Make enterprise software look like Spotify or Instagram. That’s the mantra being espoused by software developers and human resource professionals as employees want their workforce tools to more resemble the social media platforms they use every day.

At least two firms in Southeast Michigan, Detroit-based Andonix and Workforce Software Inc. in Livonia, seek to tap into that segment with new software they say streamlines HR functions into easy-to-use apps that are more in line with what consumers search for on Apple’s App Store than traditional enterprise software.

Doing so is critical to employee recruitment and retention, according to Felicia Harris, principal with Rochester Hills-based consulting firm EverythingHR.

“Regardless of their industry or size, they’re looking for an all-in-one solution for their employee base,” Harris said. “Whatever the interaction, (the employee) can go to one place and everything is right there. All the systems are talking to each other. That’s been the ultimate goal on the technology side and the ultimate goal for an HR professional to have.”

Andonix, a Detroit-based app developer, believes its Smart Work Station program fits into that goal, particularly in the manufacturing-heavy Midwest. The product aims to allow large manufacturers to move their training materials to an app installed on a new worker’s smartphone. Doing so could greatly speed up the sometimes lengthy training and onboarding process many manufacturers find themselves facing, argues Andonix CEO David Salazar Yanez.

“You’re looking at your job before you even do it,” Salazar Yanez said. “Once you have a job preview, when you get there you already have a pretty good idea of what you’re supposed to do and what you’re supposed to execute.”

Andonix Chief Revenue Officer Oliver Theiss added that the manufacturing sector has been among the slowest to adopt digital tools for the workplace, as global consulting firm McKinsey has noted in reports.

That, coupled with the density of manufacturers in Michigan and the broader Great Lakes region, leads to “tremendous potential” for the company, Theiss believes.

“The firsthand experience of what this region is going through in terms of the industries and the amount of people it employs in manufacturing, I think there’s a real connection with what the challenges are for this industry,” Theiss said. “Everyone is hyper-aware of the cycles we’ve gone through, the challenge there is to attract people to the industry.”

Salazar Yanez said the company plans to do about $1.5 million in sales this year and has a sales pipeline to grow that substantially in the coming years.

The sales pitch to fuel that growth? To make businesses and employees forget that they’re using a piece of enterprise software for their training purposes.

“The most important thing is the element of training for people,” said Salazar Yanez. “Everything comes like Instagram, like Facebook, like YouTube.”

Similarly, Workforce Software last month rolled out a new product called Workforce Suite that’s being marketed using nearly identical language.

The workforce enterprise software is geared toward helping employees and employers better manage time and attendance, scheduling, absence management and other “intimate interactions,” that are part of a boss and worker relationship, according to Joe Ross, the company’s vice president of global product management.

The 20-year-old company with annual revenue north of $100 million markets itself toward companies operating in industries with unique pay rules, often with unionized workforces. Company executives point to one such client that employs unionized ambulance drivers who get triple pay, but only on nights with full moons, as part of their contract.

Like Andonix, Workforce Software executives say their product is designed to look more like consumer-facing social media apps than clunky software.

Ross said employees need to navigate everything from their vacation time, determining whether they qualify for medical leave to getting time for military service.

“Those are intimate interactions between an employee and an employer. Those are some of the most meaningful interactions an employee has with their employer in their work life,” Ross said.

“What we’re delivering is recognizing that those are intimate interactions and that people in the workforce have consumer sensibilities and they expect those interactions to be beautiful.”

Harris said the increasing presence of workforce software companies in Southeast Michigan is likely just a reflection of the increasing dominance that technology plays in our culture.

“I think employees are really demanding that they have a self-serve portal,” Harris said. “They don’t want to have to actually go to a person for what we call ‘a task.’ They want to be able to do that at their convenience.”

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