"HR Digital transformation." "HR Digitization." Those are human resource buzzwords these days, especially when it comes to transforming HR processes. Personally, I have been on this HR digital transformation journey for a few years. I've come to realize that we don't need to spend enormous amounts of money to transform simple processes. We are lucky that we currently live in the digital age, where open source tools are available all over the internet. All we need is some time for research and creativity in finding free tools that are readily available.
Here are some free (or inexpensive) tools that I have used in the past to transform some HR processes, i.e., moving a few HR processes from being manual to being digital or automated. The best part of these tools is that they are free (or available for a small fee) for very effective results which in turn, improves work productivity by leaps and bounds.
Top 7 Essential Tools for HR Management
AppSheet is a no-code app platform that can convert your Google Sheets (or any applicable cloud solution) into your own customized app, where you can access and update data on your mobile device, laptop and desktop.
All you need to do to get started is create a spreadsheet, doc, or form with some data. From there, the AppSheet wizard creates an app that you can fully customize to fit your needs. You don't need to know how to code nor do you need to spend time figuring how to build a mobile app. You can even have graphs and data visualizations built from the data captured.The free basic feature package is enough to create many applications. Once you have built your app and you feel you need some extra features, you can upgrade to have advanced features at $5 to $10 per active user/month.
Price: Free for prototype. No time limit.
How can it be used in HR: I converted Excel spreadsheets that were kept in a collaborative shared drive into Google Sheets. These cloud-based Google Sheets were then able to be accessed on everyone's mobile phone through an app user interface, which allowed users to add or update data real time and in a collaborative manner. The app allowed fewer mistakes to be made and allowed data to be entered anytime, anywhere, by multiple users.
AppSheet is the only one on this list that allows you total control to create your own app from the bottom up, with every feature unique to your and your business needs. But there are alternative applications that can also help you simplify HR processes, albeit with less customization options.
Typeform is a data collection or survey tool, with an added twist. It has some beautiful survey templates and allows the whole survey process to be engaging and interactive.
It moves away from the old black and white survey tools. It also has some interesting logic calculations and jump methodologies that allow you to create "if user answers this, then show this question" type of scenarios. It allows for media files like images and videos to be added to survey questions, to make the whole process more engaging.
Price: Free for 100 responses/month & 10 questions survey form.
How can it be used in HR: I designed internal HR surveys for company employees using Typeform. We moved away from the traditional survey forms and went with this attractive and engaging tool. The tool also allowed for survey data to be captured in the cloud and for the data to be shown in a graphical summary which was used to be presented to management. You can also download the data into Excel, if you want to perform your own analysis on the data.
Zapier is an easy application that is used to integrate two different apps together. For example, Typeform and Google Sheets are 2 different tools that have no connections between them. If you would like the Typeform data to be available in Google Sheets for a larger audience to view, you can use Zapier to connect the two together.
Zapier moves the data from individual Typeform question responses to individual columns in Google Sheets. Zapier allows for so many different unconnected tools to be connected together by having data flowing from one tool to another, see the list shown on the right.
Price: Free for 14-day trial. $20/month after the trial.
How can it be used in HR: I designed an internal HR survey using Typeform which was sent to employees, but we wanted our colleagues in HR to be able to view the data submitted in real time. Not everyone in HR had a Typeform account, so we used Zapier to be the bridge between Typeform and Google Sheets. From Google Sheets, we used AppSheet to build a mobile app. So whenever a Typeform survey respondent submits a survey form response, our HR colleague can immediately view the results on the AppSheet app on their mobile phone whenever and wherever they were.
There were many times when we presented updates to management, we wanted to provide a demo of the HR applications that we built on the mobile phone to showcase our final deployment. Most of the time, we did not have an adapter to connect the mobile phone to the projector. So what did we do?
Enter an interesting app called Vysor. This is a free Chrome extension that you can install on your computer's Chrome browser. Once installed, all you need to do is connect the USB cable from your phone to your PC, wait for the computer to detect your phone and once detected, you will be able to showcase and mirror your phone screen on the projector screen. From there you can start scrolling through the phone to demo your applications real time. The only caveat is that this only works for Android phones.
How can it be used in HR: I used this mainly to present AppSheet apps and Marvel app demos to management, toggling between PowerPoint screens and the mobile phone screens without the need to unplug and plug projector cables into different devices. This allows for smooth presentations during management updates or during class demos.
Trello has helped me a lot in the past to visualize and plan activities that I was working on. Trello is a web-based management application. There are many other similar applications out there, but I am highlighting Trello because I have been using it for a while now.
Whenever it comes to working on projects, I always wanted to tackle it in a very structured manner and to break down tasks into smaller manageable pieces. Trello helps me do that.
It is incredibly easy to use and allows tracking from an overview perspective all the way down to minute details. Trello consists of boards, lists, and cards which enables you to organize and prioritize your projects in a very organized and flexible method.
How can it be used in HR: I found it useful especially when I project managed a huge HR marketing showcase project with a set start-to-end timeline where I had so many tasks, meetings and people to coordinate with. Trello allowed me to have an overview of the tasks that had been completed and what tasks still remaining that I needed to prioritize.
When you think of Marvel, the first thing that comes to mind is comics. I thought the same, but the Marvel app is something totally different. The Marvel app is an all-in-one platform for designing needs. It allows users to create prototypes for designs and simulate apps that they would like to pitch or get approval for, before starting the process of actually building a real app.
It allowed me to bring an HR app idea to life through simulation, without the need to spend tons of money hiring a developer to build a prototype.
With Marvel, you can build a prototype in just a matter of hours. It utilizes the process of rapid prototyping, which a lot of companies are implementing today. Nowadays, many companies want to "go to market" (GTM) with their products faster than ever. This makes it even more important to have a rapid prototyping methodology in place, to weed out failures before too much of the budget is used. This will ensure a higher success rate of products being rolled out, at a fraction of the development cost.
Price: Free for 2 app prototype designs.
How can it be used in HR: I was introduced to the Marvel app as part of a Design Thinking workshop where participants were supposed to build a solution prototype for a problem faced at work and pitch it to a group of judges. I built a simulated app using Marvel in a matter of hours based on our group's idea, which was very well received because it looked so real, even though it was a simulation. The simulated app also gave the pitching judges an idea of how the app would work in real life. I was so amazed at the ability of the Marvel app to build realistic looking apps that really simulates what the real app would look like. This also helped to build a rapid prototyping mindset as part of the work culture.
Jotform is an easy to use online form builder. It is used to build online forms like surveys but you can add a lot more functionalities into the survey because you can integrate additional widgets to make the forms very interactive and view real time results for the form respondents.
There are tons of widgets that you can add into Jotform, like form calculators, sliders that update based on responses from participants, payment widgets like Paypal, Stripe etc, drop down calendars, data grids and so much more. There are hundreds of widgets that you can choose from to customize your form. You can also create customized emails and notifications with the available content responses to be sent after participants they have submitted the forms.
Price: Free for 5 forms and 100 submissions.
How can it be used in HR: I used Jotform to digitize learning assessments that we had on Excel. Having assessments on Excel makes it easy for individuals to perform individual assessments, but it makes it harder for the HR function to consolidate data and run some data analysis. Having digitized the assessment using Jotform, all assessment data was kept in one place and we could easily pull the data to visualize a summary report. We also crafted personalized emails based on the individual respondents so that they could keep these assessments on email as a record. It also made it easier for the user to take assessments because everything is web based that can be accessed both on the laptop and mobile.
As you can see, there are so many interesting tools out there that can be used to automate and digitize even the smallest HR task at the fraction of the cost. All it takes is just time and effort to conduct some research into the tool's capability and to understand how can it be applied to whatever that we want to achieve. With so many manual processes in HR today, it really makes sense for us to start automating these areas so that we can start focusing on what matters most. Automating these processes will also allow for a more critical element that is missing from the worldwide HR field today, which is reviewing and gaining insights from the data that we have collected through digital means.
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or queries on the above tools.
Mithi Maniam is an engineer and a marketeer who has deep interest in marketing, analytics, technology and digital transformation. Currently indulging in the field of HR, he is the constant thinker. He loves to explore transformation in the digital age, implement new marketing ideas and research burning questions on analytics & big data regardless of the field. The above article are thoughts from the author himself and does not relate to any company or organization he is associated with. Check out more of his blog posts on his personal website blog.mithimaniam.com.