HR technology needs to be simpleHe reached up and touched the screen, but nothing happened. He touched elsewhere on the display and pressed firmly. Still nothing. He looked back at me with a puzzled expression, unsure of how to proceed.

This scenario played out recently as I watched my toddler, and it reminded me of just how much technology has blended into our everyday lives. In this instance, my son expected the TV to be a touchscreen like every other electronic device he sees his parents use on a daily basis. This level of comfort with technology, regardless of age, has given rise to an increasing demand for user-friendly tools in the workplace.

Yes, there are multiple factors that feed into an employee’s engagement level in the workplace, but this aspect of the employee experience has been steadily growing in importance. Companies can no longer ignore the need for creating positive experiences in the lives of their employees, and technology is a key piece of that puzzle.

Welcome Back to 1995

One of the key aspects of my job is to evaluate and examine HR technology. In many instances, it surprises me to see an interface that is reminiscent of Windows 95, complete with blocky graphics, poor workflows, and little to no automation. And don’t even get me started on the mobile accessibility of the system.

While in the past the HR technology focal point has been on HR as the administrative user, today we have employees and managers leveraging self-service options and making use of a wide array of tools at their disposal. More than ever before, those users and stakeholders have a voice in the tools and technology that the organization offers.

This brings up an interesting question for HR and business leaders: is your technology creating positive experiences for employees, or do they dread the moment they have to log into the system to complete a task? It might seem unfair, but the members of our organizations are evaluating our value as employers based in part on the technology we offer. That’s simply a reflection of our technological direction as a culture.

The release of the first iPhone in 2007 was a leap forward in delivering a delightful user experience. Since then we’ve seen an increased number of companies focusing on usability as a key driver of selection decisions. The apps, video content, and social capabilities of the smartphone era have enabled users to be more productive. These tools enable users to achieve more in less time, helping them to fully realize the value of technology like never before.

Now those same expectations extend to workplace technology as well. Your employees are accustomed to personal computing experiences that are intuitive, engaging, and user-friendly. They now expect their work environment to provide technology of the same quality and fidelity, whether mobile or desktop.

Asking the Hard Questions

If you want to evaluate your own technology, the following list is a helpful guide to examining some of the most common aspects of technology that today’s employees and managers crave.

Social: Is your technology allowing employees to find, connect, and converse with their peers, regardless of hierarchical, functional, or geographical boundaries?

Mobile: Is your technology easy to access via mobile? Can employees use mobile browsers or native applications to accomplish tasks? Do employees have the option to clock in via their mobile device, for instance?

Embedded: Is the technology available within the normal workflow, or does it require people to abandon their normal routine to access and utilize the system? The less friction there is between the tools and the everyday work, the more likely people will adopt the technology.

Simple/Intuitive: Is your technology easy to use and intuitively designed? Can new users navigate through the system with little training and support?

While we won’t argue the importance of the leadership and cultural aspects of the employee experience, the technological element is one that is increasing in importance and involves a multifaceted approach to ensuring a positive experience with each interaction.

Written by: Ben Eubanks, Principal Analyst, Lighthouse Research & Advisory