Payroll, HR on the go

HR’s reach expands with greater options for employees using their mobile devices
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/18/2013

When it comes to HR, services and applications available through mobile devices are definitely having an impact, according to Lauralee Guthrie, digital and social media director at Randstad Canada in Toronto.

“Mobile applications are one of the largest growing opportunities, from a professional perspective, that businesses are using today,” she says.

Employees hate filling out paperwork so online and mobile options make life that much easier, and most companies want employees to be more autonomous, says Guthrie, adding Randstad is moving to a mobile system to supplement its online options.

“We just like to make it as easy as possible, especially when we have such a mobile workforce.”

It’s a really exciting time for human resources and payroll professionals, along with managers and employees, who can take advantage of mobile options to perform many tasks, according to Shelley Ng, vice-president of product management at Ceridian Canada in Markham, Ont.

“Things like HR transactions, reports, processing payroll or, for employees, viewing pay statements and even getting access to health and wellness and employee assistance program resources… this is just going to continue to expand.”

As society collectively moves forward, self-service type functionality is moving to consumer devices, according to James Arsenault, manager of strategy consulting at Ceridian HCM in Toronto.

“We’re not looking to reinvent how you schedule or how you do your day-to-day payroll administration because you’re going to be wanting to use a business system at work for that anyway,” he says.

“But all of the consumer-type interactions — very transactional stuff like requesting time off or checking information or changing HR information, submitting forms — all that kind of thing, that’s going to progressively push out to consumer devices.”

But mobile applications have their limits, according to David McIninch, vice-president of marketing at ADP in Toronto.

“If you ever try to recreate your traditional web experience on a mobile phone, you’d find very dissatisfied clients and users. Obviously mobile phones or smartphones, by virtue of their size and how we use them, will drive very specific use cases for mobile HR and payroll,” he says.

“It’s the core critical tasks you can get to in a certain number of movements that are going to be your key development priorities for mobile. So you probably won’t see a lot of people running full-blown performance management processes on a mobile phone.”

Who is using it?

When it comes to mobile payroll applications, there’s probably more functionality for hourly employees, such as those in retail, manufacturing or hospitality, according to Arsenault.

“They deal with more data transactions insofar as they’re providing time and attendance and leave data daily, as opposed to a salaried employee who has very little interaction with the HR system, except for when there’s a change to their core work and life information.”

General contract labour out in the field or high-end IT contractors who prefer to work on contract with specific companies and flexible schedules are also good examples, says Guthrie.

“They’re really used to using technology and they’re often on-site with clients, so they love the ability to quickly enter the time with the client right after the meeting. It makes everything so much more efficient… right away it can basically be pushed to the manager, the manager can approve that time and then it speeds up the entire process. And they can get paid earlier as well if there’s that automation.”

Mobile apps are also popular with smaller employers or business owner and operators, who are often on the road and need the flexibility, says Ng.

“If they’re off-site, they can either do their full payroll processing or if they have someone back in the office doing entry of time or whatever, then they can at least approve it while they’re on the road, without being tied to a desk.”

And this technology is not just for younger employees, says McIninch.

“People talk about some of the generational gaps but, really, the vast majority of Canadians are pretty adept smartphone users, regardless of what age category they’re in or what cohort they belong to, and there’s an expectation now in the marketplace that information is readily available ‘at my fingertips, on my phone.’”

What’s available?

On the payroll side, ADP Mobile Solutions allow employees to access pay statements along with entering timesheets, punching in and out and sending late arrival notifications. Employees can also access an online portal to view information from their HR department.

It’s about payroll managers and practitioners continually ascribing things they normally ascribe self-service functionality to, such as T4s or pay statements, in real time, which reduces the workload for payroll and HR, says McIninch.

Geo-location capability also allows employers to ensure employees are truly punching in or out at work.

“It provides the employer with a certain amount of confidence that it’s very difficult to do buddy punching or anything else as a consequence,” he says.

Randstad is working on a system where it can send text messages to pre-screened candidates about large projects that require quick staffing, says Guthrie. Ideally, these kinds of options would link back to areas such as payroll, so the person would automatically be informed of the location and start time of the job.

“There’s a lot of different systems and, in an ideal world, you want all those systems to speak to each other, so it ties back to an essential database,” she says.

It’s not just about collecting the data but managing the data to generate good insights, says Guthrie. For example, a system can see trends or upswings or downswings in demand and let employers know in advance what to expect and how to better prepare. Businesses can also take advantage of mobile options to quickly track if they’re over or under budget for a project, she says.

Retailer Aeropostale is one employer using Ceridian’s Dayforce HCM system and mobile applications. Its roughly 30,000 employees in North America can log in, request time off, check their schedules, review their time as per clock punches, check messages and alerts generated by the system and view pay stubs online.

“From the location manager perspective, this is providing an alternative to post-it notes and bulletin board-based systems, which we all know are pretty fallible, particularly when your primary workforce is in high school,” says Arsenault.

“To provide something like an audit trail and complete automation makes it much easier for location managers to understand whether or not they have the quality of floor coverage they need to have a successful day in terms of sales and then finally, from the company perspective… they now have a reliable means of communication to reach employees.”

And with GPS-enabled mobile punching, employers can ensure workers are at actual company locations.

“It saves on the cost of time- clock hardware and also solves the issue of people punching from home,” says Arsenault.

Through Ceridian’s Powerpay Mobile app, payroll administrators can manage payroll from start to finish, in paying employees, adding new ones and reviewing online reports. They can also conduct rapid or regular time entry with employee search, edit profiles, perform status changes with records of employments (ROEs), view deductions and contributions, and manage advanced job costing.

Managers are also using the mobile app as an approval technique or tool, says Craig Wild, product manager for Powerpay and epost at Ceridian Canada in Winnipeg. They can enter information on the web and then follow up on a mobile device, making for a seamless process between applications.

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