Technology is always changing as new trends or new tools continually impact the way businesses operate. From the prevalence of automation innovations to the explosion of mobile offerings to "the cloud," it's hard to keep up with the changes.
Sorting through the noise is hard, but there are some key innovations that will help you to run a more efficient and more profitable business. We've been monitoring these trends, and we know that essential business services are improved by leveraging popular technologies in the name of saving you time and money.
By far the biggest concept taking root with franchises is the prevalence of software services that are hosted in the cloud, or simply, software that isn't installed on a computer, but instead lives on the web. You've probably heard about cloud computing and "software as a service," or Saas. The intent here is to take all the software programs that traditionally are installed on a company's individual computers, or are accessed by their servers today, and move them over to the web. There, they are hosted in a single secured environment and accessible from any Internet-connected device, be it a computer, phone, or tablet.
With software installed in the cloud, all authorized users can access the same data, at the same time, from multiple locations. This allows for faster, better reporting across franchises and more efficient tracking of key metrics. By having all data centralized into a single software system and accessible by all authorized users, you save time by having critical information at your fingertips when you need it. And one of the biggest benefits is the elimination of painful, on-site software upgrades and heavy maintenance by IT personnel.
Software in the cloud is a much more cost-effective proposition for companies. It gives employers greater access to technologies that are integral to the business, according to Steve Boese, a well-known human resources blogger and professor of HR technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
"From here on out, it is very unlikely that you are going to see any new offerings from a vendor that will try to sell software on a disk that you have to load on one or more company computers," Boese says. "That's the old model and it's just not going to happen anymore."
Many of these cloud-based services present franchises new ways of automating the hiring and onboarding processes. Automation can not only make companies more efficient, but can lead to better collection of tax credits, cleaner tracking of worker authorizations, and perhaps most importantly, faster and more thorough hiring and onboarding processes.
Some 65 percent of organizations have either a partially or fully automated talent management system, which are most commonly used as a background-screening tool or for recruitment purposes. An August 2010 study by the Aberdeen Group found organizations that automated their hiring processes experienced 9 percent greater time to productivity for new hires compared to groups with manual hiring procedures, as technology can help pinpoint the best match and removes the need for mounds of paperwork.
Automated technology can also turn the HR processes into profits by uncovering all potential employer tax credits. Such cloud-based tax software allows for easy updates and real-time tracking of the more than 170 different tax credit programs available at the federal, state, and local levels, while eliminating 90 percent of the paperwork for employers. This reduces transposition errors and increases compliance to ensure that each franchisee is maximizing their bottom line tax credits. Through these programs we've found that an average of 15 percent of hourly hires qualify for incentives. We had one restaurant franchise client realize $40,000 in tax credit opportunities in the first six months of using our product.
Technology is helping hourly employers ensure compliance with all employee paperwork, including I-9s and state forms, while checking the eligibility of a new hire with the government's E-verify system. Businesses can be fined up to $1,200 per employee if they can't provide access to an employee's I-9 when requested, and that form is just one of several that employers are required to have on file. In a franchise system with 20 employees per store and multiple locations, tools that automate the completion and storage of these forms can help you avoid thousands of dollars in fines.
Keep mobility on your radar, too. It's become increasingly important for franchise operators to use. Whether advertising to new customers through services such as Foursquare or simply managing store operations through apps on your smartphone, mobile access to information saves time and makes you more efficient. And many of those cloud-based automated hiring systems, because they're accessible from the web, are therefore accessible from a smartphone. Hiring, scheduling, and managing staff has never been easier. Make sure you're leveraging mobile versions of your essential software to be able to save time and get key information between store visits.
Yet even with all this cool technology at our fingertips, it's important to remember that best practices are best practices. Implementing software for inefficient processes won't help you get the full benefits or maximize your investment. Make sure that your software partners are providing you with best practices so that leveraging technology can help you see improvements above and beyond easy to use software, automation, and mobile access. Technology is only one piece of the puzzle.
Amanda Richardson is senior vice president of product and marketing at Snagajob, the world's largest online community of hourly workers and a leading provider of workforce management solutions exclusively for hourly employers.
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