How Important Are Online Reviews To Australian Customers?

Online customer reviews

They say that when you buy from a small business, a real-life person does a happy dance. The same goes for when they receive their first online review—unless, of course, the review is negative. In this case, it’s hard for small business owners not to feel a little deflated. 

Regardless of the review’s tone, business owners may be wondering: How important are online reviews to customers? Do they attract or deter other shoppers from buying products, services or software? To answer these questions and help businesses learn how to manage reviews, we surveyed 258 Australian online shoppers.

Online customer reviews

How important are online reviews to customers?

Australian shoppers are savvy, and it’s extremely unlikely they’ll make a purchase without doing their research first. According to our survey, 98% of Australians read online reviews before they make a purchase, and 94% believe them to be trustworthy.

By extension, Australian buyers have taken on a kind of communal ethos—84% expressed they’d left a review online at least once in their life. By sharing their experiences, shoppers hope to make the buying decisions of future customers a little easier. 

Who is most likely to leave a review?

Our research found that 56% of the respondents who had left a review online did so because the seller had prompted them to. This highlights a simple and manageable solution to engaging customers in the reviewing process: Ask them! 

There are plenty of free review management platforms that will help motivate loyal customers to share their experiences. Businesses that want to leverage this technology should take into account their typical customer demographic. However, it’s also useful to have a basic understanding of the average Australian customer reviewer too. 

Two-thirds of respondents who had left a review online have a job (full-time or part-time), and 78% of respondents who had left a review fit within the 20 to 40-year-old age category. 

Women were also twice as likely to leave reviews than men.

Which gender reviews more?
Which gender reviews more?

The research also revealed that Australians are foodies! Restaurants, bars, and cafes were the most reviewed category at 14%, followed by food and beverage products at 12%. Electronics and technology products (11%), clothing and accessories (11%) and education and training (11%) came in as the joint third most popular sectors to review. 

 

most-reviewed-shopping-sectors
Most review categories in Australia.

Why do customers review?

Although some customers need a gentle nudge to leave business reviews, just under half of them happen without any kind of prompt. According to a global study by Trustpilot, the motive is usually to:

  1. Help other customers make a better purchase decision.
  2. Share an experience.
  3. Reward a company for good performance.

However, the research also showed that reviews can be a result of buyers acting on emotion, positively or negatively. If the customer has had a poor experience, they’re likely to vent their frustration—particularly if they feel personally wronged or mistreated. 

In the same vein, an exceptionally good experience can move a customer to share it with others. This happens more often for customer experiences with small or local businesses.

What does the perfect review look like?

The data revealed that Australian’s trust positive and negative feedback with equal importance. They also prefer a range of written content over a perfect star review. 

We asked respondents:

When browsing online, which of these two online customer reviews would make you more inclined to trust the product?

Product A: Five out of five-star rating with 5 written reviews

Product B: Four out of five-star rating with 15 written reviews.

 

More than three quarters (76%) of respondents said they would prefer product B. 

This result demonstrates that written comments can carry more weight than star ratings. But star ratings still serve an important purpose: They help businesses know if their previous customers were happy. Similarly, they help shoppers make a snap judgement on the quality of a product.

So, what do shoppers look for when checking reviews? 

What do shoppers look for in reviews?
What do shoppers look for in reviews?

According to our research, businesses should ensure their reviews platforms include:

  • At least 15 written reviews.
  • Fresh reviews, ideally submitted within the last three months.
  • An honest reflection of the brand.

In the eyes of a consumer, a perfect star rating feels superficial. No product, service or software is without flaws. With that in mind, businesses should never delete reviews that discuss the difficulties or challenges faced with the product, service or software.

Why should businesses care about reviews?

Together with the fact that 98% of Australian’s won’t buy a product, service or software without reading them, customer reviews also help to:

Improve website visibility

When your business consistently gets good feedback online from customers, it affects your ranking in search engines. As a result, you’ll sit higher up in the search results and more customers will discover you.

Convert browsers into customers

Shoppers trust the word of other shoppers almost as much as their peers. Reviews create a huge network of micro case studies for your business.

Create a community

Customers have the opportunity to engage with each other, and with you. Businesses can thank customers directly for their appreciation, or let them know they’re listening to their feedback. 

Drive conversations

Customer review pages are a fantastic source of information for social listening. The conversations not only provide key insights into the quality of your product, but they can also help shape the messages behind your future marketing campaigns.

How can businesses drive positive online reviews?

Here are a few ways you can create social proof of your product, service or software:

  1. Give them lots of different platforms: Don’t limit your customers. There are plenty of spaces for customers to give their opinion, including your social media sites, third-party review sites, and platforms like Google my Business.
  2. Ask them directly: Deploy an email campaign to your existing customers using email marketing software. Alternatively, automate the process using review management software.
  3. Stress the importance of reviews to staff: Customer service teams should always follow up a positive customer conversation with an invitation to review your product, service or software.
  4. Make it easy: Include a link on your website that brings customers directly to your most popular review platform. Why is this so important? According to Neil Patel, ‘if a customer has a good experience with your business, they aren’t likely to go out of their way and leave a review. Customers who have had a negative experience are likely to go out of their way to speak their mind.’ 

Bear in mind that while positive reviews are the goal, you don’t have complete control over the social perception of your business.

How should businesses respond to a negative review?

More than half of our survey respondents admitted they’ve published at least one negative review online. Yet, 58% of the respondents didn’t get a response from the seller, despite 82% of them stating they wanted one. 

In most cases, consumers simply wanted to help other shoppers with their purchasing decisions by sharing their own experience. Acknowledging a negative review is crucial because users want to know that the problem has been heard. It also helps to rebuild broken trust. But for a small business, who has little to no staff dedicated to this area, it can be tricky to know where to start when it comes to formulating a response.

According to the respondents, Australians most want businesses to:

  • Offer a refund (90%)
  • Correct the issue (88%)
  • Write like a human, not a corporation (85%)
  • Take accountability (85%)
  • Provide an explanation (81%).

Bad reviews can happen regardless of the quality of product, software or service. No matter how undeserved they feel may, businesses shouldn’t shy away from the concept of negative reviews. 

Whose opinion counts?

As well as customer reviews, we asked respondents to give their opinions on other sources of information. Respondents said their peers are the most trustworthy, while influencers were the least. The media and journalists were also listed as reliable sources.

Trust has a significant impact on the purchase decision journey, so businesses must pay attention to the information that helps to convert shoppers into loyal, happy customers. 

Would you like to learn how to leverage reviews to boost SEO and PPC performance? Discover how Capterra connects with software buyers using customer reviews today.

The methodology of the study

To collect the data for this article, we conducted an online survey. The answers come from a sample of Australian online shoppers. The survey includes the answers of 258 participants who qualified to complete the survey through screening questions (out of a total of 300 participants) in January 2020.

Payroll processing: What Is It? And How To Get Set Up

monthly payroll processes

Payroll processing refers to the steps taken to pay employees for each pay cycle. It takes into account the employee’s salary, working hours, bonuses, benefits, and tax remittance. 

On the surface, that may sound quite straightforward. In reality, payroll can be a complex process—especially for someone with little to no finance background. In this article, we cover the basics of payroll processing and highlight the technology you’ll need to begin.

monthly payroll processes

Who should handle payroll within a small business?

According to ABS data, there are approximately 781,908 businesses with 19 or fewer employees in Australia. That’s around 36.8% of Australian businesses. In most cases, these companies don’t have in-house finance management. 

For a small business that doesn’t have a dedicated payroll administrator, payroll processing often falls to the business owner. There is a lot to consider when filing multiple payroll records.

With that in mind, it’s worth investigating the option of payroll software, third-party outsourcing, or a combination of both.

Why businesses need an efficient payroll process

Your employees are your best resource, so it makes sense to look after them and their remuneration. Beyond perks and benefits, the first thing businesses have to ensure is:

  • Employees receive an accurate pay rate
  • Salaries get paid on time
  • Management of annual leave (and other types of leave) is correct
  • Commissions and bonuses are honoured.

These processes should be smooth, seamless and without any major issues. As a business grows, technology can help an organisation to handle multiple employee salaries at once.

In-house payroll vs outsourcing: which should you choose?

Inhouse vs outsourcing payroll process

A big choice you need to make before investing in any software is whether to keep the function in-house or outsource it to a third-party. The decision is crucial and could save your business thousands of dollars. 

Let’s look at the benefits and challenges of each:

Outsourcing payroll

Benefits:

Here are a few ways a company might benefit from outsourcing the payroll process:

  • Time-saving: The main benefit of outsourced payroll processing is the amount of time saved from the endless hours spent calculating pay, deductions and keeping track of income tax withholdings.
  • Avoid mistakes: With payroll comes workplace agreements and EBAs. When a mistake happens, it can be costly. Third-parties ensure the minimum standards are adhered to.
  • Focus on core business activities: By outsourcing payroll to a third-party, organisations can focus on the functions that generate revenue and drive growth.
  • Security: A good payroll processing service will have robust payroll systems that are fully secure. Sensitive information is therefore protected by the company.
  • Peace of mind: The hassle and pain often associated with payroll processing are mitigated through the help of experts. 

Challenges:

Outsourcing also has its shortcomings. It costs more than software, and even though you’re putting the process in the hands of specialists, there is still potential for human error. 

In-house payroll management

Benefits:

Here are just a few reasons to bring the payroll process in-house:

  • Cost: The upfront cost may be larger initially because you’ll need to purchase and implement software. However, the processing of payroll is extremely cost-effective in the medium to long term.
  • Data control: Sensitive information, such as salaries, benefits and work status remains in-house. The data remains on a secure database owned and managed by you, giving you greater control. 
  • Flexibility: Changes, such as deductions or salary increases, are easy and quick to apply.
  • Employee empowerment: Payroll platforms should include the option to self-service. This means employees have access to the platform and can take responsibility for keeping their data up to date.
  • Fee transparency: The price of payroll technology is consistent and transparent. A third-party may provide extra fees for activities such as changes, or adding overtime.

Challenges: 

In-house payroll processing is the less expensive option, but there are some extra costs that businesses may need to consider. 

Even if a business has 19 or fewer employees, by law they’ll still need to purchase a single touch payroll software. This is because the Australian Government requires businesses to report payroll information to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

However, don’t view the requirement as a punishment. Payroll platforms make the process significantly more manageable. Instead of administrators having to manually calculate and pay salaries, wages, taxes and super, they can simply automate it.

How much does payroll software cost?

In a recent poll that we put out to 250 Australian customers, we discovered than 98% of people will read through reviews and compare a product, service or software before buying. When we asked which piece of information within a product listing was most vital, 85% of people cited pricing.

So, how much will payroll technology set you back? Some common factors determine the cost. These include:

  • The pay cycle
  • The total number of employees
  • How many states your employees reside in
  • Whether you require direct deposit
  • Demand for additional tax filing-services.

Most payroll programs have a per-employer or per-paycheck fee, on top of the base account fee. The base fee varies per software, but you can expect to pay anything between AUD$20 to $100 per month. 

Additional fees, such as a one-off set up fee, may also apply. Before committing, it’s worth exploring payroll software that offers free trials

What are the features of a payroll system? 

Here are five features you should pay attention to when investigating software platform options: 

Setup and support

When you first use the software, you’ll need to enter your company’s and employee’s information. Guidance from the software company will make it easier to transition your current payroll system to a software program. They will also help with any teething issues you face and provide some basic training.  

Payrolling processing

The platform you choose should automatically calculate the pay for individual employees every pay period. The system takes into account updates to wage rates, hours worked, overtime, holiday pay, and taxes. It will also factor in relevant deductions.

The platform then automatically makes the payments to employees by direct deposit, prepaid debit cards or a paper check. 

File and pay payroll taxes

Taxes are the most challenging aspect of the process, which is why the Australian Tax Office insists that small businesses should submit reports through single-use payroll software. The program calculates taxes for you, and some file and deposit payroll taxes for you too.

Ensure the platform you select stays up to date with changing payroll laws and tax rates. A cloud-based platform should apply these updates automatically for you. 

Multiple payment options

Payroll software allows you to pay employees electronically—one option is via direct deposit. You can pay the employee’s wages directly into their bank. This way, there’s no need to print and distribute paychecks. 

Other payment options include:

  • Digital payments: Send salary to platforms, such as PayPal. 
  • Paper checks: A system that doesn’t get used often today, but could be useful for companies with very few employees.
  • TransferWise: A useful option for those who have employees abroad.
  • Prepaid Debit Cards: This method is similar to direct deposit, but exists for workers without bank accounts.

Having these alternatives allows employees to be flexible to those who don’t want to be bound to traditional banking.

Employee self-service portal

Allowing staff to log into the portal and update their paperwork is a useful feature for payroll administrators. They can also review and download their payroll history.

This aspect also works well with time-tracking. Employees pay will automatically update according to the data. 

How to choose payroll software

When it comes to exploring what options are available to you, refer to this article as a checkpoint. We’ve included all the crucial aspects you’ll need to decide which solution will suit your needs best, the expected budget, and the benefits you’ll see in return. 

Ready to purchase payroll software? Check out Capterra’s software buyers guide to selecting payroll software today. 

Why Sales And Marketing Alignment Is Vital For Growth Strategy Success

Marketing and sales alignment

When you boil it down, a sales team and a marketing team have the same basic goal: To increase revenue. Both teams focus on bringing in new business, retaining existing customers, and spreading the word about your products and services. That’s why so many leading businesses concentrate on sales and marketing alignment.

Why marketing and sales alignment is crucial

If you’re not familiar with the concept, we’ll break down why it’s a useful strategy, and outline the CRM software solutions and other items you’ll need to get your sales and marketing team to work together.

What is sales and marketing alignment? 

Simply put, sales and marketing alignment means these two departments share the same strategy and support one another. In many businesses, sales and marketing are siloed, and will only communicate with each other on an as-needed basis. 

What does sales and marketing alignment look like? Members from both sides of the equation will have frequent and structured communications. They’ll also support each other toward the same larger goal of increased sales and revenue.

Some businesses take what’s known as a “Smarketing” approach. This means that rather than having a separate sales and marketing team, they merge the two departments. 

What are the benefits of aligning sales and marketing?

You can expect major benefits both internally and for your customers when you align sales and marketing.

Here are some examples:

Revenue increases

According to a study by MarketingSherpa, 79% of generated leads never convert to sales. Though there are many reasons a lead may not convert, a big part of the problem for many businesses is the lack of nurturing. To properly turn a lead into a full-fledged customer, businesses need to provide them with useful, relevant content and touchpoints to help them down the funnel. This is very hard to do if the people focusing on the beginning of the funnel (your marketing team) aren’t communicating well with the people responsible for the end (your sales team).

Improved customer retention 

Bringing in more new business is only half the job. It’s equally important for businesses to retain their current customers. Both sales and marketing have a role to play here. The marketing team must continue to offer new benefits, updates, and value to keep customers on board; the sales team, however, has a deep understanding of existing customers (as they are the ones bringing them into the business). By working together, your sales and marketing experts can come up with a strategy that prioritises retention. 

A streamlined customer experience 

The best businesses out there offer a streamlined experience for customers, with no disruptions as they move from cold lead, to warm lead, to a client. As a result, customers now expect businesses to have a smooth transition period, and they’ll take their business elsewhere if they feel neglected. By aligning your sales and marketing team, you can give your customers this same streamlined experience, leading to more conversions and a longer customer lifecycle. 

Improved internal collaboration

When kept siloed, it’s not uncommon for the sales and marketing team to be at odds. Because they are working toward the same goal, it’s hard for teams to know where their responsibilities start and end, which can lead to tension. By aligning the sales and marketing team, this tension will dissipate, and your internal staff with experience new cohesion that will help them function better as a team.  

How to start aligning your sales and marketing team

Does sales and marketing alignment sound like something you want for your business? If so, here’s how you can get started: 

Outline and assign the roles and tasks needed

The first step toward sales and marketing alignment is to take stock of the existing roles you have on both teams and decide how they can begin to complement each other. For this process, involve leadership from both sales and marketing. Start by outlining every role on both teams, looking for places where roles may overlap or complement one another. Once you’ve done this, you can determine whether you want to move to a fully integrated “Smarketing” team, or simply align certain aspects and members of either department. 

Organise a series of strategy sessions

Next, it’s time to get all the key players in your newly aligned department(s) together to build out a growth strategy. The teams may already have some in place, which means you simply need to work to align the strategies, or you can build one from scratch. Start with the goals you want to achieve—set these clearly, and make sure that the overall goals are the same for everyone. Next, have team members discuss the best methods for achieving those goals. As the two teams discuss their plan of attack, they’ll likely discover new ways to support each other and work together. 

Enhance your communication methods

Your team will need to make sure they are communicating effectively and frequently going forward. You’ll need to put standards in place for communication. It’s also a good idea to arm them with technology that makes the process easier. For example, you may want to install a new internal chat system to make it easier for people to communicate no matter where they are.

Don’t be concerned if you hit some road bumps in the process of aligning your sales and marketing efforts. Changes often cause friction, but as long as your team work together and align their goals, you’ll see long-term success. 

A CRM system allows your marketing and sales team to track and update leads as they advance through the funnel. Ready to get started? Compare Capterra’s directory of best CRM software today.

12 Communication Tips For Recruitment Leaders

internal-communications-for-recruiters

It may feel obvious, but a successful leader relies largely on his or her ability to communicate well with their team. What you say, how you say it and when you say it matters enormously. Even more so? What you don’t say. 

Similar to building a house, without a strong foundation, your business is likely to collapse. Along with the right software, good internal communications creates the bases of a strong company. It also helps drive a positive culture. And happy, engaged employees make for more productive workers—so your business will benefit too. 

internal-communications-for-recruiters

But the advantages don’t stop there. 

Benefits of a strong internal communications plan

You may feel that having an internal communications strategy is a luxury, rather than a necessity. Yet not having one can cost your business significantly. But if you’re in a management position within an SME, it’s likely that budgets are limited—and it can be tricky to know where to start. 

Here’s the good news. You don’t need to hire an entire department to manage it. Start with top-level management and strong internal communications will spread throughout the business. Here are a few reasons why that’s a good thing:

  • Employee advocacy: Employees who feel valued through transparency and openness are much more likely to stay loyal to your business. 
  • Company culture: Strong internal comms is vital for building a work environment where everyone feels like they matter. Employees don’t want to be treated like just another cog in the machine!
  • Business goals are clearer: Strongly communicated goals means your team members understand their purpose in the business and how they contribute to the bigger picture. 
  • Stronger employee communication: Internal comms works both ways. By creating a two-way communication system, employees are much more likely to flag problems and emergencies, so that you can respond to them quicker.

How to drive effective internal communications

They say your mistakes make you successful, and I would agree with that. Since I’ve made most of these mistakes already, maybe I can save you from making them too. To sum up my learning, I created 12 communication best practices in what I egotistically like to call, the ‘Savage 12 Communication Commandments’ for internal communications.

The Savage 12 Communication Commandments

1. You will never be accused of over-communicating

Over-communication isn’t a thing. How likely is it that you’ll conduct an exit interview where the employee says: ‘I’ve had enough! I was kept too informed, and there was no need to keep me looped in on plans, strategies and motivations. More often, you’ll hear the opposite reasons for a premature resignation.

2. Communicate early and often

It’s easy for people to fill in the gaps with incorrect information when they don’t know the facts. And they will. Communicating once and then expecting people to ‘get it’ simply won’t suffice. People are busy, distracted, and let’s be frank, often not concentrating on every message from leadership. Repeat the message in different ways and at different times in the way that will resonate best.

3. Tell them everything or tell them nothing

I’ve learned that when you only tell someone half the story, they’ll fill in the missing information themselves. This can be dangerous for both your candidate and your client. I’ll give you an example. I once worked with a Manager who discovered that the office lease was up in three months. The news meant a fast office move was required and as a knee-jerk reaction, she panicked. Without thinking, she runs to inform the team of the news that they’d need to move office as soon as possible—beginning the announcement with the fateful phrase: ‘Don’t panic, but….’

Of course, they panicked. The team immediately started jumping to conclusions that the reasons behind the move were catastrophic. They believed the business was going bust and that they’d all be made redundant, which was far from the truth. The manager would have helped the team avoid sleepless nights of worrying by simply staying quiet until she could explain the news with all the facts. Where you can, paint the full picture, anticipate follow-up questions and concerns, and address them immediately. 

4. Empathise before you communicate

Many recruiters get this wrong, yet it’s a critical step in the candidate communication process. If deliver bad news, but with no understanding of how that will impact the team, they will be upset and resentful about the lack of empathy. 

 

For example, imagine you need to reduce the recruitment advertising budget. Don’t just deliver that news as a fait accompli. Instead, acknowledge the pain points, explain why the decision fits in with the bigger picture, and provide support with any adjustment that is required. 

 

Here’s a suggested script for delivering the news: “I know to cut the advertising budget is going to make it harder in some respects, and we are not happy about that. So, for a while, you will need to adjust, but what we do now is not working, so we want to spend the money smarter, on more effective candidate sources.”

5. Deliver on commitments

Over-promising yet under-delivering is one of the most disappointing things a leader can do. It can also be incredibly damaging to a manager’s relationship with their team.

We normally make these type of commitments with the best intentions. For example: ‘Next week, Bob, I will make time to come to two client visits with you.’ However, we have to be realistic of what we can genuinely achieve and offer. Even with the smaller underdelivered promises, people start to take your promises with a pinch of salt. And if people can’t trust you to deliver on smaller promises, they definitely won’t believe you on the big ones.

6. Use informal and formal channels

Different communication channels serve different purposes, and they often depend on formality. For example, email, newsletters and staff briefings tick the box in the sense that, ‘the information has been passed on.’ Yet, how often does a person take the time to review the information and make sure they’ve fully understood it? These channels also don’t always invite people to fire questions back—or people don’t feel like it’s the right platform to do so.

 

Follow up in a more personal way, such as kitchen conversations, casual drinks, or on the way back from a client meeting. This is where you will get the real queries and concerns that are not raised publicly but could be causing confusion for others. You can then provide clarity and address concerns in real-time.

7. Celebrate wins – small and frequently

In the recruitment industry, we’re great celebrating milestones, be it a record quarter or the top biller. However, a great leader understands that success builds belief. Small and frequent celebrations are superb for reinforcing positive behaviours and build confidence in reaching goals. 

If Mary places her first candidate, share it. If Fred wins a retainment, shout it out for everyone to hear. People want to work with people on the road to success, and love to hear the outcomes of positive war-stories. Communicate the day to day wins, as well as the big ones. 

8. Share confidential information regularly

Approach this one cautiously, but I believe that total transparency builds trust and buy-in from teams. For ten years, I operated as International CEO of Aquent for ten years where I managed all of the business outside of the US. During that time, I adopted a nice tradition I learned from my American colleagues, called ‘The Fireside Chat’. 

Every month, I would address everyone in the company. Absolutely everyone—which involved 25 offices in 17 countries! We used video, skype and dial-in conferences to announce that I’d gained the responsibility of the European-side of the business. Within those conferences, I’d share the company results, operating profit against budget, margins, client revenue, top biller fees and just about any other sensitive information you can think of.

I found that people were mature and would value being brought into ‘the inner circle’. I respected and recognised my staff, and we took responsibility for results together.

9. Where possible, speak, don’t email

You need to feed out some information to someone. What do you do? Bang out an email! 

Task complete, right? Wrong. In nearly every case, it’s better and more effective to communicate verbally and face-to-face. Follow up with an email if you had to communicate a lot of information. 

10. Plan and prepare for delivering tricky news

Sometimes, we have to communicate something distasteful. Always prepare genuine, honest answers that you’ve thought through ahead of time. People will likely respond with questions, and you should anticipate what these might be so you’re prepared with an appropriate response. If appropriate, involve a member of your human resources too. 

11. Tell the right people the right things

Here is a golden rule: it might be tempting, but never speak to one recruiter about the deficiencies of another recruiter in the team. 

Here’s a situation where it could happen: You congratulate a recruiter from another team about their record month. He replies, ‘yes, it was great! But Betty didn’t hit her target.’ Without thinking, you fatally remark ‘Ah yes. Sometimes I feel that Betty doesn’t put 100% effort in.’ This piece of information will likely work it’s way back to her, and deriding one staff member in front of another reflects badly on you as a professional. It destroys people’s confidence in you and stunts engagement. Don’t do it.

12. Don’t have ‘communication favourites’

Another trap we can easily fall into, especially within an SME, is only sharing news, plans or updates with a select few people. Maybe it’s because you want to run information by the people you have a close relationship with first, or simply want to share something exciting with them. However, often this information is then passed on further and the information becomes office gossip. Additionally, those people who were told first get a reputation within the business as ‘office favourites’, who are privy to special information and attention.

I learned this lesson the hard way through. It had a divisive effect on my team and created a negative situation, which wasn’t my intention. A moment of letting my guard down within a casual setting and revealing some news that was to be announced at a later date led to feelings of distrust and resentment. 

So, there you have it: The ‘Savage 12 Communication Commandments’. Use them alongside internal communications software as your template for successful communication systems.


Greg Savage bio image

About Greg Savage 

Greg is the author of the best-selling book: The Savage Truth. With a career spanning four decades, Greg is a founder of 4 highly successful businesses, is a trusted advisor and respected voice across the global recruitment and professional services industries, and a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world.

5 Free Photoshop Alternatives: Trialed, Tested & Reviewed

Best free Photoshop alternatives

When you think of graphic design programs, the first thing that comes to mind is Adobe Photoshop. The platform has well and truly earned its stripes as the industry leader. But Photoshop might be overkill for small businesses that only require everyday image editing functionality. There are several free photoshop alternatives available on the market for those who need something more simple. 

We tested five of the best free photo editing programs available to Australian businesses. With these tools, you can make images look picture perfect without spending a penny on editing software. 

Best free Photoshop alternatives

Top free photo editing software

 

This list is for users who are looking for a full alternative to Photoshop that works well with masks and layers. There are also tools for those who are interested in a more simplistic tool that accommodates for fast image editing.

Here are our 5 top picks, listed in alphabetical order:

  1. Fotor
  2. GIMP
  3. Photoscape X
  4. Pixlr
  5. Polarr Photo editor

 

5 free Photoshop alternatives
Chart comparison of 5 free Photoshop alternatives.

5 free photoshop alternatives

Photoshop alternative #1: Fotor

 

Fotor's free editing software
Screenshot of Fotor’s free editing software.

What is Fotor?

 

Fotor is available on a desktop (Windows and Mac). It combines the most frequently used functions of mobile picture editing programs and displays them in a simple editing process. You will go through the following steps to be able to export your finished image at the end. 

  1. Scenes: Filter options (such as lightning and landscape).
  2. Crop: Correct the angle, rotation and size of your photo.
  3. Customise: Play with the tool and edit colours, curves and vignettes. The downside is that you can’t select a specific area to edit—every change you make applies to the entire photo. We therefore only recommend Fotor for basic processing of your pictures.
  4. Effects: Apply filter presets again (the step repeats itself).
  5. Margins: A practical tool for brochure and leaflet creations to ensure quality isn’t lost when the design goes to print.
  6. Textures: Image overlay options.
  7. Focusing effects: Focus your photo through blur effects.
  8. Text tool: The text tool is the highlight of Fotor because it stands out from the other programs in the list. You have full control over the font and the text field. For example, you can rotate it and control the vertical and even manipulate the spacing between characters

Since Fotor does not work with layers, every step processes directly in the image. As soon as you switch to another tab, you cannot undo the last action. If you do different edits in different tabs, you have to reset everything if you want to undo a step.

The software is not complex, and the user interface is simple and intuitive to use. Images can be saved as JPG, PNG, BMP and TIF.  Note that Fotor only opens flattened photos.

Photoshop alternative #2: GIMP

 

GIMP image editor
Screenshot of GIMP image editor

What is GIMP?

 

GIMP is a desktop-based tool that you can download for free on both Windows and Mac. We tried the desktop version for MAC for our test. GIMP allows you to work with layers and there are several blending modes that you can play with. Users can also work with channels and paths like you can in Photoshop.

Users can adjust any parameter on the brushes you use. There are also many fine adjustments for colours, curves and exposure. The platform allows you to share the screen view when testing filters so that you can easily compare the version before and after. There are some vector shape creation and editing tools that make GIMP a good option for combining photos with drawn elements.

In addition to editing the basics, such as font, size, alignment and colour, the platform enables its users to adapt text fields. GIMP is, therefore, also suitable for working with text and images.

GIMP can be useful for editing images and creating layouts that combine graphics with photos and text. But, during the test, we experienced a few problems that could frustrate or limit GIMP users:

  1. Actions in GIMP take longer to process than other tools.
  2. Sometimes the cursor disappears and reappears somewhere else, which is likely because of the above issue. 
  3. Most photo editing programs have a similar user interface with only minor variations in the menus, buttons and shortcuts. If you switch to another software, the transition is generally quick and easy. However, the functionalities appear elsewhere in GIMP. It isn’t a big disadvantage, but we found it made adjustment slower. 
  4. GIMP offers its users numerous functions and options, which on the one hand is a great advantage of the tool. On the other hand, the multitude of options, unfortunately, complicates simple tasks. For example, if you click the “New Layer” button, not only a new layer will open. First, a window opens and then users have to name the layer, add tags, define opacity, set the blending mode, and so on.

PNG and JPG, as well as PSD files with flattened layers, work perfectly in GIMP. More complex PSD files with smart objects open, but may lose some properties.

Files export in many different formats, including JPG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, GIF and EPS. There is also the option to save the file as a GIMP Open File.

Photoshop alternative #3: PhotoScape X

 

PhotoScape-Z
Screenshot of PhotoScape X interface.

What is PhotoScape X?

 

PhotoScape X is a powerful tool that is available on smartphones and desktop (both Windows and Mac). PhotoScape X combines all functions that you find in conventional mobile image processing programs such as VSCO Cam or PIXLR Express. The software enables users to create and optimise images for free. Advanced features are available in the PRO version of the software.

The “Editor” tab features include: 

  1. Adjust depths, clarity and temperature.
  2. Add filters—just like when editing a photo on Instagram. Some of the filters are free, others are purchasable.
  3. Frames and lighting effects are available to edit in terms of size, opacity and colour.
  4. Graphics, stickers and other visual elements come with the free version. This gives users flexibility when editing their images, as they can create stickers or graphics elsewhere and then load them into PhotoScape X.
  5. Although users cannot use layers for image corrections, each inserted element is multi-layered so that you can play with blending modes, opacity and colours.

The Tools tab offers some interesting options to try out, such as the drawing brush, distortion tools, and softer skin and mosaic effects. However, the brush types of the free version are somewhat limited. Users can group images into a mood board, collage, or animated GIF with various options (defining transitions, setting the time for each slide, and adding text).

It’s easy to group photos in batches and add edits to all photos at the same time. If you want some of your pictures to have the same vignette effect, this is quickly and easily achievable.

One great advantage of PhotoScape X is that it can open PSD files. The PSD file flattens in PhotoScape X, but this function is still useful if you don’t have an exported image of the required file. Files are available to save in JPG, PNG, BMP, TIF and GIF.

Photoshop alternative #4: Pixlr Editor

 

Screenshot of Pixlr image editing tool
Screenshot of Pixlr image editing tool

What is Pixlr Editor?

 

Pixlr is a browser-based tool that combines the functions of a photo processing program and an image generator. You can edit a photo and create a graphic from scratch by combining different rendered effects, shapes and filters.

One advantage of Pixlr is that you can work with layers, like in Photoshop or GIMP, and you can use many blending modes. The masks are also easy to use so that you can play with image overlays. This is very helpful for creating graphics that combine a photo with brushes, text, shapes, rendered images and so on. The Pixlr user interface is similar to Photoshop, making it easy for Photoshop users to find the tools and tabs. 

The brush tool also performed well in our trial. You can add custom brushes and brush sets in Pixlr and tweak those you already have. There are a large number of render filter presets. Pixlr also enables its users to adjust curves, levels, brightness, colour balance, and much more.

Pixlr wasn’t as strong as some of the other tools for creating graphics with text. It only offers standard functions, such as selecting the font, adjusting the font size, aligning text and changing colours. You also have no control over text fields and have to interrupt text manually.

If you zoom in and out, the text and your applied filters don’t scale proportionally. You’ll lose some steps if you want to view your image at a different size during the editing process.

You can open both flattened images (as PNG and JPG) and PSD files with flattened layers in Pixlr. Don’t expect Pixlr to import complex PSD files with smart objects. You can save your graphics in JPG, PNG, TIFF and also as PXD (Pixlr’s Open File)—but note that Photoshop doesn’t support this file format.

Extra note: Pixlr users receive a gift voucher for 25 GB of storage space on Dropbox.

Photoshop alternative #5: Polarr Photo Editor

 

Screenshot of Polarr Photo Editor
Screenshot of Polarr Photo Editor

What is Polarr Photo Editor?

 

Polarr is a tool that is available to download on Mac and Windows PC. Polarr combines the functions of Fotor and PhotoScape with some personal processing tools such as recognising faces and adjusting skin tones, as well as eyes, mouth, nose, height, width and brightness.

There are five different tabs in Polarr:

  1. Filters: Offers a wide range of free filter presets. 
  2. Graphics: Includes text boxes, shapes, and partitions that you can use to lay a layout over your image.
  3. Retouching: Allows you to adjust faces and remove objects.
  4. Format: Crop, mirror, resize, and so on.
  5. Image overlays: Contains a wide range of options, including dust, scratches, textures, clouds, gradients and backgrounds. Drag one or several PNGs with a transparent background over your photo to use. 

The advantage of the tool is that the effects apply to each tab in a new layer. This means you can edit everything individually, and change the order and transparency. The disadvantage of Polarr is that the free version only allows you to export one image per day.

Whether you are looking for a feature-rich Photoshop alternative or a free photo editor to quickly edit your pictures, this list has something for everyone.

Did you not find the image editor you were looking for? Then take a look at GetApp’s list of the best free Graphic Design software for image and photo editing today.

10 Software Companies in Australia To Watch In 2020

capterra's top ten software companies in australia

It’s been a strong year for software companies in Australia. Despite industries battling against turbulent market conditions, it’s forecasted that information technology spending will grow by 4.6% in 2020 (from an estimated $93.7 billion in 2019).

In this article, we reveal a list of Aussie software companies to watch in 2020.

capterra's top ten software companies in australia

As tech companies continue to boom in Australia, we’re making it our mission to highlight those that are consistently recognised by buyers for exceptional standards. We chose ten software development companies, based on a mixture of quantitative and qualitative signals taken from Capterra Australia

You can understand more about the selection methodology we took at the bottom of this article. Until then, keep reading to learn more about the companies and their products.

Top 10 Software Companies In Australia To Watch

1. Canva

Screenshot of Canva's interface.
Screenshot of Canva’s interface.

Headquarters: Surrey Hills, NSW

Software Category: Graphic Design 

Founded: 2012

Founders: Melanie Perkins, Cameron Adams, Cliff Obrecht

What is Canva?

Canva is a drag-and-drop design tool that enables its users to create graphics for digital marketing. The software doesn’t require extensive training to use it and has a freemium and paid-for subscription model. Users can access stock photos, fonts, illustrations, and choose from thousands of templates.

The journey of the startup is an inspiring tale—the Founders pitched more than 100 investors while on the hunt for seed funding. Today, the business is worth AUD$4.7 billion and Canva has more than 15 million users across 190 countries. Also, more than 1 billion designs have been created through the award-winning platform. 

2. Employment Hero

Employment Hero dashboard.
Screenshot of Employment Hero dashboard.

Headquarters: Sydney, NSW

Software Category: Human Resources (HR)

Founded: 2014

Founder: Ben Thompson, Dave Tong

What is Employment Hero?

Employment Hero is a cloud-based HR platform that combines HR software with financial services, scheduling and payroll software, as well as employee benefits. The software product serves small and medium-sized Australian businesses and targets professionals working within HR, payroll, and employee engagement and benefits.

Employment Hero began as a payroll and benefits system but changed its focus to help employees make the most of their work life. As a result, more than 4,500 Australian businesses use Employment Hero today to manage over 175,000 employees. On top of this, the business has won several awards, including LinkedIn’s Top Startups Award in 2018.

3. ServiceM8

ServiceM8 invoicing system
ServiceM8’s invoicing system shown on desktop and mobile devices.

Headquarters: Darwin, NT

Software Category: Field Service Management 

Founded: 2010

CEO: Kim Ford

What is ServiceM8?

ServiceM8 is a mobile and cloud-based technology used by trade and full service-based businesses. Primarily, it allows users to simplify operations and manage the interactions between their clients and hired staff. The application includes communication software, job dispatch systems, quoting and invoicing capability, as well as real-time visibility on job status and staff location.

In 2019, ServiceM8 released a range of new features to help their users reduce the administrative tasks that take over their day. The update included automated time tracking on job attendance, more GPS-based visibility of field staff, and built-in two-way SMS functionality for texting clients. Additionally, the new features are now available on the latest iOS app and can be downloaded on the App Store.

ServiceM8 serves any professional within a business, from individual field staff members to back-office staff, through to top-level management. 

4. Kounta

Kounta point of sale for restaurants
Kounta’s Point of Sale interface for restaurants.

Headquarters: Sydney, NSW

Software Category: Point of Sale

Founded: 2012

Founder: Nick Cloete

What is Kounta?

Kounta is a point of sale software used by thousands of stores and restaurants across the globe. The platform is cloud-based and it’s also available to download on smartphones, tablets and laptops. 

Kounta has gained popularity partly due to the number of integrations and add-ons available (such as social media apps and loyalty program software). It also includes accounting and inventory software, CRM software, and can run offline.

In 2019, Kounta announced it had been acquired by Lightspeed POS. As a result, the platforms have been able to bolster its presence in the Asia-Pacific market.

5. Rezdy

Redzy booking dashboard
Redzy’s booking dashboard.

Headquarters: Sydney, NSW

Software Category: Point of Sale

Founded: 2011

Founders: Hugo Sterin, Simon Lenoir

What is Rezdy?

Rezdy is a software-as-a-service (Saas) product used for the booking and distribution of tours and activities. The product started when its Founder, Simon Lenoir, worked in a dive centre in Thailand. Simon found he spent too many hours behind the desk carrying out administrative tasks than in the water teaching. So, he set out to solve this problem through technology.  

As well as Sydney, Australia, Rezdy has two supporting offices in America (Las Vegas and Raleigh) to help manage the thousands of tour and activity agents that use the platform. Rezdy has customers from more than 100 countries and has had more than $1.3 billion in bookings processed through its platform.

6. Qwilr

Qwirl splash functionality
Screenshot of Qwirl’s splash functionality.

Headquarters: Surry Hills, NSW

Software Category: Proposal Management 

Founded: 2014

Founders: Dylan Baskind, Mark Tanner

What is Qwilr?

Through Qwilr, users can create shareable web documents for clients to view on smartphones, tablets, and desktops. It sets out to remove graphic designers from smaller tasks to allow them to work on more important projects. Users without design backgrounds can use the tool to create web-based business brochures, proposals, reports, and much more. 

Qwirl is already a fully global operation with nearly half of its customers coming from the United States and Canada. The company has thousands of customers across 60 countries and has set out to achieve further growth closer to home.

In a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Tanner expressed his belief that Australia has a ‘special strength in design that will propel more local businesses into household name status.’

7. Skedda

Skedda booking system
Skedda’s booking system interface displayed in calendar format.

Headquarters: Melbourne, Vic

Software Category: Meeting Room Booking System

Founded: 2013

Founders: Jonathan Fagg, Sam Maurus

What is Skedda?

Universities, training centres, sports venues, co-working spaces, enterprises, healthcare centres, and community facilities use Skedda. 

According to its website, the small business was ‘born from the need to scratch [their] own itch’, but quickly turned into the platform that exists today. The software combines booking calendars, online booking systems, user management, and the distribution of rules and policies of the venue use. 

Skedda is accessible via desktop, tablet, and smartphone devices. 

8. Avaza

Kanban board Avaza
Kanban board displayed through Avaza software.

Headquarters: Sydney, NSW

Software Category: Project Management

Founded: 2012

Founders: Behram Khan, Tim Kremer

What is Avaza?

More than 30,000 businesses use Avaza to deliver service-based work to clients. The platform targets small and medium-sized businesses to offer a project management platform within a range of budgets (free to US$39.95 per month with unlimited project collaborator seats). 

Users can coordinate projects with customers, track time and expenses, and send invoices. Tim Kremer and Behram Khan (long-time veterans of the Australian IT, media and consulting industries) founded the company in 2014. Due to its combination of project management software, financial technology and integrated reporting, the software is now used by users in over 150 countries. 

9. Award Force

Award Force Judging Top Pick dashboard
Award Force scoring dashboard.

Headquarters: Sydney, NSW

Software Category: Competition Software

Founded: 2013

Founder: Richard de Nys

What is Award Force?

Award Force is an award management software, utilised by businesses across the globe to recognise excellence within their field. The platform allows award organisers to manage award programmes, grants, staff excellence initiatives, scholarships and fellowships. It also manages start-up incubation, VC, and funding. The platform is accessible to contest organisers, entrants, and judges. 

In 2019, the software reached 1.7 million users and had 387,414 entries submitted through its platform. While the Award Force headquarters is in Sydney, the company is mostly made up of a remote workforce. Today, the technology company has 34 staff members across 18 countries.

10. Ovatu Manager

Ovatu Manager dashboard
Screenshot of Ovatu Manager’s scheduling dashboard.

Headquarters: Sydney, NSW

Software Category: Appointment Scheduling 

Founded: 2010

Founder: Dave Hole

What is Ovatu Manager?

Ovatu is a cloud-based scheduling system that is widely used by the hair and beauty industry, as well as fitness, well-being, medical and education industries. The platform includes point of sale technology, automated reminders (to avoid no shows), and business reporting.

The platform began as a side hobby for Founder, Dave Hole, in 2010. Today, seven million people book with Ovatu worldwide and the platform processes more than one million monthly appointments. 

What methodology did we follow to create this list?

Content Analysts at Capterra pulled a list of software that had a Head Office in Australia from our website’s directory. We then reduced the list to software that had at least 100 unique user-submitted reviews with an overall user rating of more than 4.5 out of 5. 

Next, we reviewed each software’s brand awareness strength through the number of monthly searches carried out on search engines using the brand name—we set a minimum of 300 searches per month. Finally, we analysed the user reviews to assess the standard of the software’s ease of use, customer service, features and value for money. 

All software included in the list launched within the last decade (2010-2019). 

More than 5 million users utilise the Capterra platform to research which products to invest in. Want to be included on next year’s list? Join over 3,500 software companies from around the world and learn more about how to connect with our software buyers today.

5 IoT Devices That Have Shaped Our Work Environment Today

IoT devices within a business

When I first heard that my previous employer had hired a Head of Internet of Things (IoT), I thought it was a joke. I questioned: ‘How can someone’s job title be about ‘things’ on the internet?’ 

I quickly learned that this thing called ‘the Internet of Things’, was actually a very real and genuine, well, thing. That was back in 2012. Fast-forward seven years and IoT has turned out to be one of the most transformative technologies of the decade. But for many of us non-technical folks, the concept of it still feels a little vague. 

In this article, we answer the questions: 

  • What is the Internet of Things? 
  • How has it allowed us to improve data management?
  • And which five IoT devices have been most ground-breaking?

IoT devices within a business

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of devices that connect to each other and the Internet. A broader way to define IoT devices are machines that ‘communicate’ with each other through the cloud. Everyday items can be made smarter through IoT technology, including coffee makers, laptops, mobile phones, and basically everything else you can think of that has an on or off button. 

How does the Internet of Things work?

IoT devices have built-in sensors, processors, and communication hardware that enable them to carry out big data analytics from their surrounding environments. The information gathered is fed into an IoT platform, which machines then use to analyse and act upon to meet business and consumer demands. 

Think of a smart toaster: Controlled through a smartphone app, a smart toaster acts off personalised settings to produce delicious, golden slices with every pop. It automatically calculates factors such as temperature and length of cooking time based on the consumer’s preferences.

So, no more scraping those burnt edges of crust into the bin—just perfect toastiness, every single time.

Smart toaster buttery toast
We’re just going to leave this here…

That’s important, obviously, but IoT applications can tackle even greater problems too. Take what Melbourne is doing with its waste system for instance. The city has installed smart sensor technology into BigBelly bins to reduce the overflow of rubbish in street bins. Once the bin reaches 70% capacity, it sends an alert to a control centre to facilitate emptying it.

So, how has the Internet of Things changed the workplace?

The Internet of Things network is now used by businesses to achieve several goals. These include energy consumption reduction and the optimisation of company operations. It’s also used to increase employee comfort, generate greater revenue and increase customer engagement. 

Through IoT, specialists can pinpoint what information is useful and what can be deemed irrelevant (and therefore ignored). More than that, they can follow patterns, makes predictions based on trends, and prevent problems from happening before they become a concern. Because of this incredible power, business strategies are regularly formed off the back of the information provided by the IoT or IIoT (the Industrial Internet of Things).

Here are five other ways IoT has already made significant waves in the workplace: 

1. Intelligent buildings

Who hasn’t worked in a shared office and experienced some sort of disagreement over the air conditioning? Luckily, IoT can step in to mediate. 

For example, Google’s Nest Thermostat learns (through machine learning) from the temperature settings manually inputted by staff over a couple of days. The thermostat will then adapt accordingly to blow out a comfortable temperature to cool the office. It also detects when people are in the office and when it should turn itself off to save energy.

It isn’t just the heating that has become more efficient. Businesses are also connecting their lighting system to an IoT network to increase energy efficiency, enhance comfort for occupants and reduce maintenance costs.

2. Safety and security

Smart appliances can also be fitted into buildings to make them safer. In the case of a fire, for example, intelligent smoke detectors alert fire-fighters to the emergency while staff focus on removing themselves from danger. 

Many businesses have also implemented advanced electronic access control systems so that workers don’t need to carry around bulky keys or access cards. Instead, the employee accesses password-protected areas through a digital ID on their mobile device. Not having a physical ID reduces the risk of it being stolen, lost or copied.

3. Travel

According to Austroads, congestion performance in Australia correlates with a city’s population. The bigger the city, the worse the traffic jams—which is bad news for Melbourne and Sydney residents who commute to work via car. 

But here’s the good news: Connected cars will become one of the most important IoT devices to steer us toward safer and more convenient journeys. These cars connect to the Internet via a wireless local area network (WLAN), which allows the vehicle to benefit from the data of other connected devices inside and outside the car. This way, the driver can react to events on the road ahead based on the information provided. 

Circling around filled-up car parks may also soon be a thing of the past. Telstra’s Smart Parking system enables drivers to quickly find available parking spots before they reach their destination. The technology is already deployed across several Australian council regions in Melbourne and Perth.

4. Employee health and well-being

IoT data collection is essential for the advancement of healthcare research and treatment. Wearable technology is one example that has demonstrated its effectiveness in this area. An Apple Watch, for example, can monitor and react to a person’s levels of mood and cognition. 

Devices such as these have grown in popularity among consumers, which has given us greater insights into how to manage mental health problems, such as stress. Employees who are mentally and physically healthy tend to be more productive, show higher levels of engagement, and have fewer sick days. 

As businesses have begun to show recognition for this, wearable smart devices have increasingly worked their way into corporate wellness programs too. Some employers are rewarding employees who track how often they are at their desk, how often they’re active and how well they sleep at night. 

5. Remote work

Cisco says that ‘more than half of the full-time workforce will be working remotely by 2020’ just as IoT business processes and systems will drastically scale up. The greater levels of connectivity of work platforms have allowed people to work from anywhere, and from almost any device. 

Employees can accomplish the same work activities they could have carried out in an office, such as team meetings and project collaboration. As a result, this way of working has steadily increased over the decade. 

What’s next for IoT?

IoT has given us a world of highly interconnected technologies, from devices and machines to objects, animals and people. Despite all of these technological advances, we’ve only scratched the surface of the possibilities for this tech.

One area the industry must not ignore is the issue of cyber security. As the Internet of Things expands, so does the number of entry points for hackers. Without sufficient network security software, businesses open themselves up to risks in the form of spying, exploitation, blackmail, and theft. 

Businesses who want to invest in this exciting technology should continue doing so. However, ensure the implementation works alongside an updated security strategy.

Looking to update your security system? Check out Capterra’s top-rated network security platforms today.

4 Key Ways To Improve Your Strategic Human Resource Planning

Illustration of strategic human resource planning

If your staff is the lifeblood of your business, then the Human Resource (HR) department is the heart. They’re charged with keeping all the different extremities in good health and working order by selecting and retaining the talent your company needs. Unfortunately, for many startups, growth can happen faster than your HR department can keep up. 

In such circumstances, it’s time to take up what’s known as strategic human resource planning. In other words, your HR team needs to have a solid plan in place for the future. 

Illustration of strategic human resource planning

With the right resource planning strategy and some helpful software, your HR department can make sure your most valuable asset is protected—your staff. 

Why does strategic human resource planning matter?

If you’re new to the concept of strategic human resource planning, here’s a quick rundown of why every growing business can benefit from it. 

First, let’s take a step back and consider the aspects of the business that HR is responsible for: 

  • Finding and recruiting new staff
  • Onboarding new employees
  • Ensuring employee satisfaction
  • Managing employee reward schemes
  • Overseeing holidays and sick leave for all staff
  • Managing staff complaints and warnings
  • Selecting and advising employee benefit schemes 
  • Helping existing employees transition out of the business.

Without planning what resources you need, your HR team will likely fall short on some of these tasks. Beyond that, they won’t have the flexibility needed for businesses that are growing in exciting (but sometimes unpredictable) ways.

The benefits of advanced HR planning

The goal of strategic planning for an HR department isn’t just to make sure they can stay on top of all of their tasks. Rather, it’s to help the department align its workflow and processes with the overall business goals. 

In other words, strategic human resource planning means your business and employees will thrive; achieving their goals faster than ever. 

There are many benefits to resource planning, including:

  • Employees feel empowered and secure because they understand their role and what expectations are. This means they’ll stay longer, thus improving overall retention rate and the quality of staff. 
  • Business leaders can focus on what matters most—steering the business toward success—without having to worry about each employee individually. 
  • The culture of your business grows and develops, becoming more clearly defined for all employees and lending to the overall strength and unity of your workforce.
  • The business itself will grow at a faster rate, because your HR team will be able to meet unexpected developments, and they won’t be wasting their time on unnecessary tasks. 

Improving your strategic HR planning process

Now that you know how important it is for an HR team to have a strategy, how exactly do you go about implementing and improving one of your own? 

Here are our top tips.

1. Take stock of where you are now

Before you can start planning for the future, you need to have a deep understanding of the current state of affairs. 

Take a look at your business and start recording what resources you have on hand now. If you aren’t already using one, this would be a great time to invest in an employee management software system.

You’ll want to ask a few questions during this process: 

  1. What processes do we have in place? Which ones are missing? 
  2. Do employees have career development plans? 
  3. Is anyone preparing to onboard or depart the business now? 
  4.  What are our current employee expenses? 

Make sure you record all the information somewhere secure and, if possible, ask multiple people to check through it. 

2. Interview your current staff, from the top down

To map out a strategy, you need to understand the company’s goals and pain points. You’ll need to interview multiple people in different parts of the business to get an accurate picture. 

Start with the leaders of your business—hold a meeting where they can outline their short-term and long-term goals for the business. Ask them to be as specific as possible, so that you are certain of where you’ll need to put resources, processes, and people into play. 

You’ll also want to spend time working closely with the CFO or their team. You will need a good overview of the business financial goals, as that will directly impact how many new employees you can onboard and what sort of employee benefits you can provide. 

Finally, make sure you meet with managerial staff and ask them about their current teams. Ask them to run through each employee and their role, their history with the company, and how that employee is performing and enjoying their job. 

Once you’ve done this, you’ll have the three big takeaways you need to build  your strategy: 

  • The company’s long-term and short-term goals
  • The company’s financial health and projection 
  • Areas where there are gaps in staff.

Now it’s time to start building the strategy itself. 

3. Divide your strategy into sections

There’s a good chance your strategic human resource planning will result in a lot of changes, so it’s best to work through the process in stages. 

The order in which you tackle these stages will vary depending on your business needs, but here are some places to start: 

Process improvements

A big part of human resource efficiency is down to the process you have in place. As you do your research, you’ll find places where processes don’t exist or aren’t doing what they need to do. 

Identify key dates in the coming year

Look through the upcoming calendar year and mark off the most important dates. Add in things like any employee departures or retirements, as well as moments when your business is likely to need more staff to meet business demands. Use these to prioritise your strategy for the next twelve months. 

Contingency plans

There will undoubtedly be unexpected developments in the coming year that will impact your HR team. Though you can’t predict the future, you can plan for potential scenarios based on what’s happened in the past or with other companies like yours. 

4. Remember, your strategy will grow and change

A strong strategic human resource plan isn’t something that can simply be written up and put in a folder for the year. It needs to be tended to and reassessed frequently, and there’s no doubt it will change as your business does. 

Set regular meetings with your HR team and other stakeholders in the business to routinely review the strategy and adjust it as needed. Though you want to remain firm on processes and standards you set, your strategy overall will benefit if it’s flexible and agile.  

Though it may seem overwhelming now, a strategy will help the HR department feel prepared to tackle any challenges they may face. Startups with limited resources can ease the process with the right technology in place.

Browse Capterra’s top-rated HR software to see solutions for everything from onboarding to payroll to benefits management. 

How To Take The Pain Out Of Your Purchase Order Process

Using software to improve the purchase order process

Is your business still relying on clunky spreadsheets and ancient systems to manage the purchase order process? If so, you’re potentially wasting valuable time and money that could be better spent helping your business grow. 

There’s no getting around the fact that purchase order processes are complex. But with the help of modern technology and some savvy strategising, you can quickly cut down the time you spend on it. 

Using software to improve the purchase order process

Here are our top three tactics for turning an outdated PO processing system into something streamlined and simple.  

1. Identify the pain points

You’ll want to list out all the steps that currently exist in your purchase order process flow. We’ve put together an infographic that outlines some of the most common steps. However, yours may vary depending on your industry and the scope of your business. 

Infographic to show the purchase order process flow
The purchase order process displayed in an infographic.

Now, go through each step of the process and jot down how time-consuming the steps are. Bear in mind some steps, like the actual delivery of goods, will take longer due to their nature. 

Specifically, you’ll want to look for steps in the process that: 

  • Require manual review 
  • Create bottlenecks or slow down the process
  • Involve excessive communication from multiple parties
  • Are bogged down by multiple or conflicting software platforms 
  • Cause confusion for those involved in the process
  • Take an inordinate amount of time compared to other steps.

Once you’ve done this, you should have a good idea of what’s slowing things down. You can use this overview to prioritise your next course of action. 

2. Streamline communication

Communication is a big part of the purchase order process. If you find you’re frequently typing out the same message, or chasing multiple people for information, you could be wasting valuable time with each order. 

One way to tackle this issue is by creating forms and templates for your communications.  For example, providing your suppliers with quality control checklists that capture all the necessary information will save you from going back and forth to get the insights you need. 

3. Automate your manual processes

If you’re still manually recording PO numbers or approving invoices, here’s some good news—technology can automate these repetitive tasks for you. 

There are many high-quality purchase order management platforms to choose from, and it’s likely you’ll be able to fit one that meets your business needs. These platforms are also customisable, meaning you can create your own workflows to suit your style of working and your unique purchase order process

Software for purchase orders
Why use software to manage purchase orders?

How does purchase order software boost efficiency?

If you’ve never used purchase order management software before, the idea of switching over to a new system can be daunting. But once you begin to examine the benefits of using an automation platform, it’s easy to see the long-term benefits. 

Let’s take a deeper look at some ways purchase order (PO) software can save you time and take the stress out of the process.

Automated requests and purchase orders

Instead of having to manually send out your purchase requests to all parties involved, you can use software to automatically notify individuals and teams once you’ve entered the new request in the system. Once all approvals are submitted, the software automatically triggers the purchase order—no more chasing each person for their approval. 

Simplified three-way matching and order closing

When it comes to three-way matching, PO software can automatically verify that the supplier is paid the correct amount for the goods and services based on the PO number. Once the funds come through, your software can also automatically record the payment and close the order.

Stay in the loop with real-time reporting

It can be frustrating waiting to find out whether an order has been shipped or received. With purchase order automation platforms, you can keep a much closer eye on every step of the purchase order process. You won’t have to twiddle your thumbs until you receive a manual update from the supplier—many software platforms will send you automatic updates as your POs progress. 

Automation means deeper insights

There’s another benefit to automating your purchase order process: You’ll receive deeper insights about everything from the PO requisition to the PO closure. Many of these platforms will provide you with data visuals that everyone in the purchase order process can use to make faster decisions. 

Wrapping it up

Take a moment to consider how these benefits might impact your daily job. By implementing a new PO platform, how much time would you save, and what could you accomplish with the new hours in your day? Would automating your systems create a better relationship with you and your vendors? The best way to find out is to give one of the platforms a test drive—and fortunately, many of them offer free trials. 

To automate your PO process, check out purchase order management software. You’ll be able to compare different options side by side, so you can find the best solution for your business. 

5 Business New Year’s Resolutions To Boost Employee Happiness

Employee happiness new year's resolutions

Happy, motivated employees who feel engaged with company objectives are crucial to a flourishing business. But no matter how content your staff are, there are always ways to boost job fulfilment a little further. In this article, we recommend five business New Year’s resolutions for managers to increase employee happiness and engagement.

Employee happiness new year's resolutions

Why set New Year resolutions in the workplace?

The start of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the previous four quarters and decide: How do we want to develop going forward? Be it tackling an item on our bucket list or quitting a vice, our New Year’s resolution(s) usually aim to help us lead happier, healthier lives. But why not apply this to life in the office as well? 

Happy workers are productive workers. And when Australian employees work longer hours than most other countries (around 33% of the week’s daylight hours), it makes sense to commit to a few positive changes in the workplace too. 

How to improve employee happiness

‘Happiness’, as a concept, is subjective. So how can businesses find one solution to increase the well-being of every single worker? The answer is simple: Take steps to make your employees’ lives easier. 

Staff work best when they’re not overworked. In the age of smartphones and 24/7 emails, it’s increasingly difficult to resist the ‘always-on’ culture and turn off from work. Staff may not be forthcoming about feelings of burnout, and signs can be tricky to spot. But, managers can certainly take steps to mitigate unnecessary stressors before they become a problem.

To inspire some ideas, we’ve listed five, easy-to-implement New Year’s resolutions that businesses can apply from January and throughout 2020 to boost employee happiness.

Happy employees jumping for joy
Productive workers are happy workers.

1. Create a healthier workplace

It’s important to set initiatives to encourage a strong work/life balance for staff. A recent YouGov Galaxy study revealed that flexible working (such as the ability to work from home) was the most desired employee benefit from Australian workers. There are many benefits for the employer too: Flexible working can increase productivity, save money, and retain and attract top talent. 

To implement this initiative, consider what software you might need to ensure business still runs smoothly. For example, remote support software enables workers to schedule meetings together, screen share, and communicate quickly through online chats. Leave management software can also assist with the coordination of employee’s remote leave days.

2. Simplify processes

When workflows are chaotic and full of paper trails, it’s frustrating for employees and difficult to meet goals. There are a few ways to make processes more efficient, which include:

Removing obstacles

Certain work methodologies are designed to tackle this issue. For example, the Scrum framework is an agile way of working used within project management. The Scrum Master—an important member of the team—is dedicated to ensuring the project always runs at full pace. They’ll remove obstacles, unnecessary touchpoints and bottlenecks in workflows. That way, the team can stay focused without the stress of disruptions.

Communication

It is critical that everyone is on the same page and working from the same playbook. A weekly or morning meeting will help to align employees, as well as highlight potential roadblocks. However, be careful not to drag people into pointless meetings when an email conversation would have sufficed. A simple way to avoid this trap is to ask organisers to send a summary of the meeting beforehand and jot down action items for after.

Refresh and amend old strategies

Just as useless meetings can build up, so can pointless plans. To avoid this, Forbes suggests the following: ‘For every new strategy that’s added to your annual plan, remove an initiative that was rolled over from last year. Identifying what teams should stop doing in the coming year is just as essential as outlining what they need to start doing.’

Training

Are staff aware of the rules and processes that exist? If the answer is no, consider a series of training sessions. Business.com suggests frequent coaching on processes and best practices. Even if employees receive the same training more than once, it is likely to ‘calm any worries they may have and make them more willing to tackle large and difficult projects.’

3. Give more recognition

Employees who feel valued show higher levels of engagement with a business. They work harder, contribute more, and they’re likely to remain with their employer for longer. Another great advantage? Companies tend to see 20% more profit when they effectively appreciate their staff.

Look for individuals that:

  • Demonstrate unique qualities.
  • Go above and beyond to achieve a goal.
  • Innovate business processes or strategies. 
  • Significantly development professionally.
  • Perform strongly against company objectives.
  • Embody and drive company values. 

With the support of these team members, business goals are far more achievable. But the occasional impersonal email won’t cut it. Show gratitude through a variety of channels, including face to face, meetings and over team communication software. Businesses can also make sure of employee recognition software to keep staff feeling appreciated. 

4. Motivate your team with individual development goals

Goal-setting is never simple. However, tying personal goals into business priorities is an effective way to keep employees engaged. According to McKinsey & Company, ‘This encourages accountability and better performance as individuals grasp the direct impact of their performance.’ They see how their work fits into the big picture.

While managers may want to set certain job-specific goals, they’ll likely get insightful answers if they ask employees how they’d prefer to set their work-related objectives. The benefit of this is that the goal has been decided together, rather than imposed. 

5. Frequently ask for employee feedback

Fast and frequent change comes hand-in-hand with growing businesses. With that in mind, relying on annual reviews to check in on an employee’s state of mind isn’t enough.

You can ask staff members whether they’re happy face-to-face, but it isn’t always easy to get a genuine answer. Even with the most friendly, understanding and approachable bosses, employees may have reservations about giving the whole truth about how they’re feeling.

Employee engagement software works well as a means to gather your employees’ feedback without putting anyone in an awkward position.

Bringing business resolutions Into 2020 and beyond

You’ve got some great ideas for New Year’s resolutions to fit your business, and now it’s time to put them into action. Make sure your resolutions hold by incorporating them into your 2020 business goals. 

To ensure your employee happiness objectives stick, check out Capterra’s directory of the best employee recognition software and employee engagement software and today.