‘User Experience’ is as Much HR’s Concern as IT’s

Dazzling Interface

HR departments are increasingly taking the lead in identifying and evaluating HCM technology solutions. Meanwhile, IT has assumed a more consultative role, vetting a solution’s security, data-handling and other technical strengths and, of course, handling any necessary integration. The result is a technology-acquisition process that stays true to HR’s vision but gives IT a veto power over products that it deems unstable or unsafe.

Few technology leaders seem to object to this arrangement. First, they say, it’s simply part of a growing trend that gives individual functions a greater voice in the selection of their tailored, usually cloud-based tools. Second, the widening array of HR cloud products relieves IT from most support and training responsibilities, since those are taken on by the vendors themselves. Finally, HR simply isn’t high on the list of most CIOs’ concerns, especially at organizations whose employee count numbers in the hundreds or low thousands. As one put it: “I think about HR when they come and tell me they want to make a change.”

For the weary technology leader, this change in process comes at an opportune time. Charged with implementing a range of solutions across the organization, IT departments are also under pressure to keep employees at all levels happy when it comes to the tools they use to do their jobs. That’s not easy when Generations Y and Z, both more technology-minded than any population before them, represent a greater portion of the workforce and have begun moving into management positions.

Recently, Sepharim Research Group’s founder and Chief Analyst Bob Egan wrote that a study on the future workplace by Dell EMC and Intel found that 42 percent of millennials were likely to leave their job is they had to work with “substandard” technology. Most employees said the tech they use at home is more valuable and useful than what they use at work. “Let’s just think about that for a minute,” said Egan. “Almost half your employees may be ready to walk out the door either because they find the technology they use at work inferior or they don’t trust their employer. Wow.”

Increased Influence Requires Deeper Knowledge

All of this means that HR professionals—from practitioners to executives—need to develop a better understanding of all things related to what technology and design experts grandly call “the user experience.” Not only do applications need to be simple, they have to be fast, backed by easily accessed support and always available.

In addition, HR needs to take on the role of technology champion, ensuring that workers have the hardware and software necessary to provide a common experience across multiple channels. Like their colleagues in IT, HR needs to think about the delivery of services in the smartest, most time- and cost-efficient ways. Years ago, software developers recognized that their products had to work easily for people who weren’t software developers. Today, HR has to accept that its processes must make sense to people in other areas of the organization, and be easy to follow using the technology workers want.

“HR teams [need] to become adept in participating in a cycle of constant learning,” Raj Sundarason observes on TLNT. “It’s not enough to be an expert user in any one system anymore – the cloud means those systems, even the most proprietary, are iterating at an increasing pace, bringing new features to the product on a weekly, or even daily basis.”

It’s a good point, though we can imagine eyes rolling in both HR and IT when they read it. Because just as the value of workforce analytics doesn’t require every HR practitioner to become a data specialist, the changing dynamics of technology don’t mean HR should morph into something like software development. Instead, HR must possess–and articulate–a clear understanding of what it needs technology to do, what technology is available to do it, and whether that technology can be comfortably integrated into the organization’s overall tech strategy.

Let’s put it another way: HR media is abuzz with articles and posts about artificial intelligence and machine learning. HR leaders are being exhorted to think about how such new technologies can be, as Sundarason puts it, “effectively integrated into the organization, deliver tangible value, and drive a competitive advantage.” But it’s important for HR to frame such thoughts in, well, human terms. It may be true that AI and machine learning can result in products that offer more effective employee development and thus boost retention. But those products are only going to succeed when HR thinks not just in terms of the development exercises being offered, but how they’re offered: What they look like, how their navigation works, whether they keep users engaged.

Leveraging the Other’s Strengths

By collaborating more closely, HR and IT can meld their expertise into applications that complete specific missions, which can range from teaching soft skills to linking performance management with specific learning programs, or coaching line managers as they onboard new employees.

It’s another reason why HR and IT should be best friends: HR will increasingly rely on technology to fulfill its mission. Technology will become increasingly complex and its underlying principles more difficult for laypeople to understand. At the end of the day, workforce professionals aren’t software engineers and software engineers aren’t workforce professionals. Nor should they be. More often than not, they’re different types of people with different skill sets.

But the best organizations recognize both as strategic assets. Working closely together they’ll develop solutions that will directly impact their company’s performance. They’ll do that by understanding the nature of each other’s work, leveraging each other’s expertise, and focusing on the end result that’s necessary for success rather than what runs under the hood to get there.

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