HR's biggest technology problems and how they can overcome them
by Jolene Nicotina August 17 2018
Subscribe To Stay Up To Date
This post draws from an episode of The Lorne Epstein Show, "Resistance to Technology is Futile!" Scroll to the end to listen.
By 2025, over $400 billion will be spent on digital technology, with $30 billion of that on Human Resources. But, the majority of investments will fail to drive the business case promised because the technology isn’t used to its full potential. “We invest a lot in technology but fail because even though technology changes the way we work, we haven’t changed the way we work with technology yet. We’re just now, as humans, starting to catch up,” says Nicole Lindenbaum, Director of Product Marketing at PeopleDoc.
On a recent episode of The Lorne Epstein Show, Nicole and Holger Mueller, VP & Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, discussed the biggest challenges facing HR when it comes to technology adoption in the workplace—and how they can overcome them.
Let go of the idea of “best practices”
HR, or any function for that matter, is used to relying on best practices, but technology is moving faster than best practices can evolve. “There is no professor saying ‘this is how to do business’, there is no best practice book yet. It has to be experimented or found out,” says Holger. The inability to lean on tried-and-true advice can be scary, and ultimately lead us to inaction altogether. The solution? Embrace uncertainty as the new normal. “In the age of business process uncertainty, you can’t be risk averse if you want your company to strive and do well. Do it carefully, go fast, fail fast. Speed and fast aren’t the first words that come to mind when people think about HR and thats an important thing for HR leaders to think about.”
Work with, instead of against, reliance on routine
Although best practices are harder to come by in the digital age, it can be difficult to abandon them because our brains are triggered to crave routine and predictability. Take the QWERTY keyboard design for example. It was developed back in day for professional typists with the intent to stop typewriter keys from jamming. The keyboards we use today don’t use hammers and none of us are professional typists, yet we still use the QWERTY keyboard design. Similarly, when it comes to technology adoption, “The only problem is that for humans there’s comfort in routine tasks. We like routine, we’re creatures of habit,” says Holger.
Holger advises HR to be cognizant of how a reduction in routine affects workers and to try to get a pulse on how much routine they need to still feel comfortable. Younger generations can live with less routine than older generations because our world is still evolving past the days of farm work, where the routine of animals’ sleep-wake cycles dictated the daily work.
A practical solution is to work with, instead of against, our preference for familiarity. Nicole advises that technology in the workplace mimic the user experience (UX) of technology used at home. “We’re used to technology working a certain way in our personal life and then we come into the workplace and it’s rarely the same kind of experience. If we can give our employees a similar technology experience...built under the same consumer UX concepts...then it’s not as scary or frustrating to complete an action in the workplace.” This means organizations will want to start adopting conversational technology. Now that we verbally ask Siri or Alexa to do something for us at home, employees expect to use this method of getting help in the workplace.
Pinpoint practical HR technology use cases
As exciting new technologies, like conversational care, arise, HR is focusing on finding their practical applications in the workplace, but they’re not always so obvious. “There’s big question marks for everyone,” says Nicole. Where can technology help move the needle? Think about tasks that are painful and time-consuming for employees to complete, such as relocation, requesting tuition reimbursement, or accessing a payslip. Could these processes operate more smoothly with the help of technology? Imagine how efficient expense reimbursement could be if we simply texted a picture of our receipt and then got the credit in our bank account.
The less time employees and HR spend on low-value tasks, the more time they have for work that directly supports the business objectives. In short, focus on “Anything that can move the productivity of your people and help them focus more on their real job--and HR software is not their real job,” says Holger. We don’t live in a world where, “Employees wake up in the morning and say ‘I hope there’s something in the HR system for me today,’” jokes Holger.
Although transactions like viewing an electronic payslip may seem insignificant in the context of the big picture, it represents an opportunity for HR to lead digital transformation at their organization. “I’d like for HR professionals and HR leaders to endorse and understand technology much better. It transforms the workforce they’re caring for. If they don’t step up, [another function] in the enterprise will lead the transformation,” says Holger.
Listen to Nicole and Holger’s entire conversation about technology in the workplace on The Lorne Epstein Show episode, Resistance to Technology is Futile!
Jolene Nicotina is the Content Marketing Manager for North America at PeopleDoc, Inc. She works on making sure HR professionals have all the latest information they need related to HR service delivery, HR technology, and PeopleDoc, Inc. Prior to PeopleDoc, Jolene worked in marketing communications for the healthcare technology industry.