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October 22, 2017

Mobile Solutions in Human Capital Management

Look around wherever you are, and you’re likely to see people glued to their smartphones. In fact, your phone is probably sitting on your desk or in your pocket right now. We are living in a connected world and expect information and services to be delivered on demand in a mobile-friendly format. Human resources is no exception as the workforce is already turning to mobile solutions. A recent study by ADP found that 37 percent of mobile users rely on their smartphones to access pay information through the HR app. This number will continue to grow and represents a tremendous opportunity.


Human capital management (HCM), however, is at a crossroads with the digital economy. Leaders are struggling to create a strategy to maximize new technology that seems to push the envelope every day. In its annual “digital pulse” survey of more than 2,000 C-level executives, Russell Reynolds Associates found that human resources’ digital strategy was the least able to help businesses transform. HR was rated lower than IT, finance, line of business operations, sales, and R&D.

A Shifting Mobile Strategy

Closing this strategic gap is more imperative than ever with the continued growth of mobile technology. Mobile phones are more powerful and faster than ever before and have transformed how we interact with content. This trend will not slow down anytime soon. By 2020, there could be nearly 21 billion connected devices. In addition, in 2015, the millennial generation surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. Millennials are tech savvy, have had cell phones their entire lives, and cannot remember a time before the Internet. They will expect flexibility, openness, and instant connection when using enterprise solutions. Thus, HR platforms must adapt.


Ten years ago, HR systems were designed to help HR professionals—from HR management systems, applicant tracking systems to payroll and benefits, according to Josh Bersin, of Bersin by Deloitte. These applications helped streamline work and improve record keeping. Employees may have been considered the “end users,” but the systems were largely focused on HR forms. This old system is incompatible with today’s users. For example, 28 percent of Americans—including 53 percent of 18 to 29 year olds—have used a smartphone as part of a job search, according to the Pew Research Center. In addition, employees using mobile devices in their work are expected to make up 72 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2021, up from 65 percent in 2016.

Despite these trends, the HR marketplace has been slow to adopt mobile technology, but the shift is coming, according to Deloitte’s Bersin. “I believe this ongoing shift will disrupt the market and open the door for new vendors,” he wrote in his predictions for 2017. “American workers check their mobile phones approximately 8 billion times a day—in other words, that is where employees spend their time. These new applications are always-on; location-aware; and can leverage wearables, camera, and video in ways that make them useful, interesting, and entertaining. New HR technology vendors that can build compelling, mobile-by-design apps will disrupt those that can’t.”

Making Employees First

Perhaps it was no coincidence that the same year millennials became the largest generation in the work force that investors injected a collective sum of $2.4 billion into HR tech vendors. This is a 60 percent increase over the previous year. Mobile is clearly an emerging focus for HR technology innovators, and HR departments have a tremendous opportunity to connect and engage with their workforce through mobile technology.


In order to keep pace, mobile HR applications are looking to become tools for employees first. However, it’s important to not just adopt mobile for mobile’s sake. HR managers should choose tools aimed at providing value to employees and managers. A September 2014 Jibe
report helps illustrate this point. It found that 20 percent of the 1,000 job seekers surveyed said they would give up on an online job application if they couldn’t complete it on a mobile device. Yet, in spite of 70 percent of job-seekers looking to apply for a job via smartphone, only about a quarter of large companies surveyed said they had optimized their hiring process for mobile devices. These persistent gaps in mobile technology strategy emphasize great opportunity for companies willing to take chances.

Most newer HR systems are starting to be integrated with mobile capabilities as the demand grows. These apps cover everything from training to recruitment tracking to performance management, learning, and scheduling. In regards to performance management, for example, mobile is a perfect platform for managers to give quick, real-time feedback to employees rather than waiting for an annual review. Mobile can also enhance learning and training by using rich multimedia regardless of an employee’s location. HR systems can take advantage of mobile phones’ seemingly limitless growth in processing speed and data streaming. This means YouTube, Skype, and other video streaming services are accessible and affordable tools for both communication and remote training.


It is important to note that people will only use applications if they make an improvement in their day-to-day lives. In addition, the mobile approach will require a different architecture than traditional PC-based applications, as mobile apps create a personal and intimate experience. Swiping, pinching, and speaking directly to our phones have become second nature for many people. In his report, Bersin points to the mobile experience centering on mobile messaging, information apps, games, and tools. Mobile apps should be simple and easy to use, so that users can swipe and flip, rather than tab and scroll. Effective mobile apps also benefit from being social, using location data, and taking advantage of different services.

The bottom line is that mobile technology has already disrupted the market. In enterprise, it is quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception. Mobile phones are ubiquitous and there is a critical mass of users comfortable using mobile platforms in everyday life. Migrating HR services from desktops to apps is the natural next step for HR as mobile is becoming the preferred choice of employees. Businesses, and HR departments focused on delivering innovative HCM, must meet the employees and consumers in the mobile space or risk being left behind.

Learn more about Mobile Solutions in HCM, in this white paper from our partner, Infinity Software Solutions.
Mobile Solutions in Human Capital Management: The Future is Now

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