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    Entries in small business (11)


    Guest Post - Choosing the Right Technology

    Note: This Guest Post was written by Loren Yademski, from Crimcheck.com. Crimcheck.com is a nationwide provider of background checks for employment screening purposes. Crimcheck.com background checks include criminal records, educational history, employment verification, driving records and more.

    Thanks to Loren for this excellent article that highlights some extremely important questions that should be considered in the evaluation of HR Technology, particularly for the small business.


    It may seem that technology for human resources would be standard from one company to another. However, as one dissects the specific needs of an HR operation, it becomes apparent that technology must accommodate many different aspects of HR management. In order to choose the right system, the staff should be consulted so that the technology can be streamlined to be efficient and easily implemented.

    When determining your HR technology needs, you need to find a vendor that is reliable and helpful. If your vendor does not have the time or knowledge necessary to help you sort through your requirements, it is time to look for another vendor. There are many variables, such as flexibility in interfacing with accounting software, making it is essential to thoroughly understand your options before a final selection is made.

    The first thing to consider is the size and growth pattern of your company. Are you in a ‘fully grown’business that has reached a plateau in terms of size and number of employees? Is your HR system stable enough that you are sure of the amount of data that you need to import and the types and numbers of related software systems it must interface with? If not, you need to plan for growth and make sure that you choose a system with a flexible and easily altered code. For example, you may not currently import and export data to an accounting system, but as your company grows it may be essential in order to save time and eliminate potential data entry errors. Another example is that you may want to share data with Excel spreadsheets. The cost, potential for error and inconvenience of having someone manually enter this information would justify any increase in the cost of software with this feature.

    Easily exported reports from HR software are helpful for any company. By using software that allows one to extract information that benefits decision making and planning on the executive level, a company could easily recapture the cost of the software because of access to concise reports that distill information in a way that makes it easy for executives and owners to manage their businesses effectively.

    Once you find a system with all necessary technical requirements, you may feel like you are ‘home free’ and ready to write the check and make a purchase. There are other considerations that are yet to be reviewed. One must consider the interface for this system and how easy it is to use. You need to determine who will have access to the system and who will operate it. Do you have an employee who will be able to fully utilize the benefits of the system you are considering? Will they require special training and if so, are they already comfortable enough with HR technology to easily pick up the operation of a new system? It will do you no good to purchase a great system if you do not have an interface that is easy enough for your employees to use effectively. If you need to hire someone with more technical savvy, it is important to understand that before you purchase the system so that you can include that expense in your economic analysis of the system.

    By taking time up front to choose HR technology that fits your business, you can save a great deal of time, money, and frustration down the road.



    HR Technology for the Small Business - Free Web Conferencing Tools

    I had a great conversation this past weekend with my Dad, all about the changes happening in American corporations; particularly notions of work/life and just why the heck does it make sense for most companies to continue to insist that the majority of their workers fight traffic, miss important family activities, and otherwise waste innumerable hours of their lives in their cars.

    My Dad is as old-school as they come, but even he has come around to the idea that with today's technologies, it just makes no sense to tether knowledge workers to desks 8 or 9 hours a day.  Even for small businesses, the tools and solutions to help support remote work are more affordable and accessible than ever, and in that spirit, I offer a quick look at five free and inexpensive web conferencing solutions, that can support small businesses.

    Remote work is just one of the reasons why HR organizations should be interested in Web Conferencing, certainly cost containment, efficiency, and a more effective way to connect with outside partners are all good potential uses of web conferencing. So here is a brief look at five tools in this space.

    The Solutions

    DimDim  - DimDim bills itself as the 'world's easiest web conferencing tool'. DimDim supports screen sharing, file sharing, web-based demonstrations, and annotated virtual whiteboards.  The session presenter can broadcast live video and audio, and meeting attendees can participate via text chat, VOIP audio, or telephone by utilizing an integrated teleconference service.

    Hosting and attending meetings do not require downloading or installing any components to your computer, and the service supports PCs, Macs, and the Linux OS. Some other very useful features are the ability to embed an 'invitation' widget on a website or blog, 'live' invitations from participants in the session via IM or email, and live 'co-browsing', meaning the host can interact live with a web site and all participants screens get updated accordingly.

    For the small business, perhaps the most attractive feature of DimDim is the availability of a free edition to hold web events for up to 20 participants. So a small business could easily use the Free Edition for internal meetings, prospect demonstrations, or perhaps as a support tool for customer service. Additional premium plans are also offered, for example a Pro plan for $19/month that will support events up to 50 people.

    ooVoo - ooVoo offers a slightly different spin on the conferencing idea, it is mainly a service for free video chat. With ooVoo, users can connect with up to six participants in a video chat simultaneously. The ooVoofull-feature, high-quality video chat service does however require the download and install of a client side application on the computers of each video chat participant.  However ooVoo recently added the ability for a host to invite participants to a video chat right in the browser window, thus removing the requirement for all participants to have downloaded the ooVoo application.

    But I think the most interesting capability of ooVoo is the ability to embed a video chat room right on your website or blog. This feature provides the small business the capability to connect with customers in a face-to-face manner, or to simply use as an internal virtual conference room.  So if the business does not need 'classic' web conferencing features like screen and document sharing, and are interested in free, multi-user video chat, then ooVoo is a good option to consider.

    Yugma - Yugma offers a free web conferencing solution that allows anyone, anywhere to instantly share their desktop and ideas online with others. The expected conferencing capabilities are present, application sharing, web demonstrations, and ability to have multiple presenters are all included in the free edition. The free version can support web conferences up to 20 people,Yugma supports Windows, Mac, and Linux OS systems.

    Yugma offers several editions at different price points, ranging from free use for up to 20 meeting participants, followed by 'Pro' versions ranging from $14.95/month for between 20-50 participants, to $179.95/month for up to 500 meeting participants. Of the 'free' solutions on the market, Yugma seems to be the one that tends to scale higher and to be in use by larger organizations.

    Vyew - Vyew is yet another option in the free web conferencing space.  Like DimDim and Yugma, Vyew offers a free, basic option that support web conferences for up to 20 attendees. With Vyew you can conduct meetings in real time using a shared workspace, webcam, voice over IP (VoIP), free Vyewteleconferencing, text chat and desktop sharing. In addition to uploading, sharing and presenting content you can invite participants to annotate and collaborate on content during the meeting.

    Vyew does not require participants to install any software, it runs completely in the user's browser.  There is a very full list of supported features, including document collaboration, built-in screen capture capability, and whiteboards and drawing tools. There are some upgraded plans available, a 'Plus' plan starting at $6.95/month for up to 25 participants, and a 'Professional' plan starting at $13.95/month for up to 45 participants. Vyew has a wide range of features, and may be worth a try for those organizations comfortable testing out these numerous capabilities.


    Yuuguu - I heard about Yuuguu via Bryon Abramowitz from Knowledge Infusion and had to check them out. Yuuguu is positioned as a screen sharing and instant messaging platform, that is simple, and free to use. The host of the Yuuguu session needs to download the Yuuguu client application, but no downloads are required for attendees or viewers. Yuuguu also offers chat integration with most of the popular IM platforms like GTalk and MSN. It supports all common platforms, windows, Mac, and Linux.

    Yuuguu offers two pricing plans, the free version allows screen sharing for up to five users at once. The 'Pro' version goes for $15/month and supports screen sharing for up to 30 simultaneous users. A small business or group looking for a simple, effective and easy to use screen sharing and collaboration tool might want to check out Yuuguu.

    This was a quick look at five popular and free web conferencing tools, any of which might be a good solution for a small business to facilitate client presentations, internal meetings, and support for telecommuters or other remote staff and contractors.  Since all the solutions in this post offer a free version of their service, the only 'cost' is the time the organization will spend setting up and trying out these tools.

    Bottom line, there is no reason why the small organization with limited expertise and budget can't experiment with, and effectively utilize web conferencing in their organizations.


    HR Technology for the Small Business - Performance Management

    This latest installment of the 'Small Business' series focuses on tools to support Employee Performance Management.  Many small organizations that I talk to, say up to about 100 employees have no formal processes in place for employee performance management. Or if they do, they use simple Microsoft Word-based forms, that the manager fills out once per year and are then tucked away in an file in the HR department for posterity, and to gather dust.Flickr - James Callan

    Just like for Core HRIS, there are scores of competitors and solutions in this space, and sifting through the options can seem like an impossible task for the HR professional, who in a small business, is likely responsible for many, many other things besides Performance Management and HR Technology.

    With that in mind, I will only review a few of the options, this list is by no means exhaustive, or even authoritative, just a starting point for the small business who wants to get started with performance management automation.

    I will highlight only solutions that are vendor hosted, and delivered on a SaaS subscription basis.  Most small organizations that I know do not want to get involved with installing and maintaining this kind of software on their own.  The solutions that might be a fit fall into two main categories, 'big' vendors that also offer a scaled-down version of their performance management application for small business, and 'small' vendors that cater almost exclusively to the small business market.

    Big Vendors

    SuccessFactors - SuccessFactors is one of the best known vendors of Performance Management solutions. They have been one of the leaders in Talent Management software for several years, and have introduced many innovations such as integration with Google Docs and Chat and the ability to perform 'Stack Ranking', a comparative rating of multiple employees against competencies, (although these features are not included in the small business offering). SuccessFactors offers its solution in different 'editions', ranging from 'Mega' for customers with over 20,000 employees, all the way down to a bare-bones 'Individual Manager' edition that allows a manager to enter performance reviews for up to 25 employees.  For a small business up to 100 employees, the 'Professional' edition is offered.  The solution supports all the expected functionality, goal management, performance reviews, and 360 feedback.  SuccessFactors has long been a leader in this space, and would almost certainly need to be included in a serious review of Performance Management solutions.

    Taleo - Taleo is more well-known, and justifiably so, as the leading vendor of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for the enterprise market.  Recently, they have expanded the depth and breadth of their offerings to include more Talent Management applications, including Employee Performance Management. For the small business market, Taleo offers its 'Business Edition' that encompasses both performance management capability and recruiting support.  Specifically for performance management, the solution supports goal management, competency definition and rating, and the appraisal itself. The employee profile functionality is also strong and highly configurable. The primary strength of the solution is the tight integration with the Recruiting module, so Taleo Business Edition for performance would probably be a strong choice if your organization was also considering using Taleo for a recruiting solution.  As a 'stand-alone' solution it is competitive, but not particularly ground-breaking.

    Halogen - Halogen Software offers its suite of Talent Management solutions in the same package to all its customers, regardless of their size. This is a strength, as it allows even the very small organization to take advantage of all the advanced features and new development in the application just like the giant 'enterprise' customer.  Halogen's Performance Management application, known as eAppraisal offers advanced functionality including goal setting, cascading goals, an included (but expandable) competency library, multi-rater feedback, and analytics. Halogen does have customers with less that 100 employees, but typically serves larger accounts.  Their solution would be a good choice for a smaller company that wants to take advantage of 'big company' features right out of the box, and with the assurance that new development and new features that are included will be available to them as well as the large customers.

    Small Vendors

    Appraisal Smart - Appraisal Smart offers online performance management tools that can be installed on the client's servers, or hosted and delivered in the SaaS model.  The tool has a wide range of functions, from scheduled, interval based performance appraisal, ad-hoc appraisal capability, multi-rater feedback, and integrated competency library, and both spelling and legal checking.  Pricing is not published on the site, but consists of two components, a one-time setup fee, and an annual subscription fee that varies based on number of users.  Appraisal Smart claims to be an affordable solution for organizations as small as 20 employees. A free 7 day trial is available that may be just enough time for a small organization to check out Appraisal Smart to see if the solution is right for them.

    ReviewSnap - ReviewSnap offers a simple, easy to use tool for online Performance Reviews and 360 Feedback.  It supports goal management, self appraisals, a seeded competency library, and more.  The solution comes with pre-defined performance review templates, or the customer can create totally custom performance forms.  Pricing is published on their site and varies based on the number of employees to be evaluated, for example companies with 51 to 100 employees is $899 annually.  The license does allow unlimited reviews for the same cost, and includes both the Performance Appraisal and 360 Feedback functionality. A free 21 -day trial is offered as well, which provides a great opportunity for the small organization of department to try out the product before committing any resources.

    HRN Management Group - Performance Pro.  The Performance Pro application is an online Performance Management tool that similar to the other vendors in this space support all the expected functionalities like goal management, self assessment, multi-rater feedback, and ongoing performance events or journals.  The solution also includes manager's 'Comment Coaching', a tool to assist managers in crafting meaningful and detailed feedback.  This functionality is common in the 'higher end' solutions, but not always included in solutions aimed chiefly at the small organization.  Pricing is published on the site and as is common in this space, includes a one-time set up fee, and a variable cost based on the number of employees to be reviewed.  Example list pricing for 50 employees priced out at $2,075.  HRN also offers training in the use of Performance Pro for a nominal fee.

    This was just a quick overview of some of the options for the small business for Performance Management. There are probably 50-100 potential solutions on the market, and the right fit for your business based on requirements, budget, size, and internal capability is something only you can determine.

    If any of the included vendors has clarifications or comments, please feel free to add them below.  And if any vendor who was not included cares to leave some information about your solution, you are encouraged.


    Another Small Business HRIS - Human Services HQ

    After my post on HRIS for the small business ran last week, I thought I might be

    contacted by a vendor or two who I omitted, as the market for these solutions is so crowded.  Sure enough I did receive a few comments, and I wanted to highlight one of the vendors, Human Services HQ.

    Human Services HQ is positioned as an online HR database that provides easy access to your employee records, relieves paperwork headaches, and reduces employee management costs for small businesses. There are three main functions, employee record keeping, tracking of employee training, and document storage for things like manuals, handbooks, and forms.  

    The service is deployed in the SaaS mode, and is priced on a monthly basis ranging from $24/mo for up to 15 employees, to $399/mo for up to 900 employees, but the solution seems to be most applicable to very small organizations, say less than 100 employees. All paid plans include a 30-day free trial.

    Human Services HQ might be a good option for a very small business that wants to stop tracking employee data on spreadsheets or on PC-based databases, and also wants some flexibility to store important HR documents in the same tool.

    Thanks to Human Services HQ for reaching out and making me aware of your solution.


    HR Technology for the Small Business - Core HRIS

    This installment in the occasional series on HR Technology for the small business highlights some options available to the small business (typically less than 500 employees) in the 'Core' Human Resources Information Systems market.

    These are the systems that store the demographic, work history, and sometimes payroll and benefits information on your employees. They form the backbone of your HR Technology platform and strategy.

    There is no shortage of competitors in this space, and the below list is by no means exhaustive or a recommendation or endorsement for any particular solution.  This is just a place to start, and a jumping-off point in understanding some of the different solutions and technologies that are available. Your business has it's own unique set of requirements, constraints, challenges etc. that have to be carefully evaluated before making any decisions on core HRIS.

    Larger Vendors

    Sage Abra

    Sage Abra is probably the best known solution in this space. They claim to be the leading provider of HRIS in the less than 1,000 employee market.  Sage has a very robust offering including employee demographics, benefits, compliance related reports, employee skills, Employee self-service, education and leaves. 

    Sage also has a Payroll module which is fairly uncommon in solutions targeted to small business.  This solution includes support for tax updates, check printing, and direct deposit.  The tight integration of Sage Payroll with Sage HR would make the consideration of Sage Payroll attractive for a small business interested in keeping or bringing payroll processing in-house.

    Sage customers can deploy the software internally on their own servers, or via a hosting arrangement with an authorized provided.  Pure SaaS does not appear to be offered at this time, which might make Sage not a viable option for the very small business, or a business that is not in position for a largish initial capital outlay for software licensing.


    Spectrum's offering is named iVantage®, an HRIS that tracks everything from initial application through retirement. This complete HR system includes the key functions such as Absence Tracking, Performance Management, Self-Service, Time and Attendance, Workflow automation, and advanced reporting. iVantage does not have its own payroll engine, but does support the export of data to any of the likely Payroll providers a small business is likely to use (ADP, Ceridian, Paychex, among others).

    In fact, iVantage's reporting tool is quite unique and user-friendly as it allows a user to enter a query in terms like, 'Show me all the employees in New York', and the reporting engine is sophisticated enough to interpret the request, and produce a report of the staff in the New York location.

    Spectrum offers iVantage in three different licensing models, customer installed, Spectrum hosted, and SaaS.  These options provide great flexibility to organizations in allowing them to choose the option that aligns best with their budget, IT capability, and organizational policies. SpectrumHR is a very strong player in the small to mid-sized market.


    EmpXtrack is a web-based Global HR product that covers all aspects of the employee lifecycle in an organization - from recruitment to performance management, development and eventual exit. It helps automate all HR processes in the organization and provides information to all stakeholders including HR Managers, Upper Management, Managers and Employees.

    EmpXTrack offers their solutions in five different 'editions', ranging from the 'Enterprise' edition that encompasses the full suite of functionality (Employee database, applicant tracking, onboarding, appraisal, succession planning, and more). Other editions of the package include the 'Starter' edition, with just the very basic employee functions, and the 'Professional' version, which adds more in-depth processes like appraisals and onboarding.  Pricing is done on an annual basis based on the number of employees, and varies widely.

    EmpXTrack may be a good option for an organization with numerous requirements and no real system of record.  They have such a wide range of functionality, that an organization could start with just a few core functions, then add additional processes as needed.

    Smaller Vendors


    OrangeHRM is radically different that the other competitors in this space in one key area: pricing.  OrangeHRM is an open-source project that bills itself as 'Free & Open Source HR Management Software'. Essentially, the software is free, it can be downloaded and installed on your own servers, and used by your organization at no cost.  How OrangeHRM earns revenue is by selling support contracts (starting at $60 for one month of 'get on your feet' support) and by offering to host the software on their servers.

    OrangeHRM supports the essential processes like employee personal information, time tracking, employee self-service (ESS), leaves, as well as recruitment.  There is a reports module that allows users to define and execute ad-hoc queries on demand.

    OrangeHRM might be a good option if you have internal IT resources comfortable working with open source tools or if you have an extremely constrained budget, and the cost savings by going with open source are too hard to pass up.

    Zoho People

    Zoho is better known for it's online productivity suite, that competed with Google Apps in things like word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.  They have a wide range of applications and seem to be adding more all the time. I particularly like Zoho Polls.

    Zoho People is their attempt at cracking the small business HRIS market, with a simple, easy to use application that supports the basic employee demographic functions, recruiting, employee and manager self-service, and an embedded process checklist capability for things like the new hire process.  Zoho People is built on the extremely flexible Zoho Creator platform, making the creation of new forms, views, and taskflows fairly simple for someone with just a bit of technical skill.

    Zoho People is targeted at the very small (say 50+ employee) businesses. They offer free accounts for the first 10 employees, then from there pricing plans start as low as $19/mo for 10 employees ranging up to $850/mo for up to 1,000 employees.  Realistically, Zoho is likely only an option for those very small organizations with fewer than 50 employees.


    EffortlessHR is a purely web-based subscription service that targets the lower end of the small business market, up to about 250 employees. It supports the basics of employee management, time tracking, benefits information, and an employee self-service portal.  The real strength of EffortlessHR for the small business is the pre-bulit support for HR forms, legal posters, and access to Federal and State labor laws.

    This is definitely a small business oriented offering, particularly one with single person HR departments. The pricing is published on their site and ranges from a low of $300 annually for a single manager account, to about $1400 annually for up to 50 manager accounts.  If you are a very small organization, with no HRIS in place at all, then EffortlessHR may be worth a look.

    That is a quick overview of just 6 (out of probably hundreds) of options for HRIS for the small business.

    I would love to hear from any other vendors or readers on other viable options that I should have featured in the post.