Criticism of organisations for sacking people by text message has highlighted the perils of deploying mobile phones in human resources (HR).
However, an increasing number of job-seekers are turning to smartphones and tablets to hunt for jobs and submit applications.
HR professionals are beginning to recognise that the speed and convenience of mobile technology make it invaluable for a host of activities in addition to recruitment, such as training, information sharing and performance management.
At Colt, the telecoms company, about 15 per cent of job applicants first get in touch via a mobile device, says Tim Warmath, the company’s vice-president for recruitment.
Mobile technology is supplanting traditional routes to the job market, he says. “It began with simple text messages. But now social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn are being widely used to push out recruitment information and receive responses, with no need for hard copy.”
Colt frequently does not bother advertising appointments through what Mr Warmath calls “traditional media”, such as print and online publications, job boards, including Monster, and agencies.
“Mobile technology and social networks let us advertise directly and save a significant amount of money. Moreover, we can search internationally.”
Siemens views mobile technology as essential to filling the more than 14,000 positions it has open worldwide, mainly for engineers and IT experts.
Kerstin Wagner, Siemens’ head of global recruiting, says: “Because of our target groups, it is a must to develop mobile applications and make information on our jobs, employees and corporate culture easily accessible from anywhere, any time.”
Siemens is not abandoning traditional routes, but mobile technology offers a strong additional channel to highlight job opportunities, she says. “And it makes it easier to contact and stay in touch with candidates.”
Posting jobs on Facebook or a video on YouTube, helps organisations appear “with-it”. Many job seekers have grown up with mobile technology and social networks, so they expect to find them in the workplace.
Organisations can easily look stale if their HR applications have not kept up. “People are accustomed to information being easy to find,” says Klaus Trolle, chief marketing officer of Stockholm-based eMarketeer, an online marketing company.
“They don’t understand if at work they have to search out pages buried on an intranet to fill in time cards, check holiday entitlement, or find out about pensions.” Yet many large organisations still have intranet-based HR applications that are hard to find and to use.
Organisations need to take a more user-centric view, presenting information to staff in ways they want to deal with it, rather than in departmental silos, says Dan Rossner, mobile business expert at PA Consulting Group.
Software to meet such challenges has been developed by California-based SuccessFactors.
Rasmus Aaen Madsen, the company’s senior director of product marketing, says the goal is to bring the benefits of social networking that people have grown familiar with and deliver them to mobile workers.
“If you have to wait for your laptop to boot up and then connect to the internet before you can share ‘Just had meeting with prospect X. Does anyone know their CMO who I believe is key decision maker?’, then there is a good chance you won’t get it done,” says Mr Madsen.
“With mobile, you do it in two minutes during the taxi ride leaving the meeting. Quick and easy is vital, and mobile is the way to deliver that.”
By speeding up communication, mobiles can help avoid bottlenecks in decision-making. In recruitment, managers often have to approve a hire or rate a person they have just interviewed.
Hiring talented people means responding fast, because they will be in demand from others. “Mobile technology lets managers give their approval on the fly, just by opening their phone,” says Mr Madsen
SuccessFactors has developed recruitment software that lets managers use mobile devices to input simple ‘gut feel’ feedback on a candidate, with ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ icons and ‘1-5’ ratings for various criteria.
Training on the move is also possible with smartphones and tablets, says Rory O’Neill, senior director of business marketing, EMEA, for Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry.
But mobile applications must be simple and intuitive. HR systems affect every single employee, most of whom are usually not technical, says Mr Madsen.
“So, making sure systems are ‘consumer-friendly’ is crucial to adoption.”