Published: Sep 18, 2018

We hear about the employee experience a lot nowadays. Some might even say it’s taken over for “employee engagement” on our HR buzzwords list. The thing many people miss when they discuss it, though, is that your company’s employee experience strategy isn’t just about evaluating your culture. Of course that’s an important piece of the puzzle, but it’s notoriously hard to measure and requires a foundation of other components to mount an effective change. In fact, one of those components has just as much of an impact on how employees feel about the work they’re doing and the organization they’re a part of: the technology they use. This is especially true for HR technology since it’s something employees of all levels and types usually interact with in some way every day.

Have you ever asked yourself why it is that you enjoy the apps, software, and websites you use in your personal life so much, but when you log in to your business systems all those good feelings go out the window? Well, I’m here to tell you the struggle is real, and the modern workforce recognizes the gulf that exists between their personal and professional experiences. In fact, according to HR Dive, workers at technology laggard organizations are 450 percent more likely to want to leave than workers at tech leaders. So how do we make sure our employees feel that consumer-grade love in a business setting, at least from an HR and payroll perspective?

Woman checking phone employee experience HR technology concept

Deliver when and where it matters

One of the big things we enjoy about our consumer apps is that they’re available whenever and wherever we need them. They fit into our schedule and let us seamlessly purchase items, hire services, communicate, or complete tasks right when the need arises. Now, keeping that in mind, let’s look at something pretty much every employee does at least once: benefits enrollment.

Didn’t that nice feeling go away in a hurry? I’m sure it’s a safe bet that for many of you benefits enrollment seems as far away from an easy, enjoyable process as you can get. But does it have to be? What if an employee could pull up their benefits options on their phone at home around the dinner table, discuss the best options with their spouse, start making selections right there, and then pick up where they left off in the morning at a computer in the office just like they’d be able to do with a Facebook post or an Amazon order? That’s exactly the kind of thing we mean when we talk about a positive employee experience. HR technology can and should allow this level of accessibility to meet the expectations employees now bring over from their personal lives. Beyond just making employees feel connected and engaged, leveraging this kind of responsive design is also a major differentiator for employers in today’s crowded job market.

Empower employees to take action

How would you feel if you went to buy something on Amazon and the items in your cart had to be approved by someone before you were allowed to check out? Sounds kind of absurd, right? Why does that seem so strange in a consumer setting, but in a business context we accept it without a second thought? Sure, it’s true approvals of some kind will always be needed for certain HR and payroll processes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t evaluate exactly where those places in our systems are and build approaches that streamline both how an employee triggers an approval and how quickly they get a response.

Thanks to the instant gratification consumer apps provide, modern employees are less tolerant of the delays that administrative actions like approvals cause. That’s why it’s essential to keep employee self-service at the front of your mind when you build your employee experience strategy. This is another area where technology plays a key role. If you have an HCM platform capable of delivering the kind of multi-device access we talked about earlier, it opens up a world of possibilities around self-service as well. Better yet, a strong self-service approach will not only empower and engage your employees, but also free up your managers and HR and payroll staff from administrative tasks, letting them get more strategic.

Here are a few possible scenarios where employee self-service can let employees take direct action or streamline the approvals process:

  • New employees can follow and complete onboarding checklists wherever and whenever they finish key tasks.
  • Employees can view paychecks and download tax forms from any location, providing easy access to information.
  • Managers receive push notifications via mobile and email when approvals are requested for fast action.
  • Managers can access heads up displays of both key workforce data and their teams, highlighting key areas of focus both in the office and on the go.
  • Employees can review their schedules and swap shifts or pick up open shifts from their mobile device with no manager intervention needed.
  • Employees can see the time off they have available and request days off right at the moment the need arises.

Recognize that design matters

It may seem silly or obvious when you say it out loud, but here it goes: people want to use stuff that looks cool. Consumer apps take this to heart and present appealing designs. More importantly, though, those designs don’t just look good, they feel good to use. While some business apps have been able to replicate the aesthetic appeal of their consumer-grade cousins, they’ve had a harder time making their structures intuitive for users. Getting this right should be another really important factor in the HR technology you choose to support your organization’s employee experience.

The good news here is there are a whole set of principles we can use to evaluate how well our HCM platforms do at being usable: design thinking. I won’t go deep into the phases of this process here, but the gist of it is you try and think of your technology solutions from the point of view of human needs, much like how HR and payroll professionals already think about the business processes they own. How well does your technology fit the different types of employees at your organization? Are there options available to accommodate anyone from power users and admins to front-line workers? Can you look at a page on your desktop or mobile device and understand how to interact with it, even if you’re just seeing it for the first time? Thinking about these things ahead of time will help you put systems in place that work with your organization’s culture to help employees feel successful in their roles.

Conclusion: Putting employee experience and HR technology together

The bottom line to take away is that technology can have a massive effect on employee experience, and it’s something to consider carefully as you think about the type of organization yours is now and where you want to be in the future. Remember, we live in an era of choice where we compete for attention from the right employees, so an appealing employee experience built on engaging systems and processes makes a big difference.