Senior Director, Talent Technology, Atrium
From its earliest applications the HR Technology industry has changed our life. It eliminated the need to post for job hires in the Sunday “Help Wanted” sections and also ended the days of recruiters dropping paper resumes onto managers’ desks. It has become a $20 billion plus industry, and is growing. Companies are spending thousands of hours and dollars on HR tech to add incredible efficiencies to our lives. Yet, the PwC HR Tech Survey 2022 reports that many HR leaders are less than thrilled with their HR tech vendors, with 36% of them indicating it is somewhat or very likely they will be switching vendors and only 20% saying it is very unlikely they will be switching. So why, after going through demos, feeling wowed, investing and implementing do people hate their HR Tech?
Is It Because We Don’t Adapt To Change Well?
When we first learn to use certain technologies, we tend to compare all new tech to our original experiences. People tend to want tools to be like the system(s) their brains have become comfortable using. Even though a new technology could improve an experience, learning new ways of doing things can be challenging for adults of any age, creating resistance. Something as simple as changing from an Android to an iPhone or a PC to a Mac can be challenging. Often, expectations are relative to prior experience, particularly a first experience. To be candid, for a long time my favorite vendor management system was the first one I used. Why? Because I knew it inside and out. Yet, how I have learned! My opinions have changed considerably: Mostly because I now research tech for a living and have come to understand and appreciate what is available to help make work more efficient.
How Do Misaligned Expectations Lead To Dissatisfaction?
The Kano Model tells us that there are three levels of customer expectations: Expected, normal and exciting. Some features of a product or service are “satisfiers” while others are “wows.” As use of technology has grown at an exponential pace, so have our expectations of what makes a “wow” for tech products and services. As the Kano Model explains, as expectations rise, what was exciting before, or was a “wow,” becomes expected. Remember when a hotel having Wi-Fi for $15 a day was exciting? Now it’s expected, or a “satisfier” that a hotel will have Wi-Fi and that it will be free. To translate this to HR Tech, if a technology only gives you what you consider a “satisfier” or something perceived to be standard or expected, it will likely not be enough to “wow” users. For example, all vendor management systems have timesheet capabilities (“satisfier”), but today many companies require easy-to-implement systems that allow for multiple shifts, currencies and cost centers. Such features would be “wow” differentiators for a potential vendor.
80/20 Rule. Are We Unhappy With the 20% Our Tech Can’t Deliver On?
The change or not-to-change debate gets down to a series of questions.
-Was the first choice decision reactive (i.e., we need to get a system ASAP to do “x” because we failed an audit) or proactive (i.e., there must be better systems, let’s find it)?
-Does the current or potential tech system align with our actual digitization strategy for all departments?
-Partnership/Support/Development expectations- Were expectations answered for all of the user(s) or the company? (What is the road map? Who is the tech actually for? Did we get granular enough?)
-Was the technology implemented in a sub-optimal way or efficiently?
-Were all potential use cases considered – both internal and external? Have new developments resulted in a new need for upgrades or previously unanticipated features?
-Was the sales process oversold? There may not have been adequate explanation about the system, its differentiators, and attention to what the client needed. This may also happen with integrations not aligning with “the sales pitch.” (i.e. time-to-complete, inefficiencies not anticipated, actual requirements don’t exist, bottlenecks or speed issues, etc.)
Is the Problem the New Learning Curve or the Technology or Both?
Technology is an easy scapegoat when it may actually be the people or process piece that needs attention. Companies will often manipulate technologies to fit their processes instead of using its capabilities for what it was made for. We like to call this, “MacGyvering” and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. While it is innovative to stretch a tech up to or slightly outside of its limits, it is wise to proceed with caution! When it comes to technology, it is of utmost importance to ensure the foundational function of the technology is still solving your main problem statement. Once that is accomplished, then, feel free to get creative with the outlier capabilities to fit additional “wants”.
But wait, there are opportunities to turn hate into love!
We’ve Explored the Problems, Now Let’s Look at Solutions! Here Are My Top 3:
1. Given all the recent tech layoffs at companies such as Meta and Twitter, HR Tech companies have an opportunity to scoop up that development talent and start addressing their pain points. Now is the best time that we have seen in the last several years to recruit for IT talent, and, it’s critical for HR Tech companies that want to get ahead to capitalize on this rich talent pool.
2. Buyer maturity is ever growing and there is a focus on a seamless experience vs. point solutions. According to ServiceNow, 48% of CHROs plan to use an HR platform in the next 3 years that will systematize the automation of many HR processes. I believe this holistic approach will stop the pain of disparate systems and force HR tech companies to play nice in the sandbox with each other in order to be competitive in this space.
3. People LOVE to share their opinions! This has been, and forever will be, a GREAT way for software companies and those responsible for buying and managing software to understand how they can solve for the pain. As a rule of thumb, ask various users for their input before, during and after tech implementations. LinkedIn is a great place to spark professional conversations but you can also use your personal network connections to gather more robust feedback. You’ll be surprised by what you may overlook if you are in the weeds every day.
Whether it’s a problem with adaption, expectations, implementation, or broken processes disguised as tech issues, people tend to really dislike their HR Tech. What once solved the needs for a recruiter to not have to drop off a paper resume on a hiring manager’s desk has now left us wanting more. Moving into 2023, HR tech companies that are primed for solving our problems will leverage market opportunities to prove themselves industry leaders and hopefully turn that hate into love once and for all.
Nancy Miller is Senior Director, Talent Technology at Atrium and is an industry veteran with robust experience with VMS and other technologies. She thrives on achieving results through technology optimization.