by Steve Bynghall, Director of Spark Trajectory

With all good marriages there are ups and downs, however the turmoil of 2020 has actually deepened the relationship between that of HR and IT in organizations.

The scramble to stay connected and to implement temporary solutions to stay operational was fast tracked by years. Many of these changes are here to stay.

HR professionals are now adept on many more items related to their technology platforms and likewise the role of IT fully embraces that of the employee experience and culture.

HR.com’s “The State of Today’s HR Tech Stack 2020” shows a fascinating snapshot of where organizations are at with the platforms and applications that support the delivery of HR services, and the related employee value proposition.

Based on a survey of nearly 300 HR professionals, with Workvivo among the sponsors, the report shows that technology is clearly engrained into the HR function, and is generally making a positive difference.

  • The majority reported that their HR tech stack increases efficiency (63%) 
  • Improves employee experience (57%)
  • It’s clear that HR professionals need to be technologists, 
  • Heads of HR need to have a digital strategy
  • HR functions need to be working closely with their friends in IT.

However, these figures also show there are a significant proportion of organizations which feel the need for improvement in their HR tech stack.

Room for improvement?

Digging deeper into the data, a number of improvement “themes” emerge.

An absence of digital strategy that focuses on integration

Integration appears to be a common issue, with only 33% of respondents saying their HR tech stack integrates “well” or “extremely well”. Indeed, the report identifies integration as the “top problem”. Another statistic from the survey suggests that a lack of co-ordination and strategizing in this area may be partly to blame for this; only 44% of participants agree or strongly agree that their organization has a “well-defined strategy for developing or continuing to develop a well-integrated HR tech stack over the next few years.”

Lack of valuable metrics

Another key area of concern is around analytics. Measurement is critical for improving employee experience and efficiency, but here, HR technology is lacking. Less than a quarter of respondents believe that their HR tech stack produces accurate and actionable HR metrics that support decision making, with 31% suggesting that it only does so to a low or very low degree.

Supporting and nurturing organizational culture

A bit of an eye-opener was the observation that only 21% of HR professionals say that their HR technology stack “nurtures and reinforces the desired corporate culture”. In my view, this is a very important component of employee experience, and while culture is often a complex area and arguably impossible to control, the technology platforms you use can certainly have a positive impact.

We’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic how technology platforms and apps have successfully helped to not only keep employees informed during a stressful time, but also to preserve companies’ organizational cultures in light of huge numbers of employees working remotely.

Improving the employee experience through the
digital communication landscape

The pressing question for HR professionals is how do they improve their HR technology stack to try and move the needle on these issues?

In practice, HR professionals have become technologists, and Heads of HR need to have a view on technology strategy – by taking an active and strategic view of how employees use and view technology, and employing a co-ordinated approach to the applications available to employees, some of the issues we have highlighted can be worked upon.

This is a theme that Workvivo’s Pete Rawlinson and I covered in our webinar titled, “The digital communication landscape; getting it right”, held as part of HR.Com’s recent virtual conference on the HR technology stack. We take a practical look at the steps that HR teams (and their colleagues in other functions) need to follow in order to improve the technology stack in the area of communication.

Making a difference

Communication tools have a huge impact on the day-to-day experience of employees, not only in receiving corporate communications, but in carrying out their daily work. However, frequently, the landscape of applications in use contains gaps, overlaps, duplication and a plethora of apps in use leading to inefficiency, frustration, and information and “app” overload.

But it doesn’t need to be like that! Optimizing and simplifying the digital communications landscape in your organization can:

  • Help employees get things done in their roles and across the organization
  • Improve processes such as employee onboarding and employee self-service
  • Reduce risks, with employees no longer having to reply on non-supported applications such as WhatsApp
  • Reduce costs by retiring duplicate applications
  • Fill the “gaps”, including in communication with first-line employees
  • Better support organizational culture
  • Even support health and wellbeing by reducing employee frustrations and information overload.

Four steps to improve the technology landscape

  1. Mapping the digital landscape: carrying out detailed research to understand what applications are in use and for what need, identifying gaps and pain points
  2. Decoding the landscape: creating a digital communications matrix mapping business needs to different types of tool and the related applications in use; working out where you are now and where you want to be
  3. Improving the digital experience: evolving your landscape to get to where you want to be – this is something that doesn’t happen overnight!
  4. Focus on business value: focusing on important business processes and using cases to ensure continued value.

If HR professionals start to take these steps, they can help address some of the issues they find in their HR technology stack.

Integration

Evolving the landscape can include a strategy that helps to integrate experiences. By coordinating a process to simplify and improve the communications landscape that is also focused on employee needs, it’s then much easier to plan and design integrations that make sense and have impact. For example, if you launch an employee app for first-line employees perhaps for the first time, you can start to integrate employee self-service transaction into this.

Analytics

Again, actively improving the digital employee experience by evolving the associated technology across your digital communications landscape will be reliant on the analytics and metrics that come from different tools in use – just bringing these into view across different applications can deliver significant insights to support decision-making.

Nurturing culture

Simplifying and optimizing the digital communications landscape by focusing on business value additionally means you can ensure you cover the areas that matter in supporting culture, for example, driving first-line communications, ensuring a great employee onboarding experience and actively supporting Diversity & Inclusion efforts.

Download the free Digital Communications Landscape book

HR professionals can make a significant difference in improving their HR technology stack, solve the common associated issues and improve their employee experience in the process.