When the iPhone debuted in 2007, it combined the most-used technology of the day — an iPod, a flip phone, a GPS and a camera — on one device. And it soon became the tech hit that everyone not only wanted, but needed.

In today’s business world, “a single HCM system has become the new iPhone”: a must-have technology that combines functions including payroll, HR tasks, time and attendance and benefits management, among other things.

That’s the word from Joe Markland, president of consulting firm HR Technology Advisors, who spoke Tuesday at Employee Benefit Adviser’s Workplace Benefits Mania in Phoenix.

There’s just one problem, Markland says: While the technology is “readying to ramp up,” HR professionals are surprisingly slow to adopt it.

“Technology is trying to simplify things, but the ecosystem and employers are not — they are stuck in yesterday,” Markland said, adding that employers, on average, work with 10-15 vendors on administrative tasks.

But the “market is ripe for change,” he said. The technology is already available: Oracle, Ceridian, ADP and Ultimate Software are among the leading players in the HCM world.

“There is a big opportunity,” Markland said. And HR professionals are well-served to educate themselves on the technology and implement it for their company.

“Every CEO in America will want something like this,” he said. “I believe it’s the obligation for every HR person to help their employers get there.”

A single HCM system simply makes “the company better,” he said, and it’s something employees need as well. “Technology is a service and an understanding — it’s how you can communicate your HR systems and your benefits. [Employees] want one place to access their data.”

So what should HR professionals do now to get their HCM system in place? It starts by acknowledging their role, Markland said.

“They need to take it upon themselves to understand it is their job to understand and educate themselves. It is an obligation to be that expert in their organization, and how they attain that knowledge — whether they buy it, they learn it themselves — they have to see that yes, it will be an expectation for every company,” he said. “If I go to work for a 30-person firm in five years from now, or three years from now, and I can’t see my pay or my time off myself, I am going to think my employer is behind. Right now, it’s not an absolute business need to make that [happen], but within three years, it’s going to be.”

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