A Guide to HR Tech for Effective People Teams

Forget about basic spreadsheets. Here are the essential technologies you really need to manage your teams.
Sunny Betz
Staff Reporter
April 28, 2022
Updated: May 6, 2022
Sunny Betz
Staff Reporter
April 28, 2022
Updated: May 6, 2022

In the early days of her HR career, Ginger Dhaliwal, founder and CPO at New York-based global coworking network Upflex, said it felt a little like being in the Stone Age. Over a decade ago, HR technologies were limited, and those available weren’t powerful enough to run a business.

“​​When I first started, there was nothing,” she said. “I think we were using Skype — that was the best technology out there, but it lacked so many functionalities.” 

Dhaliwal’s experience isn’t the exception — many HR leaders had to rely on clunky technologies. Charmien Fugelsang, chief people officer at NYC-based engineering software company nTopology, also had to work with a bare bones tech stack.

“I often joke that when you go into people work, your life will be lived in spreadsheets,” she said. “My team used to waste hours confirming spreadsheets were correct using offer letters or other documents to be able to produce accurate reports.”

Types of Tools in an HR Tech Suite

  • A central HRMS to view all your operations in one place
  • Recruiting tools to optimize your hiring pipeline
  • Compensation tools to determine salary bands, manage equity, and stick with budgets
  • Benefits tools to holistically support your employees
  • Performance trackers to record employee professional development goals and progress
  • Culture tools to keep employees connected and engaged

The HR technology industry is growing steadily, and it’s expected to be a $35 billion industry by 2028 (up from 24 billion), according to Fortune Business Insights. What’s more, a growing number of HR leaders are leveling up their technologies, especially in response to the pandemic. Around 82 percent of people managers upgraded their tech stack in order to stay competitive during the pandemic, according to a survey from the U.K.-based software company Sage. This upward trend shows no sign of dropping, said Scott Ginsberg, senior content marketing manager at San Francisco-based compensation data company Pave.

“Historically, the human resources sector has been slowest to innovate,” he said. “Marketing and sales and operations innovate at a high rate and only now is HR catching up. They simply had no choice.”

People managers now have a ton of technology options to choose from and using these tools can help with retention (and maybe spending a little less time in spreadsheets too). Here’s a breakdown of what a strong HR tech suite looks like.

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A Central HRMS/HRIS

People managers take care of employees from onboarding to offboarding, so they need to be able to view all their tasks in one place. A platform that can consolidate recruiting, training, compensation and benefits insights in one place should be at the core of an HR team’s tech suite. This can come in the form of an HRMS (human resource management system), or an HRIS (human resource information system), both platforms that come with their own distinct advantages. Small companies may lean toward using an HRIS, which covers the core essentials, while others may need an expansive HRMS capable of processing the more complex tasks required of a larger company. 

With these tools, key records and processes aren’t siloed, and communication across people teams is more straightforward. Since an HRMS/HRIS is such an indispensable tool, leaders need to be methodical when picking one out.

“Choosing the right HR technology system for your business can be overwhelming,” said Ginsberg. “Each one has a different suite of features and tools, and finding the right one is basically a second job.” 

5 HRMS Platforms

  • BambooHR
  • SuccessFactors
  • OysterHR
  • Workday HCM
  • ZingHR

To make the right choice, figure out exactly what your company needs and where it’s going. Do you expect your teams to significantly expand in the next few months? If so, you’ll need an HRMS or HRIS that keeps pace with your company’s growth. Figure out which team members will be involved in using the system, how you plan to handle access permissions, and what you’ll need in terms of privacy. BambooHR, SuccessFactors, and OysterHR are all examples of commonly used HRMS/HRIS tools, but each one has different capabilities and strengths. Ask for testimonials or reach out to other HR leaders what tools they’re into and get recommendations.

“I’ve been in situations where we had to rapidly pivot and swap out technologies, and this was highly disruptive to the company,” said Fugelsang. “Currently we are selecting the HRIS solution for nTopology, and I am curious if there are newer, inexpensive solutions that can handle growth without slowing down or breaking.” 

 

Recruiting Tools

If you’re taking resumes, scheduling interviews and keeping in contact with job candidates all through email alone, you’re recruiting wrong. Incongruous or old-fashioned approaches to recruiting make it far too easy for candidates to slip through the cracks.

“With 60 percent of candidates quitting job applications due to their length and complexity, it’s imperative that unnecessary steps are eliminated,” said Amanda Hahn, interim chief marketing officer at Salt Lake City-based recruiting tech company HireVue. “Especially for Gen Z, the largest segment currently entering the workforce, communicating via chat and text and allowing [interviewing] flexibility is paramount.”

There are plenty of tech tools out there to streamline talent acquisition, improving your candidate experience and saving you a headache. An ATS, or applicant tracking system, lets leaders keep tabs on candidates’ progression through the application and interview process, speeding up their time to onboard. 

5 Applicant Tracking Systems

  • Blendoor
  • Vervoe
  • Recruitee
  • Freshteam
  • Greenhouse

“I love Greenhouse as an ATS because it has the ability to package together all new hire documents and automatically send their file to the onboarding team,” Fugelsang said.

Some ATS’s, like Blendoor and Vervoe, anonymize candidate demographic data such as gender and race to reduce hiring bias and improve workplace DEI. Beyond a basic ATS, there are other tech tools that can make the job application and candidate screening process more engaging. Dhaliwal spoke with a job candidate who, rather than sending their resume as a document, used the interactive video platform Tolstoy to record themselves talking about their career history and accomplishments. 

“I saw this person’s video and I was so impressed,” she said. “It’s really hard to see someone’s personality when all you’re doing is looking at flat files. Tools like this will make candidates stand out in that crowded space.” 

 

Compensation Tools 

Finance teams are primarily responsible for setting a financial roadmap for the company. But when it comes to compensation, HR leaders also have a role to play, said Ginsberg.

“In the last decade, human resources teams have been taking on a lot of responsibility that they’re not used to shouldering, like compensation planning, merit cycles, total awards and explaining equity to candidates and employees,” he said. To ensure everyone on their team has a crystal-clear understanding of what their total compensation is worth, they need comptech tools.

Even on a small team, managing compensation is complex. Luckily, there’s plenty of compensation software options to choose from. Forget about using Excel — compensation software streamlines pay administration, equity management and predictive analytics so leaders no longer need to spend valuable time on repetitive tasks. Paycom, Workday HCM and Zenefits are some of the most popular compensation tech tools.

5 Compensation Technologies

  • Paycom
  • PayFactors
  • Xactly
  • Synd.io
  • COMPView

“The most powerful new tool I love is Synd.io, a tool to ensure Fair Pay decisions happen in all compensation decisions,” said Fugelsang.

Before picking your compensation management software, start with some questions: When do people qualify for bonuses? How do you calculate pay bands? What budgetary restrictions are you working with? The better you understand your compensation strategy, the more accurate your choice of tech will be. 

“While there are plenty of wonderful comptech tools out there to align HR with finance, the ultimate technology is getting clear on your compensation philosophy,” Ginsberg said. “If you can get that right from the start, the actual payroll system and other HR tech tools will fall into place.” 

 

Benefits Management

With software and AI tools, leaders can manage open enrollment, stipend allocation, time-off requests, 401(k) administration and other benefits-related tasks much more effectively. Healthcare and retirement plans are standard benefits, but with the remote work era well underway, said leaders should rethink their approach to supplementary benefits. Tech tools can help them do that, said Garrett Roy, Upflex’s human resources director.

“There’s a lot of people out there that don’t have big houses and who don’t want to work on a couch all the time,” he said. “As nice as a home office allotment is, that doesn’t necessarily suit everybody. You can use tech to customize benefits for everyone.”

5 Benefits Management Technologies

  • Zenefits
  • Ben
  • Cherrycard
  • Gympass
  • Gusto

Companies that specialize in benefits software are offering tools to maximize employer ROI and promote flexibility. Ben, an employee benefits platform, makes it possible for employees to pick and explore benefits ranging from wellness stipends to Spotify subscriptions, and choose those that appeal to them. Other platforms like Cherrycard and Gympass let employees customize their benefits packages to suit their lifestyles and needs. 

More on Benefits ManagementWhat Are Fringe Benefits and How Do They Empower Your Team?

 

Performance Trackers

Your employees’ career goals and performance will naturally fluctuate and evolve over the course of their time at your company, and keeping track of those changes is another crucial responsibility HR leaders shoulder. Tracking employee performance makes performance reviews a lot more effective by giving leaders insight into their employees’ strengths and weaknesses, and by giving employees tangible evidence of their progress. When performance review periods come around, you’ll need to assess a year’s worth of accomplishments — and having systematic, consistent records to reference will eliminate recency bias, Roy said.

“Someone might have been doing great in the last six weeks, but struggled during the first month of the quarter,” he said. “That’s why you should have ways to keep track of monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly conversations.”

5 Performance Tracking Tech Tools

  • Dominion
  • Leapsome
  • Namely
  • PerformYard
  • CultureAmp

Dominion and Leapsome offer solutions for monitoring day-to-day progress toward goals, while tools like Namely and PerformYard let employees and employers fill out self-evaluations for reference in performance reviews. Consider what metrics you want to track, the review cycle and how detailed you need your insights to be when choosing a platform.

“At the moment, the software system I am using most frequently is CultureAmp for both wellness surveys and performance reviews,” Fugelsang said. “I love [their] ability to protect anonymity combined with powerful reporting and integrated solution recommendations.”

 

Culture Tools

A healthy and empowering company culture is something all leaders aspire toward, but it’s not something that just happens. In order to set the tone, you need to make sure everyone is on board and put employee engagement first.

“Culture is everyone’s responsibility,” said Ginsberg. “Everyone at the company is an ambassador of the collective identity. And that brand is an asset that grows in value through daily, small enhancements.”

5 Culture Building Tech Tools

  • Slack
  • Kazoo
  • Donut
  • Empuls
  • Nectar

Remote work has never been more popular than it is now, and that means that tech will need to rethink the definition of company culture. After all, you can’t chat around the office coffee maker if your employees are all in different countries. That’s why technology is becoming an increasingly important part of HR’s arsenal — it can keep even the most globally distributed teams connected, Dhaliwal said.

Slack has been fantastic: it’s our go-to culture platform,” she said. “We have teams across the world, and we wouldn’t be able to coordinate and connect everyone without a tool set like Slack.”

Recognizing the need for more advanced culture tools, countless companies have stepped up to offer tech-enabled employee engagement solutions. Alongside Slack, Dhaliwal said her team has been looking into adopting Donut, a Slack chat-bot that can alert employees about virtual coffee events, listening sessions or to just check in with someone they haven’t chatted with in a while. Kazoo is another culture platform that makes work anniversaries and employee birthdays viewable to whole teams, so that teammates can congratulate each other on reaching milestones. Another tool called Empuls serves as an internal social media on which employees can share major achievements and shout out their peers for jobs well done. The list goes on and on. 

Every day, new tools designed to make HR leaders more effective are introduced to the market. But technology can’t by itself do the work for you. Before snagging any fancy gadgets, employers need to get their values straight, said Ginsberg.

“Transparency is the greatest retention tool your company has,” he said. “Operationalize that philosophy with the right [tech], and you’ll not only be the employer of choice, but people won’t want to leave once they get there.”

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