Managing small business HR with technology

A human resources manager shaking hands with a recruit in an office environment

There's no question that technology continues to reshape the way we work, and human resources (HR) departments are by no means untouched.

HR processes often dictate your business's first impression on a prospective employee.

They determine whether the application process is smooth or awkward, and from onboarding to payroll, they can make or break employee experience, something that can have a significant bearing on overall business success.

But when it comes to choosing the best tech for HR, especially in a small business, there's a lot to unpack.

In this article, we explore the benefits of tech in HR, some of the providers on the market, and the key elements to think about when choosing your HR tech strategy.

Why is technology important for managing HR?

According to a report from SmartRecruiters, 77% of Australian talent leaders cite 'talent acquisition, retention and re-skilling' as one of their top challenges for 2023. They're seeking new, efficient and innovative ways to help them manage that challenge. Tech solutions can help improve every stage of the employee journey, the report notes.

It can relate to the ease of submitting a CV, the timeliness of updates, completion of paperwork, onboarding, and much more. A slow and friction-full process could genuinely be the difference between superstar employees joining your business or finding work elsewhere first.

For existing employees, technology can also facilitate good experiences, helping to reduce staff turnover and ultimately boosting the bottom line.

Small businesses in particular are more likely to have small HR teams, and fewer specialist staff. Technology can make HR management more efficient, and help fill gaps in the skill sets of small teams, as well as automating manual tasks, and offering reminders for important deadlines.

Things like being able to view all employee data in one dashboard can help offer insights into the make-up of a business. Tech can also give employees autonomy when requesting time off or checking benefit allowances, or provide judgement-free ways to raise any issues.

Finally, with many HR software solutions being cloud-based, tech can allow for flexibility and easy communication across a distributed workforce.

How can technology help when managing HR?

There are many ways technology can support HR teams, particularly in small businesses. Research from Software Advice found 72% of Australian small businesses use software of some kind for HR.

Of those, 81% said they use software for payroll. About half (53%) use software to track hours, sick days and holidays, and 40% use software to manage their workforce.

Others employ more specialist use cases such as rescheduling shifts (37%) or managing health insurance and workers' benefits (29%).

Some of the key areas in which HR technology can be beneficial include:

Recruitment

There are various tech tools that support businesses in advertising vacant roles, keeping track of applicants, and moving through the interview, contract signing and onboarding process.

Generally, these promise to reduce time spent on manual tasks, but they can also reduce bias in the hiring process, which can in turn lead to more diverse teams - something that has been linked to improved performance.

Tech-enabled recruitment tools can also help small businesses compete with larger enterprises to secure the best talent. Tech can not only help get them in front of prospective employees, but it can also prove they're innovative and value their workforce.

Payroll and leave management

One of the most common uses of technology in HR is around payroll and management of leave entitlements, including annual leave, sick leave and carers' leave.

These tools offer full transparency to employees, and make it easy to request and approve time off. In many cases, employees can also quickly access salary information and pay history, which can be especially helpful around tax time.

These processes become more convenient for employees and HR teams alike, while significantly reducing time spent on manual tasks. Empowering employees in this way can go a long way towards engagement and wellbeing.

Many of these options also allow digital expenses claims, streamlining what can often be a tedious task for employees, managers and HR teams alike.

People management

Technology can play a role in employee management, including anything from scheduling regular one-to-ones to tracking attendance and employee sign-ins.

This can help improve communication with employees and create a culture of transparency, both of which, again, improve employee wellbeing.

Employee engagement

Finally, there are several tech tools available that can support employee development, engagement, and experience, ultimately boosting company culture.

These include learning management and development tools, engagement survey platforms, and tools to foster connection across a distributed workforce. All of these can strengthen employee retention rates, which has been shown to contribute to stronger financial results.

Choosing the right HR technology for your small business

There are many, many HR technology providers in the market, so business owners should weigh up their options carefully before committing.

First, consider the size of your HR team, and your main HR priorities. What are the most significant challenges you're trying to solve?

If you have just one person managing HR (and perhaps that's not even their full-time job) you may want to consider an all-in-one Human Resource Information System (HRIS) that combines all your primary needs.

Or, if you have a small HR team but are looking to improve efficiency and employee engagement, you might engage one tool to manage payroll and leave, and another dedicated to improving employee engagement.

Other considerations include:

Business size

Consider the number of employees you have now, and how many you may have in the future. Is it important for a solution to scale as your business grows?

Equally, some solutions may be better suited than others to a distributed workforce.

System integration

If you already have some HR tech, or any other software, consider which options can easily be integrated into your current systems - or whether you're prepared for a full technology overhaul.

Pricing

Different solutions have different pricing systems. Some offer different plans tailored to different business sizes, while others might offer a price-per-employee model, or even a free basic product, with paid extras available on top.

Consider what offers the best return-on-investment today, and what will continue to be of best value as your business grows.

Team input

It can never hurt to ask your team for their opinions. Asking what's important to them, or even seeking recommendations, could unearth factors you hadn't previously considered.

Research

Similarly, do your research before making any decisions - that can include reading reviews and testimonials, asking around your network for advice, and contacting service providers to get a better sense of what they're offering.

Security

Quiz any potential suppliers on data security, including asking where your employees' personal data will be held, and how it's protected. The same goes for meeting any other compliance or regulatory obligations.

Training and support

Consider whether a provider offers any training or ongoing support. This can help your business get the very best value out of a HR tech solution.

Evaluation

Finally, once you have made a decision and implemented your technology solution, regularly review how it is working for your business and the value you're getting.

If something doesn't feel right, reach out to your provider for support, or consider changing things up altogether.

Australia and New Zealand's key HR tech providers

Taking all of the above into account, there is no one HR tech solution that will be perfect for every small business. However, here are some examples of Australia and New Zealand-based HR technology providers that might be suitable, depending on your priorities.

Recruitment: HROnboard

HROnboard is designed to create a fast and seamless onboarding process, and to ensure that vacant roles are filled as quickly as possible - while also creating a positive experience for candidates, even if they don't get the job.

Owned by Australian HR-tech giant ELMO, it can also be easily integrated with payroll, performance and learning management capabilities.

Payroll: Xero Payroll

Xero’s payroll solution automates payroll - and ensures compliance - while automating tax and superannuation calculations, and sharing information with employees via a secure, individual portal. It also has built-in timesheets and leave management solutions.

Again, the tool can be integrated with Xero's other small business accounting solutions, and is designed to be scalable - adapting to an employer's needs as their business grows.

Learning management: Go1

Local startup Go1 allows businesses to offer upskilling for employees, helping keep team members engaged - and therefore happy and productive in their roles.

Solutions tailored to small and medium-sized businesses can include education in anything from compliance to programming to management training, and include access to data on learning activity and engagement.

People management: CultureAmp

CultureAmp's performance management tool* provides a route for ongoing growth conversations between managers and their direct reports, while minimising tension and helping build trusting relationships.

Features include digital check-ins, shared tracking of goals, and leadership skills coaching, all designed to contribute to a happy and high-performing workforce.

How to get HR technology right, without overpaying

Keep an eye out for benefits or tax incentives available to small businesses investing in technology.

For example, in the 2022-23 Federal Budget, the Albanese government announced the Small Business Technology Investment Boost. This scheme allows businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million to deduct an additional 20% of the cost of digitising business operations.

This scheme applies to investments made before June 30, 2023. However, rumours suggest it may be extended for businesses with turnover of less than $10 million.

Also announced in the Federal Budget, the Small Business Skills and Training Boost offers an additional 20% tax deduction on the cost of eligible training courses. This applies to costs incurred between March 29, 2022 and June 30, 2024.

To get the best out of your investment, it can help to have a robust HR tech strategy in place, ensuring that your HR tech goals are aligned with your broader business goals.

This can also help your business use tech as efficiently as possible - for example, by avoiding paying for two platforms with overlapping functions.

Leveraging Brother products for HR technology

Good technology for HR isn’t limited to software. Brother’s hardware products can play a role in streamlining HR processes for employers and employees alike.

Brother's ADS-4900W scanner, for example, allows documents to be securely uploaded to the cloud, with software integration and optical character recognition (OCR) designed to reduce time spent on paperwork for managers, HR teams and employees.

Smart scanning systems can also be utilised for scanning receipts and filing expenses claims, making these processes quicker and more efficient, and getting claims paid fast.

Elsewhere, tools like the Brother Mobile Connect app can help HR teams support a distributed workforce, boosting productivity and keeping workers connected. This handy app enables hybrid and remote workers to print directly from their smartphones, and is compatible with an array of cloud storage systems, like Dropbox and Google Drive.

Brother's range of connected systems are designed to improve workflows while removing the hassle of integrating new devices into existing digital ecosystems. From portable label printers to scanners to managed print services (MPS), Brother's tech solutions can help improve employee experience and therefore reduce staff turnover.

The last word on HR tech for small business

There is no shortage of HR tech solutions out there, and the right option will depend on your individual business, taking size, structure, industry and growth goals into account.

HR tech can boost efficiency and productivity, and improve employee experience, ultimately saving businesses time and money.

So, especially among small businesses, it will be those that choose HR tech carefully (and use it wisely) that will enjoy a competitive advantage.

Brother has a range of products and tech solutions designed to support productivity for SMEs. Contact us today to learn more about how Brother's solutions can support your business goals.

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