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by Brian Westfall,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: December 7, 2016


Having a human resources (HR) system that HR personnel, recruiters, managers and employees can access on their smartphones or tablets outside of the office is no longer a “nice-to-have” luxury. It’s now a necessity in today’s constantly moving, increasingly flexible work environment.

That doesn’t make selecting the right HR mobile app for your business any easier though. With hundreds of systems offering dedicated mobile apps to choose from, with varying levels of device compatibility and ported functionality, it can be difficult to separate out the best solutions from the bunch.

human resource app for BambooHR

Mobile app for BambooHR

To help, we’ve created this essential Buyer’s Guide for HR mobile apps. Whether you’re an experienced buyer, or researching HR apps for the first time, the goal here is to ensure you have the necessary knowledge to make the best purchase decision for your business.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is a Human Resources (HR) App?
Common Functionality of HR Apps
Benefits of a Dedicated HR App
How Much Do HR Apps Cost?
Key Considerations When Selecting HR Apps

What Is a Human Resources (HR) App?

HR apps are downloadable programs for mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets that allow users to perform a number of core HR tasks on the go. Employees can check their pay stubs, change their mailing address or request paid time off (PTO); managers can adjust shift schedules and recruiters can even conduct video interviews if an app allows for it.

Though all cloud-based HR systems are accessible through a mobile web browser, not all systems have dedicated mobile apps. Here are some details on how native mobile apps and mobile websites can differ:

Key Differences Between Native Mobile Apps and Mobile Websites

A native mobile human resources app versus a mobile website

Common Functionality of HR Apps

HR app functionality can vary wildly depending on what vendor you’re looking at, the breadth of features offered and the system’s intended end-user. Some apps are only meant to be used by HR personnel, while others include self-service functionality for employees and managers.

That being said, here are some common HR functions to look out for that vendors often include in their mobile apps:

Personnel tracking Update employee contact and job title information, manage rosters and teams and view the company org chart.
Time and attendance Request and approve time off, clock in and out of shifts and monitor employee hours.
Payroll Calculate and run payroll; check pay stubs.
Recruiting Manage candidate pipelines and share job listings; read resumes and applications.
Performance reviews Create, share and manage employee performance appraisals.
Learning management Take mobile e-learning courses, complete assessments and review training program performance.

Benefits of a Dedicated HR App

The main benefit that a dedicated HR mobile app brings to your organization is flexibility. If there’s an HR-related task you need to do immediately, whether it’s a payroll run or updating an employee’s benefits, you no longer need to be at the office or at your desktop computer to do it. In a fast-paced, growing business, this immediate access to important employee information can result in thousands of hours saved over time.

Here are some other benefits:

  • Employee self-service. With employee self-service (ESS) functionality available on their mobile device, employees now have more freedom to take care of HR-related tasks themselves (updating personal information, logging shift hours)—saving you and your HR department valuable time.
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  • Mobile optimization. If you’ve ever had to pinch-and-zoom your way around a website on your smartphone, you know the pains of a non-optimized mobile experience. A dedicated app is built with the mobile experience in mind, making it easier to navigate on a smaller screen.
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  • Offline access. The main drawback with a cloud-based system is that if your internet goes out, you can’t access it. Some mobile apps avoid this problem by offering an “offline mode” where you can jump in and see important information without a connection. You can also access the system using your phone’s cellular data connection.

How Much Do HR Apps Cost?

If you’re new to the world of HR software, these systems are typically priced one of two ways.

The first way, called a perpetual license, involves paying one large fee upfront to own the software in perpetuity. This type of license is more common in on-premise systems that are housed and maintained by the customer, on their own server.

The second, more common way is a subscription license. In this pricing method, customers pay a monthly or annual fee to use the software. Sometimes this is an unchanging flat fee, but more often the fee fluctuates depending on how many employees you have at your company or how many users will need to access the system. This type of pricing tends to go hand-in-hand with cloud-based systems.

Outside of a few exceptions, access to an HR system’s mobile app comes included with the software purchase. Once you have the system setup, users can download the app from their device’s respective app store or the vendor’s website and log in using the same information they use to access the system on their computer.

Key Considerations When Selecting HR Apps

Even the best desktop-based HR systems can have a lackluster mobile experience. Here are some things to consider as you research mobile HR app offerings:

Device compatibility. If your employees are predominantly Android users, but your vendor only offers an iOS app, that won’t work. Survey your employees to find out what mobile devices they have, so you can find a compatible solution.

Limited functionality. Mobile apps rarely offer a true one-to-one experience with the same functionality as the main software platform, because of data constraints, the smaller screen size and other factors. If a vendor doesn’t offer the functionality your organization needs for mobile, look elsewhere.

User permissions. Consider what an employee can do when they login to the mobile app. Does that differ from what a manager can do? Or a recruiter? If you plan on having multiple users access an HR system through a mobile app, make sure you can set different user permissions so that rank-and-file workers don’t start messing with your payroll numbers.

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