Human resources management software

If you’re looking to reduce administrative complexity, increase employee service levels and reduce turnover, human resources management software (HRMS) could be for you. Even if you only have a dozen or so employees you likely have the same HR challenges as your larger counterparts, but you generally don’t require the same level of sophistication in a software package (or have the resources to pay for it).

HRMS can help HR managers do their jobs better by centralizing employee information, providing reports and sending reminders for probationary reviews, performance reviews, benefits eligibility, even birthdays or anniversaries. But if you think your only options are an Excel spreadsheet or a $10,000 piece of software, you’ll be relieved to know there are HRMS solutions designed specifically for SMBs priced at less than $1,000.

When Rochelle Silva started her job as HR manager for Reconnect Mental Health Services in Etobicoke, Ont., she felt it was important to provide the organization with useful information about its 45 employees (now 48), so she started looking for an HRMS solution. “At that point everything was all documented by paper,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It just really limited access, and any tracking or retrieval was much more difficult.”

It was challenging, however, to find a system that was appropriate for a smaller organization, since many HRMS solutions are geared toward larger enterprises. Though they have sophisticated analytics and reporting tools, they’re also expensive. “Unfortunately, our organization is not able to spend $30,000 on software,” says Silva.

With a little more digging, she uncovered some possibilities for smaller-sized organizations, and in October Reconnect rolled out SimpleHR from Cornerstone Sales Group at a cost of about $500. Initially, implementing HRMS can be an immense amount of work since each employee profile has to be entered manually, she says, so SMBs should get started on this sooner rather than later.

Start by figuring out what you want from the software. Are you looking for basic tracking or do you require more advanced capabilities for, say, your sales force? If your company is growing or has sophisticated requirements, you may want to consider a higher-end solution from a Tier 1 vendor, or even have a custom solution tailored to your specifications.

Reconnect has a customized database for clinical work and though Silva considered customizing an HRMS solution, she decided the money was better spent on an off-the-shelf solution.

Be realistic about your budget and look at systems in your range, says Norman Williams, general manager of Cornerstone Sales Group in Toronto. Since HR/payroll/benefits personnel aren’t necessarily IT experts, the system should also be easy to use. Look for tools that integrate into your current environment so you don’t have to spend too much time training people (though there will likely be some basic training required).

If possible, download a trial version of the software to make sure it suits your requirements (a free trial version of SimpleHR, for example, can be downloaded from the company’s Web site). Make sure it has some good sample data in it (preferably Canadian) and that it covers all standard tasks. In addition, does it allow you to track absenteeism, vacations, bereavement and sick leaves? Does it calculate those automatically based on years of service? Make sure you invest in a system that does the work for you, instead of providing a pretty Word document that’s going to make you do all the work. Look for lots of pre-built reports — about 50 to 60 to start off with, recommends Williams — otherwise you could end up building them with a complicated report-writing tool. It should also be able to track multiple locations.

Employee self-service capabilities can help reduce administrative complexity, but this doesn’t mean you should fire your HR manager. If employees are spending a lot of time juggling their benefits, this could cut into valuable work time. You shouldn’t see this as a way to simply outsource your HR department, says Joel Martin, vice-president of enterprise software with IDC Canada in Toronto. Rather, it can make an HR manager’s job easier.

Ultimately the applications you look for — which include recruiting, incentive management, HR performance management and workforce management — will depend on your size, industry and business model. If you’re in a mobile industry, for example, scheduling tools might be an important feature in an HRMS solution. As your company grows and as services become more complex, you may require additional functionality or a more customized solution.

When determining which applications are most important to your company, consider your greatest expense. “Quite often your people are the most expensive thing to the company’s bottom line,” says Martin, “so it’s all about being smart about how you use that very expensive asset.”

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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