Small Business HR Tech Makes Waves in Ecosystem

This week I’m in Las Vegas for a handful of conferences and events including the IAEWS Fall Congress, HR Tech Tank and the HR Technology Conference. Many cocktails will be (and have already) consumed and conversations had on a variety of topics with one topic already being the subject of multiple conversations which is the small business market for HR and recruiting technologies.

The small business market is an emerging one in HR and recruiting with Zenefits and SmartRecruiters being some of the first of a now growing list of technologies targeting this very diverse group of businesses who in my opinion are in desperate need of technology. I interviewed a number of emerging small business HR technology products as part of my podcast series including GoodHire, SortBox, LocalWork, Recroup, and Emplo. (Access these episodes and more by clicking here)

New companies and technologies are popping up almost daily to serve this extremely hungry market. And by hungry I mean in 2015, 60 percent of small business (under 100 employees) HR and recruiting teams are adding or upgrading their HR tech. Fortunately, small to medium sized companies have a growing list of tech to choose from in all areas of the employment life cycle.

employeeLifeCycle (1)

Generally speaking, all companies regardless of their size move their employees through the same employment life cycle. Employees move from 1) recruitment 2) selection 3) performance 4) succession 5) development and 6) transition throughout their tenure with a company. HR technology products exist in each area of the employment life cycle because let’s face it talent is complicated, and businesses are looking for ways to streamline, optimize, simplify and measure their efforts so they can make smarter employment life cycle decisions for their current workforce and future employees.

Why Small Business Needs HR Tech to Compete in Their Industries

And until recently, small businesses had only a handful of options in each of the employee life cycle points in order to help assist them in hiring, engaging, developing, retaining and exiting employees like enterprise companies. It’s not realistic for small businesses to afford an Oracle HR and recruiting product suite. Companies like HireVue, Avature and Jibe are targeting very specific markets with the Fortune 500. These technologies are not just expensive but are built for large use and consumption not for small businesses who are frankly running around like crazy chickens often working in multiple roles like COO, HR, Safety and Finance. Frankly, I’m glad that enterprise quality HR technology is making its way to the small to medium-sized markets. It’s what we would expect because it’s a trend we are seeing in other verticals outside of HR including marketing, operations, logistics and sales.


HR itself as an industry is slow moving. We are consistently 24-38 and as much as 60 months behind consumer markets. Take for example the use and adoption of mobile in applicant tracking systems and job boards. There has been little change in HR technology product offerings even though some report that 70% of job board traffic is from mobile devices. We just aren’t quick to innovate.

Small Businesses Need Innovation But Does HR?

I find it personally ironic that we, as HR are slow to innovate, evolve and change. My ability to be flexible, take changes and pivot quickly has served me personally well as a small business owner. We, meaning the small businesses have a distinct advantage that our ships are often easier to turn, adjust and evolve than our larger competitor counterparts. My ability to move quickly is a competitive advantage in how I navigate the HR and technology space. I try new things. I fail a lot, but I always move forward and do so at a rapid pace.

These small businesses, including my own are setting the expectation that their HR technology should be flexible and move quickly to help anticipate and capitalize on market and economic change. These small businesses are using sales CRM tools, using intuitive billing and invoicing systems, mobile shipping and logistics systems and marketing platforms like Hubspot to accelerate business as usual. Their expectation is that HR and its technology should be doing the same things.

The challenge for technology companies who are selling into the small to medium sized HR markets is these organizational roles are extremely undefined, unique and it’s challenging to engage decision makers who are often solo practitioners within an organization. Sometimes the COO is responsible for HR. Sometimes it’s the HR Director or Manager who doubles as an office manager who also does the selling. These HR professionals aren’t always strategic in nature because their role is often administrative first. New hire paper, payroll processes and employee benefits administration is something that has to happen in order for the business to continue on. It can’t be avoided, and there’s nothing wrong with having priorities.

These leaders don’t leave the office or attend events like HR Tech. The question is how do we engage, build relationships and ultimately sell to the small business HR professionals who are eager and interested in purchasing this much-needed technology?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.


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