First there was the Internet—then social media—and, most recently, mobile technology that has spawned the development of a wide array of applications that do everything from entertain to educate to aid businesses and business professionals in doing their jobs.
The human resource department is a prime beneficiary of the perks and opportunities these online tools provide. With responsibilities running the gamut from recruitment and hiring, to benefit administration, to compliance, to training—and more—HR professionals are notoriously strapped for time.
“For the longest time HR has operated in silos,” says Steve Swanston, executive vice president of CUES Supplier member CU People, Inc., Sugar Land, Texas. The silos, he says, have traditionally been payroll, benefits and HR administration. But, over the years, things have changed—prompted he says, primarily, by the economic downturn and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“The major economic downturn forced everybody into a very extensive overview of their organizational structure which, unfortunately, as we all know, resulted in a lot of organizations—credit unions included—needing to do more with less.” The process of scaling back led many to turn to new ways of managing processes, often through the use of technology.
This scaling back, he says, also resulted in integration between the traditional silos—forcing payroll to become integrated with benefits and forcing benefits to become integrated with HR administration, essentially bringing all three of these tactical functions together in a more strategic way. That consolidation has led to new and different ways of doing work and new and different ways of tracking that work, with technology serving as an important, and foundational, backdrop to aid in getting things done.
From the Big and Mighty ... To the Small Yet Powerful
Traditionally, HR technology has been big, and often expensive. Human resource information systems have been around for some time and represent the “big gorilla” when it comes to tools that can make the HR professional’s life easier.
“In theory what an HRIS does is consolidate all of those moving parts and all of those different platforms and puts them into one employee-management repository,” says Swanston. “It can run payroll, it can manage benefits, it can manage time and attendance, it can manage performance management—and it’s all interrelated inside of one system,” he explains.
While these systems have, historically, been accessible from a cost standpoint for only the largest organizations, the emergence of Web 2.0 and the cloud have had a significant impact on cost, says Swanston, making HRIS accessible for smaller CUs that can now pay based on number
of users. “We have credit unions that are right around 20 users using full-blown HRIS,” he says.
Of course, despite the power and proliferation of HRIS, there are other HR tasks these systems may not drive. For these, and others who simply don’t need that kind of horsepower, an abundance of no-cost, low-cost tools are available.
The sheer numbers of tools and apps cover a wide range of functionalities. In fact, there are so many options available that simply determining which to use—and keeping up with a continuing stream of new releases—can be challenging.
“There are a lot of free resources for HR,” says Swanston, who notes that “a lot of law firms have publications and resources that can be searched and archived with HR regulations, FAQs and compliance questions. An Internet-savvy HR person can go out on the Web and find a lot of free information regarding HR or HR compliance.
The national labor and employment law firm Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP has also introduced a mobile app for iPhone and iPad, “providing a comprehensive entertaining resource for human resources professionals, in-house counsel and members of the media.” The app includes a variety of checklists and guides, including an FLSA Exemption Test, HIPAA Compliance, OSHA Inspections and Unfair Labor Practices.
Those with Android devices aren’t left out in the cold. Law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP has a beta version of an FMLA Leave app which aids HR professionals in calculating leave requests—a continually complex area of practice that has long created challenges and angst.
And this is, literally, just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, go to any search engine and enter something like “apps for benefit administration” or “apps for payroll processing” or whatever the need may be and you’ll be presented with a variety of options.
HR professionals interested in applying for, or renewing, certification through organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SPHR, PHR, GPHR) can even find mobile app exam prep tools through both the Apple and Android stores ($5.99).
HR professionals are often called upon to provide information, which can be time consuming, especially when fielding the same questions or requests over and over.
FAQs are a common form of communication used by HR to respond to questions that emerge around a wide range of issues. FAQ is an app that helps with that, providing a wide range of phrases, images, maps and diagrams that can be easily customized to create FAQs accessible from mobile devices.
Scheduling meetings can be a time-consuming activity, especially when needing to include others from outside the organization. Enter TimeTrade, an online tool that synchs with your calendar and provides you with a link to send others, who can pick a convenient time, enter their information and send you a confirmation email.
One significant innovation in online resources is MOOCs—massive open online courses. These courses, offered through providers like Coursera, offer educational opportunities, online, at no cost, from such reputable providers as Stanford University. An article earlier this year in Forbes —“How MOOCs Will Revolutionize Corporate Learning and Development”—tells how organizations like Bank of America are partnering with MOOC developers to offer training to employees, and customers.
Coursera also provides HR and training professionals with the ability to provide employees with certificates for successful completion of identified programs. Courses run the gamut from “An Introduction to Corporate Finance” (through Wharton) and “Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence” (via Case Western), to more esoteric offerings like “Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society” (through University of Pennsylvania) and “Exploring Quantum Physics” (through University of Maryland, College Park). Language courses also are offered, including Chinese, Russian, Arabic and Ukranian.
Clearly, there are a wide, wide range of opportunities for CU HR professionals to gather and share information, learn and streamline their work lives. From free to fee, from basic to advanced, from simple to detailed, chances are if you’re facing an HR-related issue there’s an app for that!
Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, is a freelance writer and human resource management and communication consultant in Chippewa Falls, Wis. She is the author of Human Resources Essentials (SHRM, 2002) and Motivating Today’s Employees (Self-Counsel Press, 2002).
How One Large Credit Union Leverages Online Tools and Apps
Kirk Nielsen, HR information systems specialist at $13 billion/390,000-member Servus Credit Union, with 2,301 full-time equivalents in Edmonton, Alberta, points to a wide range of online tools and applications used by his credit union’s HR department. There are likely to be some on this list to meet your needs too.