If you had asked HR technology providers five or 10 years ago who their end-users were, the answer likely would have been “Well, HR staff, of course.” But ask today, and the response is “Everyone in the organization.” That’s because, in the last decade or so, expectations of technology have changed dramatically. Employees now want access to the same tools HR has—and they expect those tools to be simple, effective and even enjoyable, just like consumer technologies.
Providing a great user experience for employees is a smart business initiative as well. When technology is more social, mobile and accessible, employees are more engaged, productive and fulfilled—which results in a positive impact on the bottom line.
But a good user experience is much more than a clean interface. It involves making work meaningful by focusing on what is most important to workers based on their role, as well as factors that include form, function and aesthetics. Designers of this new breed of HR technology consider the habits, experiences and expectations of people in real-world scenarios and then tailor solutions to meet customers’ needs.
In short, employees expect the systems they use to “just work.” Software that gets in users’ way when they’re trying to complete a range of tasks is rapidly becoming obsolete.
To better support your employees and your overall business, follow these five steps when searching for a human capital management solution that is truly designed for your entire workforce.
1. Ensure Context
People experience a loss of context when they are forced to stop and wonder how to complete a certain task. HR solutions should focus on what is most important to the user and remove any stumbling blocks to getting there.
The solution to loss of context is frequently framed as aiming for “fewer clicks.” Ideally, an engaging HR solution aims for no clicks—the information users need is right there in front of them, with no need to dig (or click) for it.
In the workplace, a role-based dashboard is a perfect example of a user experience with rich context. The information an employee uses most frequently is brought to the forefront for instant access. Rich dashboards allow users to efficiently complete many tasks with no clicks, and supporting information is immediately available if needed.
2. Keep It Simple
Complex products or interfaces that confuse, frustrate and burden people often suffer from poor market penetration and high rates of user abandonment. Usability testing (in which users are observed completing real-world tasks) combined with eye-tracking research has shown that offering only the most important, frequently accessed functions is preferable to having a lot of options available.
Look for an HR solution that provides an at-a-glance display of your employees’ most frequent and critical activities. The best offerings use a grid or card-based layout, offering common tasks in a visual format that’s easy to distinguish and select. These layouts also employ simple, clear iconography in place of standard text.
3. Offer Real, Responsive Design Solutions
Employees expect to be able to perform work-related functions just as easily on their phones as they would at a computer.
Best-in-class HR solutions adopt a person-centered user experience, whether the technology is designed for a laptop computer or a mobile device. The expectation is that when you use any device (phone, tablet, etc.) to access an HR solution, the experience is compelling and the device responds appropriately and uses gesture-based interactions such as swiping. Well-crafted responsive experiences take into account the limitations and unique capabilities of each device, as well as the context of how these devices are used in the real world.
4. Make Consistency Count
Consistency within a product’s user experience has long been linked to usability. But there is more to judging consistency than whether all users’ screens look the same. A best-in-class approach is one that standardizes patterns of the user experience that are designed specifically for human capital management business cases, validated with testing. Putting users at the center of the experience and building outward from their perspective gives the solution a familiarity and relevance that supports productivity and engagement.
5. Use Gamification
Given the expectations of today’s users and the link between engagement and productivity, organizations would do well to consider gamification in their design strategies. Here are some well-tested methods that can promote engagement and increase user adoption through gamification:
Providing guidance. Visual cues or virtual tour guides can keep users from giving up when they become confused. Research has shown that when users solve a problem, even with assistance, they feel empowered, prompting them to stick with a task longer.
Social mechanics. These include community-building features such as chat, notes and other messaging systems. Additionally, features such as voting can create a clear sign for users that certain information is important, allowing the whole user community to tap into it.
Repeated interaction. Fostering engagement keeps users “in the game” longer and encourages them to come back. Game mechanics often drive repeat engagement, unlocking content as a reward, as well as badges that employees can earn for completing tasks.
Solutions that maximize user experience reap a multitude of benefits, from shortened time to complete tasks to fewer support calls and improved access to information. Now is the time to invest in a solution that your employees will be delighted to use, or pay the price in employee engagement and lost productivity later.
Cecile Alper-Leroux is Ultimate Software’s vice president of product strategy and product management. She is responsible for defining and carrying out the global vision and strategy for Ultimate’s human capital management solutions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.