HR Technology: Not Just for HR Administrators Anymore

One goal is to deliver experiences so transparent that end-users don’t even notice the technology

By Cecile Leroux Feb 9, 2015
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If you asked your HR technology provider who its end-user was five to 10 years ago, the answer may have been “Well, HR staff, of course.”

Ask today and hopefully the response will be “Everyone in the organization.”

Traditionally, HR technology has been focused on addressing the functional needs of HR leaders, as well as payroll, benefits, compensation and talent professionals. These products have helped automate processes and streamline transac­tions, but have done little to engage employees.

In the last decade or so, primarily due to the rise of mobile technologies, people’s expecta­tions of technology have changed dramatically, especially in the workplace. They want experi­ences that are simple, effective and enjoyable like consumer technologies. For today’s em­ployee, as well as today’s HR and payroll teams, the quality of the product is as much about usability as it is about functionality.

Providing a great user experience for employees has become a smart business initia­tive and the new imperative for HR technol­ogy providers.

When their technology is more social, mobile and accessible, users become more engaged, productive and fulfilled, which results in a positive impact on the bottom line.

A great user experience is much more than just a clean user interface. Far from simply “looking good,” it comes from a mix of making a person’s work meaning­ful and focusing on what is most important to em­ployees based on their role.

This requires a paradigm shift in the approach by focusing on the individual first and then building out solutions from the individual’s perspective, versus focusing solely on the processes. Designers of this new breed of HR technology consider the habits, experiences and expectations of people in real-world sce­narios and then tailor the products to simplify their personal and work lives. The ultimate goal is to deliver experiences that are engaging and meaningful, or so transparent and natural that end-users don’t even notice the technology.

Typically, you expect to see user experience at its best in consumer-level products, software and websites. Social media sites, mobile apps and digital music services are additional exam­ples of areas where user experience is increas­ingly emphasized today. With the dramatic evolution in the workforce in recent years, HR technology has demanded this kind of person-centered design.

Today’s employees expect the systems they use at work to mirror their personal experienc­es with technology. In other words, they expect their company’s HR solutions to “just work.” Software that gets in users’ way when they’re try­ing to complete tasks is considered obsolete.

The five critical considerations when searching for a human capital management solution designed for your entire workforce are:

  • Ensure context by making sure employees aren’t forced to stop and wonder how to complete a task. For example, a dashboard screen that provides instant access to information used most frequently ensures context. Rich dashboards empower users to efficiently complete many tasks without having to click around the platform unnecessarily.
  • Achieve task simplicity by providing an at-a-glance display or dashboard of an employee’s most frequent and critical activities. The best offerings employ a grid or card-based layout offering common tasks in a visual format that’s easy to distinguish and select.
  • Have real, responsive design by adopting a person-centered user experience, whether the technology is designed for a laptop computer or a mobile device.
  • Provide thoughtfully consistent experiences, which means more than judging whether all the screens look the same. Once the user becomes accustomed to the technology, navigation should become second nature.
  • Leverage game mechanics. According to Gartner, “By 2015, 40 percent of Global 100 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations.” It is a method that should be incorporated at the design foundation and in the service of your true vision: an engaged workforce. Game mechanics should work to encourage behavior with an existing audience. It is ideal for certain areas like onboarding and recruiting, performance management, and employee recognition and referral programs.

Cecile Leroux is Ultimate Software’s vice president of product strategy and product management. She can be reached at cecile_leroux@ultimatesoftware.com

©2015. International Association for Human Resource Information Management. Used with permission.

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