Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

Tech Vendors Must Understand the Needs of Small Businesses

A woman working in an office with a laptop and boxes.

​When Cortney Hollinger, SHRM-SCP, looked for a human capital management (HCM) platform in the fall of 2019, she wanted a system that would support her company's unique small-business needs. This meant looking for technology that would reduce costs, support growth, increase efficiencies and strengthen the goals the company wanted to achieve.

Hollinger is the human resource director at CLEAN Cause, an Austin, Texas-based beverage company with 48 employees and a mission to support individuals recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.

The company donates 50 percent of net profits or 5 percent of net revenue, whichever is greater, to help with the cost of housing for those in recovery. To date, CLEAN Cause has granted over 3,268 sober-living scholarships, worth more than $1,634,000.

"We are a small and growing business that gives away half of our profits to people in recovery. We don't always have a budget for things that might make our lives easier," Hollinger said.

Because every dollar counts and her time is precious—Hollinger is the company's sole HR employee—she said she couldn't continue to use a technology platform that required her to perform manual tasks.

The previous system Hollinger used lacked automation of critical tasks and therefore required her to spend hours calling other managers to verify information or to seek approvals to process payrolls that were often tied up in batch processing wait times. 

Using older technology to manage CLEAN Cause's applicant tracking system created other inefficiencies. 

"I would keep a spreadsheet with people that were in our pipeline for any job that we had open and use e-mails to reply to applicants," she said. "I had so many different systems storing applicant information that it was hard to track them."

In January 2021, CLEAN Cause installed Paycor's HCM Core and is currently using the platform's payroll, HR, and time and attendance solutions.

"In the Paycor system, I can see the big picture of where people are in the pipeline and I can keep notes and text messages to communicate with applicants in the system," Hollinger said.

The company has found that eliminating manual processes such as phone calls and e-mails to adjust, review and change information—and now using a pay grid in the Paycor HCM to populate, cross-check and update information on employees' working hours—has saved time and money.

CLEAN Cause estimates that its new HCM system saved the company $22,000 in 2021, and this year projections are that the company will save $20,000.

With the Great Resignation creating uncertainty among employers, it's harder to maintain talent, which means companies have to look for HCM systems that generate data on employees' performance and job satisfaction.

"Paycor's HR system has analytics that are easy to use and designed to help our leadership," Hollinger said. "It forecasts what to expect on resignations that might be coming up based on trends and enables us to plan on talent in advance so that if we have to backfill a job, we are ready to go. That's been super helpful to us."

CLEAN Cause's experience with the Paycor HCM platform demonstrates the need for HCM vendors to tailor their software to the unique needs of small businesses, but it also reveals the ways in which HR executives at small companies can strengthen a company's overall business strategy, especially during a pandemic.

For her efforts, Hollinger was promoted from HR manager to HR director, a sign that her role is now viewed with greater importance to the company's overall business strategy. 

This shift is a trend that Greg Pridgeon, senior analyst at Forrester, has noticed. The pandemic, he said, has magnified the importance of the HR role and, by extension, the technology to support HR leaders.

"Probably the most important shift that we have seen take place is that a lot of senior HR leaders really have a broader and more amplified voice than they did three years ago," Pridgeon said. "They have a bigger seat at the table within the C-suite."

He noted that the HR role is now viewed as more integral to an organization's success. "That means the software necessary to support that more tactical HR seat is important," he added.

Paycor's competitors, such as ADP, Paycom, Paylocity and Oracle, are focused on addressing issues HR managers and their employees face in areas such as applicant tracking, paperless onboarding, time and attendance, payroll, and benefits administration.

Since the pandemic began, several HCM companies have added advanced data analytics software; mobile apps; application programming interface software; and text, video and e-signature capabilities.  

Vendor support, as well as cutting-edge technology that creates efficiencies and cuts costs, is what small businesses with shoestring budgets and few support staff are looking for.

"Almost every department we have is a one-man department, so it's important to us that vendors understand our size, our desire to grow, and that they also care about our mission and our cause," Hollinger said.

Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.