HR Needs to Stop Thinking Backwards

Employees live in a time warp. At one time, it used to be a good thing. That was when the internal environment was light years ahead of the consumer's.

Today, it is the other way around. Consumer tech advancements have tipped the scale. Companies are now struggling to catch up.

It is only getting worse. New workforce generations are becoming weaned on new consumer technologies. We already see a difference in how employees use the internet and social media. Companies need to design their workplace experiences for a multitude of personas.

In many companies, the internal environment and HR processes remain stagnant. While employees collaborate freely using consumer apps, they feel constrained at work.

Retro Times for HR

The change is causing an HR headache. "We now have better devices and apps in our hands than what the company provides," said Jason Averbook.

Employees do not feel appreciated and find difficulties in collaborating. Meanwhile, companies are unable to motivate, engage and drive employee productivity.

At his workshop, entitled Re-engaging the Distracted Employee, senior HR representatives acknowledged that their internal environments are dated. Many felt that the internal environment was from “2005.” One even commented that they had a typewriter and typist for government communications.

Another issue participants highlighted is how companies still treat customers better than employees, even when they acknowledge the importance of employee experience.

"A clear example is applying for a job. In many organizations, it is easier to apply for it outside than internally," Averbook added.

He noted that these issues are causing many employees to feel disengaged. He also stated that technology is not going to solve the issue. It may "fuel the problem rather than the solution," he said.

Do’s and Don'ts

During the workshop, Averbook noted the need for HR teams to take a step back.

“HR needs to have a clear vision or people strategy, the right design, have the right processes and then proceed to buy the right technology,” he said. However, he sees many companies taking the reverse. So, they end up with solutions with poor adoption.

When it comes to buying the right technology, Averbook urged companies to own the digital HR roadmap. He sees IT only as “a partner to fuel the strategy” and not to answer the HR technology question.

HR teams should stop relying on centers of excellence (CoEs). "A CoE does three things: strategy, policy and delivery. However, within HR, you have CoEs for hiring, learning and operations. Will your experience across these CoEs be the same?" he queried.

Averbook noted that HR needs to change how it measures technology success.

"For example, going ‘live' is not a measure of success. Also, in some cases, measuring adoption rate does not make sense as we may use the apps infrequently,” he said.

Averbook took a page off the retail playbook and proposed "stickiness of a process or an app" as a better measure. "You need to get your user addicted to the experience. The HR leadership team should be focused on it.”

Automation and digitization can drive stickiness. Averbook noted that the retail industry already does this well. “It is like shopping online. We want convenience, speed and simplicity. We do not give [retail or consumer] apps a second chance. So, why should your employees give HR one?”

Technology Roadmap vs. HR Vision

Averbook advised HR leaders to stop using the technology roadmap as part of the HR digital vision. Instead, HR should create their vision. It should be focused on better people management and engagement.

Here, HR needs to create its employee journey for its processes. It is similar to what retailers do in mapping customer journeys.

“What is the first thing you do when you have a question? You search online or ask Siri. When people get enraged, they call,” Averbook said. He noted that HR teams need to enable their employees to make the same types of decisions in-house.

However, you do not have to start from scratch. Averbook noted that companies like ServiceNow could help.

“For example, emails are the worst “medium of communication” for HR. But if you plug into a ServiceNow product, you have the ability to track.”

The information offers more insights for HR teams to understand whether their processes and technologies are aligned with their vision. Averbook highlighted an airline company that bounced every HR process across different personas for better buy-in.

He concluded that this approach would become more vital as HR teams start managing multi-generational workforces that demand different personal and unified experiences.

“Employees do not want to know the difference between a Finance or an HR app. They should not. You should offer a single app that addresses all employee needs. It is like sticking an IV into your arm -- would you want one for different medicines or several for each one?”