Having too many HR platforms can create confusion, survey says

HR Brew partnered with the Harris Poll to survey 1,950 employees. Here’s what they had to say about workplace tech.
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Francis Scialabba

· 5 min read

On the modern silk road, HR tech vendors peddle their wares as tonics and salves for organizational maladies. Have a bad culture? They can fix that. Need to pay workers in different parts of the world? They handle that, too.

HR teams had good intentions when they turned to techno-solutioning to streamline, simplify, and improve individual components of the work experience, experts told HR Brew. But Brian Kropp, managing director at Accenture, said some didn’t consider the “toggle tax” employees have to pay, both in time and energy, hopping between layers of tech and sometimes multiple devices.

Fast-forward to today, and these individual tech investments have added up to what Tariq Rauf, founder and CEO of work coordination and organization platform Qatalog, labeled an “uncontrollable…tool sprawl” that hinders work.

HR Brew partnered with Harris Poll this October to survey 1,950 US employees about their experiences with workplace tech. We found that less is more. Almost 70% of employees with one HR platform said they felt confident they could find the information they need, but confidence plummeted to 49% among those whose company used more than one platform.

So, how did we get here? Was the premise of leaning on workplace tech faulty at its core, or did something go awry in implementation?

Employees report using 3.4 HR platforms and 8.1 total HR and productivity tools

Grant Thomas

1+1 = more than 2. To understand where we are, let’s back up to where we were. HR technology investment trends have historically swung on a pendulum, Chris Pinc, managing director of HR software product management at WTW, told us.

Before digitization and the cloud, companies preferred one-stop-shop HR platforms. The user experience wasn’t always great, experts said, but it was all in one place. When companies began moving to the cloud, those that specialized in one area (or point solution vendors) could usually develop products faster and so won contracts, John Brownridge, digital workplace leader at Deloitte said.

Meanwhile, employees’ app use was rising outside the office, Kropp explained, and companies assumed this meant they wanted more tech in their nine-to-five. “It’s what employers thought employees wanted, [but] what employees want is things just to work [and] to be easy.”

The problem, Pinc explained, was that each tool demanded time and attention—and they were designed to be really good at getting that attention.

“There’s been sort of an escalation, where everybody wants their communication to be able to cut through the noise,” Pinc said. The result is pinging, dinging, and popping-up notifications that interrupt employees and often disrupt actual work, Rauf added.

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This chaos, Brownridge said, stemmed from HR designing and implementing tools in isolation, without stopping to reflect on how each addition might impact the employee experience or, as Kropp pointed out, jibe with all the tools required by other departments.

Journey back. The Harris Poll data suggests that employees who have less tech on their plates are better equipped to find the information they need—that’s good. HR pros who want to streamline their bloated tech suites should evaluate what’s working and what isn’t, experts suggest.

The goal, Pinc said, is for employees to interact with HR and workplace tech like they’re on a tactical SWAT mission: Get in, get out, and get moving. If HR sees metrics that indicate prolonged use, that doesn’t necessarily mean employees are more engaged—he said it could be a sign the app’s interface is confusing or cumbersome.

To identify problem areas, Pinc suggested that HR test drive their suite by completing a “journey map” of the employee experience with tech. During this exercise, Kropp advised noting not just how many applications are required, but how many times employees interact with each one and how many devices the tools span.

What next? HR teams that want to invest in new technology need to be “clear on what problem you’re trying to solve,” Brownridge said, especially because many employees aren’t eager for more tools.

The Harris Poll survey suggested that in this economic climate, employees have the largest appetite for a financial planning app—nearly three-quarters of respondents said they would use one—and the lowest appetite for a social networking tool, which only 66% of respondents said they would use.

Selecting the right tech to augment the right experiences doesn’t just solve a minor employee annoyance, Brownridge argued. It’s fundamental to engagement in a remote and hybrid world.

After all, “whenever someone’s remote, the experience of the organization is the digital experience.”—SV

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SusannaVogel1 on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Susanna for her number on Signal.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.