It used to be that the company notice board was the best way for an HR department to communicate with staff. Then PCs and the intranet extended that communication to the desktop – at least for those employees who worked at a desk.
For workers in industries such as retail, manufacturing or mining, the employee kiosk became the place to log leave requests and check rosters.
The idea of having a small number of PCs in communal areas accessible to everyone took off in the early part of the last decade as organisations sought to derive the maximum value from their expensive investments in enterprise human resources management (HRM) systems.
The advent of smartphones and personal tablets has shrunk the power of the PC into a pocket-sized device. For many organisations, the idea of supplying dedicated PCs is being swept away by the knowledge that most workers carry the same functionality in their pockets.
Ian Hales has watched the transition first hand. There was a time when his company Webpoint made a significant proportion of its revenue from dedicated, locked-down PC-based kiosks, supplying companies such as Qantas and Patrick (now Asciano).
The business got its start supplying locked-down PCs to airports and shopping centres for pay-as-you-go internet access and marketing promotions.
Hales says, “The feedback is that workers can [now] log in and do the things they used to use a kiosk for at home.”
Not for every organisation
Deputy.com is an Australian software developer that has created an advanced cloud-based scheduling, performance management and communications application that enables workers to sign in and out and organise rosters.
While the software can be delivered as an app on a smartphone, Deputy’s chief technology officer Ashik Ahmed says that for many of his company’s clients in the hospitality sector, mobile devices are banned from the working floor.
“Mobile phones are usually a germ farm, because of the temperature they operate at, and the things you touch before touching your screen,” Ahmed says. “So in hospitality it is absolutely not preferred for the employees.”
But while the device is important, it is the functionality of the kiosk that is critical. In Deputy’s case, Ahmed says the software enables employers to better schedule their employees and ensure more accurate payment, with the tablet or smartphone even able to photograph the employee to ensure that it is really them signing on.
“Our application is getting adapted into a business where they did not have any infra- structure before, other than an email address and Microsoft Office, so it is quite a big leap of faith for businesses to come on to Deputy,” Ahmed says.
The HRM company Talent2 offers a number of software packages with self-serve capabilities, often sold in conjunction with its outsourced payroll service.
Brendan Trewartha, Talent2’s global general manager of HR and payroll services, says functionality ranges from allowing workers to change their personal details to booking leave, and even checking to ensure their leave requests don’t clash with other workers.
“There’s a much greater use of employee self-service because it is reducing the amount of workload that the HR and payroll team have to deal with, but it is also giving managers and employees access to a lot of information that they did not have access to before,” Trewartha says.
The regional vice president of human capital management products at Oracle (which acquired PeopleSoft in 2005) John Hansen says the cost of PCs back then meant deploying kiosks was a significant investment.
What has changed, however, is the usability and functionality of the software itself. Hansen says kiosk software is now designed around transactions and the needs of the workers.
“The user experience is a quantum difference to what they looked like when we were first getting into this territory,” Hansen says. “You need to make using these applications a pleasurable activity these days.”
Oracle has created its own app, Oracle Tap, available in the iTunes App Store, as an interface for managers and workers.
“We can do things like location awareness now, which provides some interesting collaboration and social capabilities from knowing that other people in your networks are in the same location as you,” Hansen says.
“And we can shape the data that you are being provided with when you’re transacting or looking up information, based on the location you are in. That is one thing that mobile devices do as a matter of course.”