Cut through HR paperwork

Online job boards aren't the half of it. Web-based services send the talent flocking to you—and help you keep employees happy once they've signed on.
Written by Annette Cardwell, Contributor
Online job boards aren't the half of it. Web-based services send the talent flocking to you—and help you keep employees happy once they've signed on.

You think you've got a lot to do? Your HR manager has to find talented people, hire them, train them, and ultimately keep them happy. "What we're seeing is that the role of human resources is shifting to making more strategic contributions," says Kathryn Bartol, a professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. "Technology is very helpful in allowing human resources to make a more direct bottom-line impact. Also, it's freeing up time so HR can spend more time on nonroutine kinds of problems." Bartol is currently researching the effect of technology on the human resources profession.
In the past, HR applications have been huge systems that relied on proprietary software, which put them out of reach for most small to midsize companies. But the latest Web-based offerings are less expensive, easier to set up, and available anywhere. Some of the newest HR tools are even tailored to address the needs of the smallest organizations—companies with 50 employees or fewer—which may not have a dedicated HR manager on staff.

Hunt for New Blood

The new economy's now-infamous talent war rages on, and—despite the recent spate of high-tech layoffs—finding good people is still a time-consuming task. Online recruiting is one of the best ways to reach as many candidates as possible. HR professionals are expected to increase their online recruitment spending more than 50 percent by 2004, according to Forrester Research. But they won't be paying to simply post jobs at sites like Monster.com or HotJobs.com. Job hunters report that they're often dissatisfied with the results of such job boards. Many find the quality of listings to be below average, and posting résumés at these sites didn't generate the response they were looking for, according to a recent Forrester report. Such complaints have given rise to a new breed of Web recruiting services.

These new offerings, including Hire.com, Lawson e-Recruiting Service (formerly iJob.com), and Webhire, do a lot more than standard job sites. They help employers generate job listings, broadcast those listings to top job boards, match the listings against a pool of their own registered candidates, and even prescreen qualified applicants.

Take the way Hire.com approaches recruiting. Instead of posting an ad whenever a client position becomes available, its e-recruiting program regularly culls prospects who have expressed interest in a particular company. It then builds talent pools of actively looking candidates and passive job hunters. Hire.com helps employers maintain relationships with these people, and keep tabs on their status. When an opening becomes available, employers don't have to look any farther than their own prescreened résumé pool for qualified possibilities. The service starts at around US$8,000 per month, but varies according to company size and extra services.

"We were basically trying to narrow down the people we were targeting, because we do have somewhat of a niche," says Gene Grev, HR director for Swales Aerospace, who primarily recruits engineers to work on government contracts. "Hire.com was able to meet all of our needs for building a pool of people that only we had access to, that we knew were interested in our company, and that had the skills we were looking for."

Since Swales started using Hire.com last June, the small aerospace company has grown its talent pool to 1,400 candidates. "We're not a big-name company like Lockheed or GE, so we're really happy with that," adds Grev. "Plus it gave us a real edge over our competitors. When we do proposals, we often have to say how we're going to get the people to do the work."

When it comes to filling temporary or specialized openings, companies often require even more help. Not only do they need to find qualified candidates, they need to do it quickly, and they need to make sure the appropriate parties sign off on the request. To help with the hiring process, HR managers can use Web-based tools such as those from Enthusian, a joint venture between HR consultancy Spherion and general consultancy Accenture. Enthusian's solution, called TalentAxis, aims to speed up the hiring process— replacing your company's old paper-based system with a fully automated one.

Once you hire an applicant, there's plenty of routine benefits paperwork to handle. Additionally, HR managers spend a lot of time addressing individual employee requests. Human resources management systems and employee self-service portals cut down on these administrative tasks.
"Time is shifting from handling paperwork to getting data, and having it available to be analyzed as to what that data means for the organization," says the University of Maryland's Bartol, referring to the benefits of these solutions.

NuView Systems' MyHRIS handles almost every sector of HR management, with the ultimate goal of reducing timewasters like forms processing and managing employee data. This comprehensive system is like a control panel for HR directors, letting them oversee everything from staff history and training to job postings and self-service benefits information that employees can access themselves.

Smaller companies that may not even have a full-time HR staff can rely on simpler Web-based alternatives like Simpata. It starts at just US$10 per employee for setup and an average of US$5 per employee per month after that.

Tracy Decker, human resources director for 75-person advertising service eLetter, enlisted Simpata to help her organize a chaotic new HR department. "There was an Excel spreadsheet," she says about the state of human resources management when she came aboard. "When you get to a certain size, that doesn't really work all that effectively."

Ultimately, the next step is to fully integrate these HR portals with the company intranet, making HR a key part of a company's workspace. Unfortunately, it's an elaborate solution that's still too complicated for many companies to put into place.

"The No. 1 trend from a technology perspective is the evolution of intranets into full-fledged portals," explains John Ryder, head of the technology group for the Society for Human Resource Management. "Anything you can wrap under that corporate portal is a way of tying a lot of disparate technologies together, and giving employees access to a lot of things that are now different icons on their desktops."

Companies like Abilizer are in the business of helping you do just that. Abilizer got its start offering a product called the Abilizer Life Network, a portal that lets employers offer workers perks like discount programs and internal community bulletin boards. The program's cost varies, but a 10,000-person company will pay around US$12 per employee per month. Now Abilizer is branching out by selling its base program as the foundation for customized company portals. While this option is far pricier, starting at US$250,000 for the basic technology, it can make the entire organization—not just HR—sleeker and more effective.

Step-by-step to better HR management.

Recruit on the Web.
Don't simply post openings on job boards; use e-recruitment services like Hire.com to build a strong pool of active and passive online candidates.

Simplify the hiring process.
For more complex hiring needs, such as frequent temporary help or IT contractors, use a comprehensive Web solution such as Enthusian, which helps you speed up administration.

Slash paperwork.
Automate employee requests and routine information- gathering with self-service portals like MyHRIS or Simpata.

Plug into the company intranet.
Look into the possibility of hooking your HR system into the company's main intranet to help consolidate all corporate information and help make smarter hiring decisions.

Employee referrals can be the best way to snag top talent. So don't let those referrals go in one ear and out the other.

When it comes to finding good talent, nothing beats a referral. Now Web-based services are helping companies become more proactive about finding word-of-mouth applicants.

Most companies don't have a system in place for managing employee referrals. But TeamRewards automates a business's referral system, so that even employees in remote offices can find out about internal job postings, referral status, and prize and payment information. The service starts at around US$500 per month.

PeopleBonus takes a different approach: It's a job board and referral service combined. If a job seeker secures a new position through the site, he receives a bonus worth 5 percent of his first year's salary. Applicants can boost that payback to a 10 percent bonus if they refer friends to use the site, increased in increments of 0.25 percent per referral. This strategy helps keep new blood flowing into PeopleBonus's candidate list. PeopleBonus also offers incentives for companies to use its service: You don't pay to list jobs; you pay only when you hire a candidate. Employer fees are 15 percent of a new hire's first year salary—part of which goes toward paying the job candidate's bonus.

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