In my last blog I looked at some of the pressures that were building on employees as rapidly developing technologies combine with increasing connectivity and information overload to be produce a feeling of being overwhelmed.
This was a trend highlighted in the recent Global Human Capital Trends Report 2014 that was produced by Deloitte. The study also flagged up problems that the HR community were having with technology in general - it's an urgent issue that registers high shortfalls oin capability and capacity.
With this in mind I attended last week's HRTechEurope Spring Conference and Exhibition at which a number of the leading vendors of HR software were joined by a range of speakers, academics, commentators and professionals to look at the current state of HR and the role that technology is playing. The exhibitors wowed us with ever imaginative swag - even guest appearances from a talking robot and two imperial stormtroopers - whilst the speakers were mainly concerned with how HR is coping amidst the need for changing practices and data driven decision making.
Several presentations focused on employee expectations as all the technology we use in our personal lives offers a seamless and satisfying user experience, and it is this that we are beginning to look for in systems at work.
The experience we get from installing upgrades, new features and functions is easy and user-centric and it is this that the workforce will expect from the technology they use in their job. When they complain it will be because they are comparing the experience to the one they get from using Apple or Amazon.
Here are 5 major takeaways from the conference to get you thinking:
Tools and Access not Systems and Service
Sometimes expectations arise form the language we use. For many years we have spoken of HR Systems and self service. The former sounds very rigid and restrictive, whilst the latter conjures up images of getting petrol on your hands and messages of 'unexpected items in the bagging area'!
We were urged by Jason Averbook to think of HR systems as Workplace tools and self service as direct access. It may sound like re-badging but both are more descriptive and show that the user is at the centre. It's not something that's being imposed on them, rather something that will help them in their work.
Features and usage
US speaker William Tincup led an entertaining session on the process of buying, implementing and adopting HR software. Too many in the HR function often feel uneasy with this process, failing to challenge the vendors or get the best and most effective deal. There is often a fascination with features yet rarely do we challenge ourselves over how useful they are. Willam addressed this by pointing out:
We love tech that has bells, whistles and unusual capabilities, but what you actually need is something simple that people get the maximum usage from. Whilst the conference focused very much on operational HR, wearing my recruitment hat for a moment I would say that this is a major difficulty also when buying an ATS or other recruitment or assessment system.
If it doesn't work for the user, then it doesn't work
Following on from functionality, the success of any techno.logy or software depends on the user experience. All those involved with consumer technology know this - if the users don't enjoy the experience then they'll use something else. In the workplace it should be no different. It isn't a case of your employees having to use it…if they don't want to then they will find ways around it. It needs to be something that they enjoy using therefore has to be purchased with the experience in mind.
From performance appraisals to booking leave and checking payslips, nothing gives a poor workplace experience quicker than clunky, complex or unnecessary software that needs a help desk to sort out. People don't have to call support to download an app or purchase something online, so neither should they when they are using it in the workplace.
Talent means everyone
An interesting session from David Wilson of Elearnity looked at a new approach to talent management. One finding that surprised a few was that in the US the word 'Talent' is generally used to define everyone in the organisation, whilst in the UK and most of Europe 'Talent' tends to mean a small subsect - the chosen few, and usually people who have been promoted to management. We often determine who falls in to this category at an early stage, whereas our commitment to development should be more inclusive, giving everyone ample opportunity to prove themselves.
Many companies are fond of saying that their people are their greatest asset, which should always be the case. Payroll costs take up a huge part of their budget and remain the biggest investment that businesses make. One session challenged the audience to look at their managers and leaders and ask if those people were the ones who could gain maximum return from this investment. This isn't just about working practices but the whole area of engagement and happiness at work. Despite an earlier speaker inferring that happiness shouldn't be a major concern for HR, it remains true that happy and and engaged workers are usually the most productive.
The overall message from the conference was that times are changing, offering the potential for greater complexities but also the opportunity to bring the personal experience and that in the workplace closer together. For the HR community these challenges can't be met by doing what they've always done, so the time is ripe for a new focus on usability and simplicity, with decision making based realtime and relevant data.
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