2 minute read

Drive for simplicity in HR technology

What stops your employees in HR and the wider business doing their best work? Outdated technology. HR can help by focusing on the employee when investing in HR systems

Drive for simplicity in HR technology

Nine out of 10 organisations believe that their employees and managers lose between two to four hours a week on HR tasks due to complex and manual HR processes. 

So say 175 decision makers in HR and people analytics roles, according to research conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of workforce experience company Applaud. And 90% of them continue to have low utilisation of HR platforms across the business due to the complex and fragmented nature of the systems with technology that is not conducive to employee workflows.

But it’s not just your wider employee population suffering at the hands of complex old HR systems. “When we ask HR what gets in the way of their doing the ‘sunny uplands’ side of HR – talent, learning and all the good stuff we want to do – two things consistently come up as key barriers – leadership capability and outdated systems,” says Lucy Adams, CEO of Disruptive HR. 

“HR teams have to use clunky, time sapping technology. And unfortunately I think there's been both an under investment in HR systems, but there's also been a tendency to go for massive, big enterprise wide systems that are supposed to do everything. And I think that's caused some issues as well.”

Federica Santini, HR director Lacoste, says one of the problems is how HR invests in technology, calling the approach “scattered”. 

“We tend to invest either in the big mass system or on the other side we go with a small system that addresses just one of the issues. for example employment experience. Therefore you end up having lots of different systems that don't talk to each other. And this means you have the HR department, the employee and line manager spending a lot of time trying to make sure data is correctly inserted in all the systems. Then who's going to ensure that that data is exactly the same in all the systems so they can talk to each other?”

Applaud CEO Ivan Harding calls this combination of old and new systems the “spaghetti of stuff”. He says HR needs to drive for simplicity to help end users get on with their daily jobs.

The research finds that, on average, 91% of organisations receive between four and nine HR helpdesk requests per employee per year. This, say the authors, could be significantly reduced through consumer-grade self-service technologies.

On a webinar organised by Applaud HR leaders agreed that the consumerisation of employee technology is important. Says Bob Williams, VP leadership development at Teleperformance: “We’re looking at the wrong ex – instead of experiences it’s expectations. We have a bunch of employees whose expectations are the same as Amazon. One click, something buys, it arrives. If it doesn't arrive  I get my refund. It just works and their expectation is that everything just works. So by the time you get to the experience of their interacting with HR technology it’s below their expectations.”

However Adams warns HR not to fall into the trap of investing in such self-service technology just because it’s easier for employees to use. 

“Of course it's got to be much more of a consumer grade experience. If we've got to train people to use a system, if it's not intuitive enough for people just to get, then we've got the wrong technology. But I don't think we should be celebrating that we are giving consumer grade technology to managers that are having an allergic reaction to being given self-service or employees saying HR used to do that for me and now I'm having to do it myself. 

We have to question whether there's real value to the manager in their doing it in the first place. We can't just make the irrelevant more efficient. We've got to really question its relevance.”

The pandemic has enabled HR to take a fresh look at the working model and to move on from old ways of thinking in all areas, including technology. The overall message from HR leaders? Ask your people what are the things that get in the way of their growing customers or doing their best work – and then solve those. 

Published 16 June 2021

When we ask HR what gets in the way of their doing the ‘sunny uplands’ side of HR – talent, learning and all the good stuff we want to do – two things consistently come up as key barriers – leadership capability and outdated systems

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