Recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training, and motivating employees is hard work. That's doubly true if you're a small company or startup without a designated HR department or even an HR professional on your team. And it's only going to get harder as the tight labor market intensifies competition to hire the most skilled employees.

What's a small employer to do? As in many other areas, cloud-based apps can make you more effective at hiring, retaining, and motivating employees. Some take innovative approaches that can bring benefits even if you do have an established HR department. This list was proposed by Bas Kohnke, CEO at performance review software company Impraise. From recruiting to paying to reviewing and motivating, all of these apps are well worth checking out:

1. Recruitee

Recruitee provides a single platform that lets you combine your employer brand with job promotion, talent sourcing, and tracking applicants. It's based on a customizable application form that allows one-click applications bia LinkedIn, and lets you build a career site for your company in minutes. It's priced from $19/month for a single active ad up to $199/month for 20 ads, and will create a custom pricing plan for larger companies.

2. Lever

This app is designed for building individual social profiles of candidates that flow through your system so you can keep tabs on potential hires for more opportunities down the road. Lever helps streamline the process from finding someone on a job site or LinkedIn to screening to interview, which may allow you to make a competitive offer faster to a dream candidate. You can even set a snooze button to remind you to check in with high-quality candidates to see if their availability has changed. Contact for pricing.

3. Patriot Software

There are a lot of payroll solutions out there, but Patriot Software is designed with small businesses and startups in mind. Patriot stores employee information on its own secure servers and allows for affordable and easy payroll and accounting. Its payroll solution starts at $10/month for up to 100 employees.

4. Impraise

If you're among the many, many people who hate the  annual performance review, it may make sense to check out Impraise which attempts to replace performance reviews by creating continuous feedback among co-workers so that employees don't wind up waiting a year to find out they need to improve their skills or take a different approach to solving problems.

You can adjust the frequency of reviews as needed, and Impraise includes analytics that identify key strengths, predict talent shortfalls, and let managers know when coaching will be needed. Contact for pricing.

5. Motivosity

Gamification and rewards turn out to be a great way to influence human behavior, and Motivosity has found an innovative way to harness that power for employee motivation and engagement. Employees can hand out peer-to-peer "micro bonuses" as thanks for help or a job well done, employers can can set up badges rewards, and spot bonuses for reaching specific milestones. It can also set up calendar-based events to recognize employees on their birthdays or on work anniversaries. The app is offered free through 2016, and will cost $35/user/year thereafter.

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