HR software is becoming popular among small and medium sized businesses, and rightly so, as it improves efficiency and delivers a better employer experience. 

But HR is too often seen as an administrative problem, concerned with booking leave and monitoring sickness – and whilst HR software is a great way to automate those tasks and free up people’s time – HR needs to be seen as far more than that. Witness the number of businesses where the accounts person gets lumbered with doing HR as a HR admin job.

No, HR should sit at the heart of your business with strategies for hiring, developing and retaining the right people. And no HR software system can do that. 

In this blog we talk about:

  • The virtues of using HR software.
  • The on-line or telephone advice that often accompanies HR software.
  • Why we recommend a HR consultant – a real HR Company – one that is hands-on and is an integral part of your team – rather than relying on HR software and receiving the arm’s length advice that comes alongside it.

What is HR software?

HR software makes managing people simpler and saves you (and everyone else) a lot of time. It reduces manual admin and keeps track of the tasks, data and processes involved in people management. Most HR software providers charge you a fixed fee per employee per month. For us, it’s a “no brainer” in terms of the savings you make from that investment. We personally recommend www.breathehr.com. But there are many others on the market.

At one level, HR software helps you to do the practical stuff, automating simple processes such as holiday allowance, absence tracking and working from home requests. You can also use it to set up checklists for tasks (and reminders) for onboarding and offboarding, and probation and performance reviews. It ensures that the stuff that needs to get done, gets done, and that personal and confidential information is safe and secure – on “the cloud”.

At a more sophisticated level, you can keep a track of employee development by logging performance reviews, training courses, objectives and qualifications, reminding you and your managers to hold regular one-to-ones. It also helps you turn these meetings into more meaningful conversations – by capturing and sharing notes and thoughts, ahead of the meeting, via the system between the appraisee and appraiser. This can help you focus on your employees’ career progression; a proven factor for improving employee engagement and retention.

While the HR software provides a tool, it’s certainly not a panacea. If, for example, you don’t have a process for one-to-ones, or skilled managers who can deliver effective feedback, then unfortunately, the usual, “rubbish in, rubbish out” will apply. 

What HR support can you get from HR software providers?

Many of the HR software providers offer additional – or add-on – HR advice services. 

These usually include access to HR advice over the phone, an employment law helpline, HR document templates (such as employment contracts and HR policies) and, a latest development by one company, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system to give you instant HR advice to common questions. 

Of course, these cost you extra on top of the monthly software fees.

But is this type of support really enough, or fit for purpose in today’s post-pandemic people-centric world? We think not.

Why do you need more than just reactive HR advice?

HR has traditionally been seen as that of the “toxic handlers”. Layoffs, complaints, mergers, conflicts between managers and employees, employees’ personal situations, or undesirable news.

Not anymore. Sure, difficult conversations need to be had and rules complied with. But HR is increasingly being seen – and so it should – as the key to improving your most valuable asset – your people – and with this – your business’ performance. 

This means adopting a proactive approach when it comes to HR to hire, develop and retain the right talent. Essentially, through creating and implementing a HR Strategy. For us, it’s not about being reactive – waiting for problems to happen and then ringing an advice line or typing your question into an AI system. May be this works if you’re only focussed on resolving problems, but not if it’s all about growth.

Instead, we suggest a proactive strategy, because a proactive HR strategy leads to a more engaged, productive and loyal workforce. And that means fewer problems with that time spent on delivering faster growth! It’s a virtuous circle,

It also means the use of templates (for your HR policies) are not the answer, either. Your HR strategy needs to be formed around your culture – and your policies need to reflect that culture. Never a one-size fits all!

You need more than HR advice standard, line-for-line templates; you need a HR strategy and a bespoke service delivered by a face-to-face HR Consultancy that knows your management team and culture! 

Why do you need more than just “rules”?

In our experience, many HR advisors base their decisions on rules. Of course, you need to be compliant with your policies and practices. However, our experience of telephone helplines is that they regurgitate the rules and little else. The person on the end of the phone doesn’t know you or your business. It’s mechanical. Remember, we’re dealing with people here!

If the last two years has taught us anything, it’s that all workplace issues matter. Whether it’s a pandemic, mental health concerns, or challenging new dynamics for hiring and retention, at the root of all employment matters are emotional conversations, dealing with intense feelings that employees are experiencing about their work, health, and identity. They don’t want to be treated as a number, but as an individual, and they want to feel that their employer cares about them. 

To be effective in HR these days, it’s emotional – and more so than ever. It means having HR that’s hands-on, understanding, empathetic and motivational.  More carrot and less stick! 

Being hands on and connected to your team, also means that your HR resource is close enough to spot potential issues early on, before they escalate. This helps to avoid a whole load of time, cost and stress. Contacting a HR or Employment Helpline often means that the matter is already out of control.

Why is HR Software – alongside a Real HR Company – the best combination? 

It’s called “Human Resources” for a reason – because “We are Human”. And the answers to problems are when there is human interaction and understanding of others. In our opinion, HR shouldn’t be about Helplines, Call Centres and (now) Artificial Intelligence systems. It’s about human-to-human contact and dealing with individual issues.

However, by combining the best of what Human Resources software has to offer, with a human-centric approach to HR, provides, what we believe, to be the best of both worlds. One where a unique strategy for your business can be implemented, efficiently and effectively using the latest technology.

If you’re in any doubt, maybe this final quote, again from Simon Sinek, will tip the balance;

“100% of employees are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business”.