Zenefits: A Mobile HR Department in Your Pocket

Complexity and running a human resources (HR) operation go hand-in-hand, a reality that small business owners quickly discover when their employee headcount grows.

Whether they tackle HR themselves or dedicate staff to managing their employees’ pay, time, and benefits, HR has become synonymous with incomprehensible forms, confusing benefits packages and glacially slow approvals processes. Zenefits, a San Francisco-based HR software startup, aims to streamline and automate many HR tasks and thus allow entrepreneurs to focus on growing their businesses and keeping their workers happy.

[Related: Top 10 Free Mobile Apps for Small Businesses]

HR employee recruiting, training and retention

The Benefits of Zenefits

“HR software has a horrible history of terrible complexity,” Itai Turbahn, director of product management at Zenefits, told Small Business Computing. It’s been a bad experience, not only for employees, but also for business leaders.

HR can “consume up to 35 percent of a business owner’s time,” said Kevin Young, director of communications for Zenefits. Devoting a more than a third of one’s workweek to explaining benefits and managing pay doesn’t leave much left for other crucial tasks like generating sales, balancing the books, and countless other tasks and obligations that compete for a busy small business owner’s time.

Zenefits is a cloud-based, “all-in-one HR platform” that companies can use to manage hiring, payroll, benefits, and compliance, explained Young. Zenefits is free to use—yes, you read that right; the company earns money on commissions paid by insurance companies. Fees do apply to premium services like time and attendance, which costs $5 per hourly employee per month. Rather than run several software packages and interact with a handful of providers separately, Zenefits allows businesses to consolidate all those functions into a single, user-friendly Web dashboard for both a company’s HR admins and its employees. “We give a business owner’s time back,” said Young.

Now, business owners and their employees can take the company’s time-saving technology on the road.

Zenefits Mobile App

This month, Zenefits released its mobile app for Apple iOS devices (a version for Android is in the works for an expected release in fall 2016). Turbahn’s favorite feature—and surely to become a favorite among workers embarking on their summer vacations—is the personal time off (PTO) feature.

“When we began designing the feature we talked to several customers and were surprised how manual the existing PTO processes are—find/request the right form, fill it out, collect signatures, scan or make a copy, submit the request by email (or *gasp* fax), admin adds to a spreadsheet to track, etc.,” he wrote in a company blog post.

Zenefits replaced that convoluted processes with four steps that anyone can complete in seconds. It includes selecting the type of time off (vacation, jury duty, etc.), its duration (all day or selected hours), dates, and finally confirming the request summary.

“Don’t fret about the finer details of your policy, because you can look it up and view your approved requests. Once you request time-off, your manager automatically receives an email notification so he or she can approve in seconds,” added Turbahn.

That simplicity carries over to other parts of the app, said Turbahn. During a doctor’s visit, employees can quickly scan a summary of benefits to determine whether their insurance covers a particular treatment or procedure. Gone are endless minutes on hold with the medical or dental insurance provider or the uncertainty that accompanies unexpected health issues. In this regard, Zenefits offers small business owners and their employees some peace of mind so they can more confidently get back on the road to wellness, he added.

Other features include instant access to pay stubs. Zenefits displays an employee’s net pay “front and center; it’s the first thing that you see,” said Turbahn. While that figure may rarely change for salaried workers, hourly workers can quickly confirm that they’re getting paid for the time they put in, he said.

Rounding out the app’s feature set is real-time flexible spending account balances and a built-in employee directory. Instead of filling up a personal phone’s contact list with co-workers, the Zenefits app provides a searchable directory, complete with one-tap calling, messaging, and email.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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