HR software applications are going mobile. In recent weeks, software vendors including Taleo, Kronos and Saba have talked up new versions of their products that can run on or connect with iPhones, BlackBerrys and the like. The ability to recruit, schedule and train employees via mobile devices promises to help firms in an era when people are increasingly obsessed with hand-held gadgets and are often on the go. But could mobile access be more hype than hard-nosed business necessity? The answer lies somewhere in between those extremes, says Lisa Rowan, analyst with research firm IDC. Rowan says it makes sense for managers to be able to do a number of talent-related tasks from a mobile device, like approve requests. But, she says, “the vendor community is getting out a little bit ahead of the demand on the mobile front.” Americans are snapping up smart phones that can run sophisticated applications at a rapid rate. The number of U.S. mobile phone subscribers with a smart phone grew 63 percent during the past year to 33.8 million in August, according to market research firm comScore. Such growth is why some HR industry leaders see mobile HR applications as vital. Business services provider Sodexo is designing a mobile version of its careers Web site and working with vendor Jobs2Web to enable jobs to be searched using a mobile device, says Arie Ball, vice president of sourcing and talent acquisition for Sodexo's North American operations. “We will likely drive traffic to the site using SMS/TXT message campaigns,” Ball says. Seeking to serve customers like Sodexo, a chorus of HR software vendors have recently touted mobile features. In September, recruiting software maker Taleo showed off a prototype iPhone application that acts as a mobile career site. Taleo said its vision is to enable candidates to review online jobs, communicate with hiring managers easily and track application status. Rival Kenexa in October announced improved support for mobile devices. The recruiting software maker said upcoming candidate-side features include the ability to view available positions at a company's career site and apply for jobs and submit cover letters with a click. Also in October, Saba said its Saba Centra suite of online learning and webconferencing products will be accessible via iPhones early next year. iPhone users will be able to view any content that is being shared, whether a presentation, application or the presenter's desktop, Saba said. In the next release of Kronos' workforce management software due early next year, Kronos expects to have a feature that can automatically alert workers to open shifts with a text message to their mobile devices. Employees can try to snag the shift with a text response. “We're getting feedback that we have to make mobile technology our friend,” Kronos CEO Aron Ain says. But Donna Flagg, president of HR consulting firm The Krysalis Group, warns against going too far with the devices, trying to do things like study résumés. “The quality of the information is compromised on those tiny little things,” Flagg says. Workforce Management, November 16, 2009, p. 1 and 3 -- Subscribe Now!