Technology, the Good & the Ugly: How to Use and Not to Use Technology to Improve HR Productivity


As with anything, when it comes to workplace technology and productivity, there’s always two sides to the story.

I’ve heard HR managers rave how modern-day HR tech has vastly improved their productivity. This is good news considering how in many small businesses, one HR manager is expected to take on several roles previously shared by different personnel.

At the same time, I’ve heard HR professionals complain how technology has complicated their lives. Instead of making their jobs easier, it became a productivity killer.

Which of the two stories can you relate to?

New Golden Rules of Tech

I always tell our clients that technology is a double-edged sword. Among HR teams, technology can either help you achieve productivity you didn’t even think is possible, or derail your focus with misuse.

So, how can HR teams ensure a positive technology experience? More importantly, how can they make sure technology is fulfilling its intended purpose to help HR professionals perform their tasks more efficiently?

Truth be told, different HR teams have different ways of working and processes. Therefore, it’s challenging to set definitive and uniform guidelines. However, there are some “golden rules” you can follow.

So, without further ado, here’s how HR teams should be using and not be using the most common HR technology to improve their productivity:

Time Tracking Software

There’s an old business adage that says you cannot manage/improve what you don’t measure. Tracking the employees’ activities in the workplace is one of your key responsibilities as an HR manager.

Project managers look to you for meaningful data they can use to gain insights as to how resources are allocated for key projects. At the same time, you should be able to assure your company’s executives that employees are spending their time wisely while they are on the clock.

The good way to use time tracking software: the key to effective and meaningful time tracking is to make sure you are tracking the right employee activities and that you’re tracking them using a consistent naming convention. There should be a predetermined set of tasks that employees can select from a menu.

Why is this important? I’ve heard several HR managers complain how tedious it is to consolidate time tracking data. Imagine this. If there’s no consistency, 100 hundred employees can call one task or one activity in 100 different ways. This makes it a pain to figure out which tasks are just one and the same, and can actually burden you with more work.

The best way to do this is to get together with managers and key employees and create a list of these predetermined tasks per department. Sure, it will take a bit of time brainstorming at first, but it will be more productive for you in the long run.

I constantly have to remind a lot of workplace managers about this—tracking employee activity is not a witch hunt. It’s not about micromanaging employees. It’s also not about singling out individuals that you suspect might not be putting in the required hours.

First and foremost, time tracking is always about better project management and resource allocation. Being able to identify team members who are not pulling their weight is a byproduct of time tracking. You shouldn’t be wasting your time watching employees like a hawk every step they take. It’s counterproductive not only for you, but for your colleagues as well.

Payroll Technology

If you don’t have a separate payroll department, most likely payroll falls under your responsibility as an HR manager. And you already know that while everybody loves receiving their pay checks, nobody likes preparing the payroll.

Preparing payroll, at least the traditional way, is a complex, error-prone, and tedious undertaking. There are a lot of procedures that need to be followed such as compliance with labor laws, collective bargaining agreements, tax regulations, benefits, and PTO accruals.

The good way to use payroll technology: there’s really no other way to use payroll technology than to use it to its full potential. That said, you need to select a payroll software that packs the features you need.

For example, if your company hires union employees, then your payroll software should be able to accommodate the varying terms stipulated in their collective bargaining agreements. If your company operates 24 hours, then the payroll application of your choice should be able to reflect shift differential compensation depending on what time the employees worked. These things should be clearly reflected in the employees’ pay statements to promote transparency and minimize disputes.

Further, the time tracking software that you’re using should seamlessly integrate into your payroll system for easy calculation.

The bad way to use payroll technology? First of all, spreadsheet applications are not payroll technology. It is technology, but it’s not best practice to categorize them as payroll technology as there’s still a lot of manual work that needs to be done when using spreadsheets to prepare payroll.

Second, if you do invest in payroll technology, don’t just merely use it as a substitute for your spreadsheet. This means using it more than just a calculator; use its full suite of features if possible. Take advantage of customizable features such as tax rates, compliance alerts, overtime compensation rates, etc.

Setting up these things will not be a walk in the park in the beginning. However, once you’re done with the setup, it’s pretty much in autopilot mode, making you more productive.

The Ball is in Your Court

The truth is, when it comes to HR productivity, technology will either be an ally or an enemy depending on how you use it. At its core, technology is meant to empower HR managers to perform their job more efficiently. However, there are some instances that the opposite happens due to the misuse of these tools.

Luckily, everything is under your control. With clear guidelines and a good understanding of how technology incorporates into your day-to-day tasks, technology should enable you to work smarter and accomplish more.

As a final tip, make sure that you have a technology roadmap. This will help guide you in selecting the right tools and systems, depending on what you need right now. At the same time, it will also give you an idea of what would be the natural next steps in terms of tech investments as your company scales its operations.

Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an online employee time tracking app that helps over 8,000 companies all around the world track time. Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many peoples lives are touched and changed for the better. When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family, friends and finding ways to make the world just a little better. You can find Dean on LinkedIn.

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