Onboarding employees, managing payroll, conducting equity analysis, distributing benefits — HR leaders have a lot on their plates. Plus, the responsibility for company culture falls on their shoulders. At a growing tech company, the day-to-day is ever-changing too.
Jonathan Row said his journey into HR happened by chance. As the director of people at Santa Monica-based licensing tech company Brainbase, he now manages the entire HR department and oversees the entire employee lifecycle. His days are filled to the brim with compliance management, employee training, recruiting and onboarding. It’s a ton of information to keep organized, but having a toolkit of HR specific technology at his disposal makes his job a lot easier and lets him better focus on his employees.
What Is an HR Tech Stack?
“I prefer the term People Ops [to Human Resources] because it emphasizes a people-centric business approach,” he said. “People Ops focuses on implementing technology to reduce the traditional HR administrative work so we can focus more on empowering people and increasing productivity to drive growth.”
There’s an entire industry devoted to building technologies that make HR easier. From talent acquisition to employee mental health assistance, there’s a software solution for nearly every HR responsibility. The tricky part isn’t finding the technology — it’s figuring out which one is right for you.
Whether you’re searching for your core technologies or just looking to add on shiny new features, here’s how the right tech stack can help you become a better HR leader.
From payroll management to benefits administration tech and a performance review system, your employees and teammates will all use the technologies you pick out. Before you write your wishlist, make sure employees have input to reduce the risk of snags or dissatisfaction in the future.
“Ongoing feedback is really important, and you should create a space where people feel empowered to provide that feedback.”
“Just make sure that you identify organizational strategy, then make sure everyone is aligned on that,” said Andy Santos, director of people at Chicago-based digital parking software company SpotHero. “Ongoing feedback is really important, and you should create a space where people feel empowered to provide that feedback.”
To begin gathering feedback, try to identify any current problems your team is experiencing with your current technologies. Sit down and ask them how you can make their job easier: Are there any tedious processes that could stand to be automated? What are their favorite features of your current tech stack? Do they have any dream tools they’d like to implement? Keeping everyone in the loop during the decision making process will smooth the transition and streamline your team’s productivity.
Determine Your Budget
Technology can be expensive, and though bigger companies can afford to build comprehensive stacks, startups and smaller companies have to be frugal. Your budget is one of the most significant variables to take into consideration when building your toolkit and you need to be strategic about what you spend it on.
“There are so many solutions that are affordable that small companies just fail to look at,” said Row. “If you can be more efficient and have more time to focus on enhancing culture and increasing productivity, these tools will more than pay for themselves.”
“You might not be able to purchase your ideal tool right now, but you can pick more affordable tools that will take you to the next step of your goals.”
Having a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t build out an effective tech stack. It just means you’ll have to make more calculated decisions about what technologies are most essential to your operations. Starting out with a solid human resource information system (HRIS) to organize all your employee data will give you a strong tech foundation that you can integrate extra tools into later. If done right, your tech investments today will be able to take your tech stack to the next level once your company starts turning a bigger profit.
“You might not be able to purchase your ideal tool right now, but you can pick more affordable tools that will take you to the next step of your goals,” said Santos.
Santos uses a free online survey tool, QuestionPro, to help him assess employee engagement. And at Brainbase, Row’s team uses Rippling to manage onboarding, benefits administration, and interviewing. At $8 a month, the software platform offers a comprehensive human resource management service at an affordable price. There’s a wealth of affordable HR tech programs out there, and platforms like Homebase, Freshteam and Sentrifugo even offer free HR tools to smaller companies with tighter budgets.
5 Popular Low Cost HR Technologies
- Rippling: An all-in-one platform to manage payroll, benefits, HR and IT. $8 per month, per user.
- Homebase: A system to manage scheduling, timesheets, payroll sync, and labor cost controls. Free basic option for unlimited employees.
- Sentrifugo: A human resource management system that is customizable to each company’s processes. Available for free.
- Freshteam: HR software manages recruiting, onboarding, time off and employee information. Free for teams less than 50 people.
- Zenefits: A platform that manages employee documents, HR, benefits, payroll and time off. $8 per month, per employee.
Focus on UX
There’s nothing more frustrating than confusing new technology. Struggling with convoluted, unintuitive tech damages morale and wastes time that could be spent on coming up with forward-thinking solutions. HR technology is meant to make your team’s job easier, but if you leave UX and accessibility out of your decision making process, you could accidentally make things complicated instead.
“Give priority to design and user experience,” said Ruben Gamez, CEO and founder of Portland-based SaaS company SignWell. “Your employees and even future employees will be using this for hours. Having great features with a poor UX is not the type of tech you want to invest in.”
“Having great features with a poor UX is not the type of tech you want to invest in.”
The more your tech stack can automate repetitive processes, the better — when your employees don’t have to worry about uploading files one by one or putting data into spreadsheets there are less mistakes. Many HR tech providers offer demos of their products, so you can even take a UX test run with your team. Intuitive technologies free up your time so you can focus on bigger picture issues, such as improving company culture and meeting team expansion goals.
The tech stack you have today won’t be the same one you’ll have in a year, or five years. As companies evolve and markets change, your HR needs will also change. Maybe you’ll need a more powerful payroll system to support a bigger team, or maybe you want to upgrade your talent acquisition tools to make onboarding smoother. It’s natural to add or subtract features over your organization’s life cycle — but you shouldn’t have to overhaul your entire system every time there’s a change at your company.
“Whenever you implement a new technology, you have to also do training and guide people in adopting that technology,” said Santos. “Even if it’s just a little bit off in terms of budget, we want to find long term solutions, because it saves us that time from implementing new tech later on.”
“You want to bring in a tech stack that's future-ready.”
No matter what your company does, there are certain technologies you’ll need no matter what. You’re always going to have to deal with recruitment, payroll, employee training and benefits, so scouting tech that will streamline these basic processes will set you up to succeed for years to come.
“Check how often the tech is being updated and how often new features are being provided,” said Gamez. “You want to bring in a tech stack that’s future-ready.”
Train Your Team
The process of building your tech stack doesn’t end once you’ve downloaded the software. Your HR tech won’t get up and running by itself — you need to make sure your team is able to put it to use. Set aside time to train your employees and give them ample opportunities to ask questions or discuss pain points. Help your employees understand exactly why these technologies will make their lives easier and take your company to the next level.
“If you don’t explain the ‘why’ behind things, and if your employees don’t know why something is important, it’s just going to be another task for them,” said Santos. “You need to keep expressing the value of these tools, and help them see how they’ll make an impact in their lives.”