Viewpoint: Bridging the Gap Between IT and HR

By Chris Bruce Nov 16, 2015
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Chris Bruce is co-founder and managing director of Thomsons Online Benefits

HR technology spending just keeps rising, according to the 2015 HR Service Delivery and Technology Survey conducted by global professional services company Towers Watson. As a result, companies around the world are merging two critical aspects of their business, IT and HR, to provide employees with the ultimate benefits technology experience.

Unsurprisingly, IT departments have a vastly different set of priorities when it comes to that pivotal decision of how much to spend.

Competing Priorities

When shopping around for new technology, HR departments may look at what they’d like to implement from a philosophicalor practical standpoint. In addition to considering the resources needed to implement and run the technology, they focus on gaining valuable insights into benefits costs, such as the types of benefits that are most popular and user demographics.

On the other hand, IT departments may put more emphasis on the challenges that arise from implementing a new technology. One such challenge is data security, especially in light of recent data breaches worldwide. The complexity and quantity of employee data and the threat of data breaches are growing, and the associated risk of reputational damage is significant. Every organization, big and small, needs to consider what will happen to its employees’ data when the next massive data breach hits.

HR departments need to be sensitive to IT’s concerns, but IT should also consider HR’s needs. A compromise is to look for a global solution that emphasizes automation, ensuring that data gets from HR to payroll, for example, without any human manipulation. Automation eliminates the risk of human error but still allows for the customization desired by HR.

User Experience

More than half (55 percent) of HR professionals surveyed stated that introducing user-friendly employee-facing benefits portals is the top benefits technology investment priority. As IT departments become more involved in the benefits technology selection process, they should remember the following:

  • Ease of use and responsiveness should be the main focus.

  • The best way to improve HR communications is by ensuring that the platform will anticipate what its users are going to need. This allows for personalization as well as the ability to relay vast amounts of information to employees in the simplest way possible.

  • User experience differs worldwide. Enrolling in medical benefits is very different in Brazil and China than it is in the U.S., and solutions should be tailored accordingly.

HR and IT departments must collaborate in order to deliver a platform that anyone can use. Intuitiveness in functionality is incredibly important.

No Longer One-Size-Fits-All

When it comes to HR technology, solutions need to either meet global needs or be capable of providing tailored solutions for individual countries/regions. Businesses often run into difficulty with benefits communications (language/cultural barriers) or analyzing employee data, raising concerns for both departments. As the Society for Human Resource Management reported last year, 50 percent of global HR professionals said one of their most difficult challenges was getting employees to understand the value of their benefits package. To facilitate that understanding:

  • HR needs to be able to convey the benefits available to employees; if options aren’t tailored for different cultures or aren’t communicated properly, companies limit the amount of strategic value being added by their offerings.

As the market continues to evolve, IT and HR must find a balance of compromise in order to cater to local and global employees. If both departments can work together successfully, management will likely see an increase of return on investment on benefits—and that’s never a bad thing.

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