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Paula Fisher, author, owner of and HR consultancy Practical HR, discusses how small business owners can get the best from HR technology solutions.

HR is about people, but there are a lots of ways technology can help SME owners manage HR more effectively and deliver better people management within their business. Importantly, technology can also help you meet your legal obligations and save time while you’re at it.

There are lots of HR platforms available offering valuable support in various areas of HR. For example, there are systems that can help with HR administration (known as transactional HR), recruitment and onboarding, as well as wellbeing and appraisals.

Payroll was the first area relating to HR to be made digital and no SME these days would even think about trying to run a manual payroll. Using technology makes payroll quicker and more accurate. It even removes the need to print out and issue payslips as many systems now automate this process by emailing payslips to employees. This principle can be carried across too many other areas of HR.

Data protection security

Systems can help manage employee information and data. Employee records can be easily migrated online so that your staff can access their details and even self service, by updating their own personal information. This helps ensure the information is up to date and accurate and makes data more secure, which helps when it comes to GDPR compliance. Some systems automate the new starter process, from producing the contract of employment to on-line induction.

Boost productivity

Systems that support manage holiday and absence can save management time and help with holiday entitlement calculations, planning and absence monitoring. It is well known that the first way to reduce sickness absence is to monitor it. Software is a highly efficient way to do this and can include online self-certification forms, and can flag up managerial alerts when employees exceed specified absence levels. So, technology in this area is not just about record keeping, it can help manage and reduce absence.

Improve interaction

One of the biggest areas that technology can really benefit business owners is when it comes to compliance and communication. Many SMEs struggle to implement and communicate the required information to employees. This sort of information may include HR policies, procedures, written terms and general information about their employment, like codes of conduct. It’s even harder to keep information up to date when employment law is always changing. This can leave you vulnerable to disputes and even litigation.

Digital platforms that manage this process for your business will save you a considerable amount of time, while also providing added security and reducing risk for your business.  These systems will have HR experts in the background but are delivered through the convenience of technology.  They will include automated communications when there are updates or changes so that employees are kept informed.

Preventing problems

Having a system that is a central point of reference where employees and managers can access information and policies will also prevent issues arising in the first place. If employees can access information themselves, they will not take up as much management time asking questions. If they can clearly see what the rules are around dress code, or using personal mobiles phones during working hours, or even what to do with their dirty cups at the end of the day, for example, your business is more likely to see the behaviour and conduct you want from your team. And if you don’t, it is much easier to deal with.

Technology in people management cannot replace the human element, but it can save time and improve efficiency to give you as a business owner, or the HR team, more time to spend on the ‘people’ side of it. The right digital support can also give HR more credibility. If information is clearly communicated, processed and data managed effectively and accurately, this will build trust.  But if HR cannot get the basics rights – like paying someone correctly or issuing them with the essential information they should have – this will erode trust.

Used properly, and with the right platform, technology in HR can help make SME owners become better employers.