HR solutions will harness the cloud’s capabilities and give birth to the ‘modern mobile workforce’.  Now, it seems the only thing standing in the way of mobile success is the lack of standards within an organisation’s departments.

Many of the issues stem from ingrained fears over security and employee trust – how secure is data if an employee loses their device? Will personal information be kept safe?  Whatever the fears may be the HR department must begin to work closely with IT if they are to make mobile work for them.  As SaaS HR and mobile device usage increases the HR function will be able to go further; to each employee, team member and team manager.

Input HR

‘Old HR’ has two major characteristics. The first is as a centralised department which manages all the HR administration, personnel records, holiday and absence monitoring, time and attendance, workforce planning etc. Traditionally the employee had no direct input into these systems, submit this via email or paperwork which would loop through their manager before landing in the HR department for manual input into legacy systems.  This made the HR department little more than admin with no opportunity to turn the information into anything strategic for the business.  Secondly, employees at all levels within the company had no real input into the HR process other than having to fill in details every now and then.  Shockingly even the ‘strategic performance review’ was most frequently a paper based exercise and usually once a year.

Old HR does not work for a growing business in today’s economy, offering employees no direct input and therefore no way of seeing how they compare to peers, monitor career progression or even simply seeing who else was away in their team when they want time off.  Unsurprisingly pressure has increased on the HR department to become more strategic, and thus we witness the rise of ‘New HR’.

Output HR

Again ‘New HR’ has two major characteristics.  The first is a new ‘single system’ covering all of the aspects from recruitment through to HR and performance management, benefits administration and all of the aspects covered by Old HR. The second and most noticeable difference is the administration work has almost all but disappeared.  The HR department is no longer the place where email trails, paper based forms and timesheets, usually within excel, go to be processed, recorded and filed. Most of this time consuming work is now fully automated.

These two characteristics now mean the HR Function has been evenly spread amongst the organisation to people who understand their role better than an out of touch HR department busying itself with data input.  Now the new owners, (often team managers) are taking more of an interest in how to optimise team performance and use this to their advantage.  As performance management becomes ‘social’ performance management, a team manager can set goals and score them as they are completed, other team members can also take part using parameters set by managers in the most effective way for their teams.

All of this does not mean the HR department does not have a role to play. The old owners are in fact revelling in the change.  They have lost the drudgery of input HR and are now sitting on top of a huge pile of strategic information they can use easily and effectively for company wide goals.

Input + Output = Mobility

So where does ‘mobility’ come in?  Again let us break this into two major characteristics.  Firstly it will remove the ‘techno-fear’ from almost every employee. They can now use mobile devices to communicate with each other, share pictures, ideas and files without having to ask for help or reach for a manual.  Secondly an organisation won’t feel a loss of control as employees find their own way around technical problems or the obstacles raised by a modern mobile work pattern.

As the HR department embraces the enablement of mobile applications it will increasingly see its functionality develop with mobile in mind.  Email, calendars, document editing, as well as time and attendance, expense reporting, employee directory, training, and even some talent management could be at the palm of our hands. The idea that companies will buy standalone mobile HR applications does not make sense – because today these mobile devices are a “single platform.”

Just like Marketing

And this has already happened.  Take the rise of allowing marketing department looked to bypass IT to find a solution which fulfilled its needs. was cloud based, delivered as a service (SaaS) and cost effective.  More importantly it did not need the technical skills of the IT department to implement and the results spoke for themselves.

As the industry grows and technology advances, our employees will increasingly expect all HR applications to be delivered via mobile.  To make this succeed you need one platform in which to deliver it, one database in which to make use of the increased information, data which comes as a result of more interaction with key HR functions and one portal to measure your success, objectives and challenges.  Technology can make this happen it just needs IT to catch up.


Browse more topics from this article

Press Releases

You're losing the war for talent