HR Tech isn’t easy. And, traditionally, Human Resources has been a laggard when it comes to leveraging technology. However, that is changing. The pandemic, changing workplace demographics, and evolving hybrid/work from home arrangements are just a few of the factors that have propelled HR tech innovation and investment to new heights. As always for human resource professionals, the employee experience is at stake.
We wanted to take a fresh perspective at this challenge by looking at the HR technology landscape, discussing how it impacts the employee experience, and offering guidance on how to be strategic in selecting HR tech that works for your organization. For this RESOLVE Increments webinar, I was joined by Mark Rieder, NFP’s Head of Innovation. First Person Advisors is a longtime partner and new subsidiary of NFP. Access the on-demand webinar here for insights and HR tech strategies.
The HR Technology Landscape
The HR technology landscape is unique. 90% of CEOs recognize the need for technology in HR. And about the same number of companies engage in some form of digital initiative. However, only 15% of those same execs report they are executing a comprehensive HR digital strategy. OBroadly, HR professionals are talking about technology, but not always executing on it. What drives this disconnect?
- Growth of technology – We’re playing catch up. Tech growth is fast and it is exponential. It is not a steady, linear march. Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that the progress we’re experiencing this century will be comparable to not 100 years of progress, but 20,000 years! How many times will we redefine our workplaces in the next century, or even just the next year?
- Availability of data – Again, change has happened quickly. In 2019, a report from Forbes magazine noted that 90% of the data in the world had been produced in the past two years. Managing data and quickly acting upon it can be a competitive advantage if we can harness and execute on that data.
- Demand for personalization – The marketplace, and personal experiences in the digital world, has created an expectation that businesses will know me, my individual preferences, and what I might purchase.
Technology is speeding along. We have mountains of data and ways to leverage that data and we have an expectation in our consumer-economy that experiences will be personalized. These are realities and opportunities that some industries have recognized and acted upon in exciting ways. Though HR technology lags, the disruption within the workplace of the past two years have shined a spotlight on the importance of technology in healthcare and benefits.
Employee Experience Impact
We have an ongoing war for talent. And whether we’re considering recruitment or retention, our relationships are critical. Employees are demanding better digital experiences. When we discuss innovation, we often speak in terms of digital transformation – improving our business processes, products and practices using technology. This transformation, achieved through the use of digital tools, extends beyond HR into every facet of business.
The number of businesses offering HR technology solutions for career development, culture, compensation/benefits, hiring and so on, has exploded. And the great news is that even small businesses can take advantage of HR tech. It still requires employer resources to evaluate and manage the tech, but the era of exclusionary tech has passed. Most HR tech is scalable.
“User Experience” is how a user interacts with and experiences a product, system or service. It includes a person’s perceptions of utility, ease of use and efficiency. The world your employees inhabit is the world of exponential tech growth, data availability and personalized experiences. Digital systems, such as ioT (think smart watches, smart thermostats, etc.), have become second nature in the personal space. The digital systems in our industry have room to grow.
To illustrate this growth opportunity, look at a single measurement, Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is a measure that asks respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company, product or service to a friend or colleague. The insurance industry scores average about half of admired companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Airbnb. These are companies admired for their utility, ease of use and efficiency – those key indicators of “user experience.” How can we improve the user experience of our employees?
Strategic Systems Selection
Technology is a piece of the puzzle to employee experience improvement. Before we start evaluating tools and pulling software off the shelf, there is introspection required. We have to ask if our organizations are encouraging learning and growth. If we can’t identify our HR challenges, get our leadership involved and get buy-in that there is a problem we can solve, then we’re just buying up tech solutions without forethought – a recipe for disaster. What we want to do is equip ourselves with technology that solves our particular organization’s problems most efficiently and effectively. The strategy is where the power lies.
It is not an easy lift, so give yourself and your team the necessary time to get it right. Evaluating, selecting and implementing new HR technology can require the efforts of your IT resources, HR resources, executive leadership and, in some cases, third-party expertise. The same people tasked with getting the day to day work done of running your business will likely be tasked with finding new systems to overlay or replace your existing HR systems. Digital transformation doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger.
The Five Steps in HR Technology System Selection
- Buy-in – Do you have the right partnership with your Executive Team to make the right changes to improve your employee experience?
- A thorough, holistic needs analysis – Step back and take in the full picture of the employee experience. What tools are satisfying the needs of your business and employees?
- Verify existence of sound business processes – Understand the processes and policies that drive your productivity and human capital development. You’ll choose and leverage your technology much better knowing the underlying structures in place.
- Match tech to the user – Some systems are more sophisticated than others. Will your user adopt and effectively use the tech you choose? Do not get wowed by a software or tech presentation. It’s easy to get bowled over by a great product demo. Flip the script and make sure that presentation is directed at your needs.
- Dedicate the proper time and resources to implementation – Make sure you have a skill-diverse team in place, speaking the language of implementation. Give them the time and resources they need, including third-party experts when needed.
Why Do HR Tech Projects Fail?
Not every HR tech project succeeds. We’ve offered some guidelines that we think can help. To look at it from another angle, it’s helpful to reflect on the projects that didn’t succeed. Steve Boese, former Director of Talent Management Strategy at Oracle, outlined three of the biggest reasons HR Tech projects fail, paraphrased here:
- Scope issues – It’s easy for a project to expand and ‘creep’ and require even more time and resources than expected. Keep a simple project simple and scope-controlled.
- Internal resource availability – An implementation team and your subject-matter experts will eventually go away or move on to other projects or the day-to-day demands of business and you’ll need internal resources to carry the ball forward.
- The ‘We have to do it this way’ person – Systems require some flexibility. Be aware of the colleague who is rigid and believes there is only one way to solve a particular problem. Their pet problem can be distracting and destructive to a project’s implementation.
You can do it. HR Tech is abundant and scalable and can improve the employee experience, aiding in recruitment, retention and performance. Organizational change can be difficult, so the onus is on you, as an HR professional, to provide proper perspective on HR tech implementation. You’ll also need to communicate what the project will yield. In other words, it is on us to communicate what a project needs to get off the ground and the ‘why’ of the project – explaining how it will align with your business strategy and enhance the employee experience within your organization.
Megan Nail is Vice President of the Total Rewards Practice at First Person Advisors, a subsidiary of NFP. She is past State Director of the Society of Human Resources (SHRM) in Indiana, a current national SHRM Membership Advisory Council Member and the author of the book, “Joy Powered Organizations.” Megan can be a resource for you if you are seeking to build and design a total rewards and compensation strategy to create a better employee value proposition. Contact Megan.