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Avoid These Hurdles to Adopting HR Mobile Apps

October 3, 2010
Related Topics: Future Workplace, Internet

Integrating mobile applications into your existing human resources technology isn’t as easy as downloading a free program from the online app store and letting employees run with it.

While the app itself may be free, it’s far from a no-cost proposition, according to industry analysts and company executives who have been through the process.

Companies must decide how they’ll secure corporate data on mobile devices and integrate mobile apps with existing HR information technology infrastructure. If they’re thinking of developing their own app, they must select an outside contractor to work with.

If you’re getting ready to bring mobile apps into your HR department, here are some of the obstacles you could encounter as well as suggestions from HR executives, consultants, analysts and vendors on how to overcome them:

There are only so many things that people are willing to do on their mobile phones. Programs such as applicant-tracking systems can be demanding on users, requiring job candidates to enter multiple pages of data. But that is something many people simply aren’t willing to do on their cell phones. When AT&T designed its careers app, the company solved the problem by allowing job seekers to e-mail themselves positions they were interested in and then apply later from a laptop or desktop computer. “We also give them a ‘stay in touch’ option,” says Carrie Corbin, AT&T Inc.’s talent attraction associate managerdirector, “where they enter a few pieces of information such as e-mail, phone, ZIP code and job category of interest. That allows us to send communications to them as new openings come up that match their needs.”

Free isn’t really free. Many vendors don’t charge for apps. But that’s not the sweet deal it sounds like because you’ll likely pay in some form or another. In some instances, you can get the free app only if you are an existing customer for a vendor’s software-as-a-service talent management, workforce management or training program. Then there are the BlackBerrys, iPhones or Droids that employees need to make those apps work should you choose to foot the bill rather than have employees use their own devices.

Security is an issue. Companies already worried about data breaches aren’t keen on loading even more sensitive information on pocket-sized devices that can be easily lost or stolen. HR information technology advisor Steve Bogner, managing partner at Insight Consulting Partners in Cincinnati, is working with a large U.S.-based multinational firm that deals with security concerns by hosting employee data in Europe where privacy laws are stricter. Aberdeen HR technology senior research analyst Mollie Lombardi says companies needn’t worry too much if they already use technology that lets them limit access to or erase data should a smartphone disappear..

IT departments have limited capacity to take on new projects, so getting IT’s buy-in from the start is critical. Before National Instruments Corp.’s university recruiting manager Roxanne Green agreed to team up with Peopleclick Authoria on a careers app, she had to make sure her company’s IT department had enough time to devote to the project. It doesn’t surprise her that other companies are holding out on apps because of lack of HR or IT resources. When it comes to spending, “We have to prioritize constantly,” she says.

Off-the-shelf apps don’t always do everything you want them to. Some—but not all—vendors will customize mobile software to meet your needs. At the Seattle Film Festival, HR coordinator Monica Hinckley didn’t want volunteers’ hours tracked by the shifts they signed up for because that wouldn’t take into account no-shows. At her request, Shiftboard, which developed the shift-scheduling app she uses, added a timecard feature that tracks hours worked. “That right there eliminated a position because we spent a lot of time entering that data,” Hinckley says.

Workforce Management Online, September 2010 -- Register Now!

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