Magazine article HRMagazine

Systems of Engagement

Magazine article HRMagazine

Systems of Engagement

Article excerpt

When Peter LeBlanc was in the market for new HR technologies, one buying criterion carried more weight with him than it did in the past: the quality of the user experience. Other factors, such as subscription costs, product quality and customer support, still held sway. But LeBlanc, vice president of human resource operations at CareFusion, a health care organization in San Diego with 15,000 employees worldwide, wanted systems that would be intuitive and easy to learn not just for HR staffbut for line managers and employees as well.

LeBlanc knew his biggest return on investment would come from HR systems that were heavily used. Talent management systems that lie fallow after a big investment represent a problem that has long plagued the HR field, and it was a pitfall he wanted to avoid.

"We wanted systems that would facilitate easy adoption by managers and employees with a minimum amount of training," LeBlanc says. "There is a direct connection between the complexity of the user experience and the number of incoming calls from employees as well as the staffing levels in your HR service center."

LeBlanc found user experiences that met his needs by investing in a human capital management (HCM) system as well as performance management and compensation planning systems from vendor Workday. He says the intuitive user interfaces, embedded decision-support tools and mobile-friendly system designs are paying dividends.

"We have been able to reduce our staffing levels and thus the cost of our service center by 35 percent over the past four years," LeBlanc says. "That's a direct result of improvements in usability as well as our employees becoming more familiar with the self-service tools."

A Friendlier Experience

Industry vendors have begun pouring more resources into enhancing the user experience. They have been spurred by the user-friendly interfaces of consumergrade applications like Amazon and Facebook, and they are also responding to increasingly vocal HR information systems leaders seeking improvements in the usability of HR software.

"One of the things driving change is that people are simply demanding better," says Sarah White, founder and principal advisor of Accelir, a human resources advisory firm in Milwaukee. "Every day, people in HR are using consumer apps on their smartphones and tablets that are simple to use and robust. The expectation that HR software will have a low-quality user interface is no longer considered acceptable."

Industry vendors now view the user experience as a competitive battleground, says Ron Hanscome, research director of HCM technologies at Gartner Inc., a research and advisory company in Stamford, Conn.

"User experience used to be one of those things where a major change might happen every three years," Hanscome says. "But now we're moving into the era of continuously evolving and improving user experience, as each software update delivered from cloud vendors has an incremental improvement in usability. No one stands still in this environment."

Larger vendors have even built their own user experience labs, Hanscome says, rather than contracting for the space as in the past. The labs are used to observe how individuals from different job functions, job levels and geographies use HR technologies. The investigators examine factors such as eye movement to track usage. Then they use that feedback to improve interface design.

Recent studies suggest that user experience has ascended to the top of HR buyers' priority lists for purchasing new talent management systems. When asked to rate the importance of 11 different product criteria in talent systems, 191 respondents to Gartner's 2014 Magic Quadrant for Talent Management Suites study ranked "ease of use for employees and managers" the highest.

The dimension ranked ahead of factors such as product quality, reporting capabilities, integration and configuration.

"Those results reflect the fact that these systems once were used by a small cadre of HR professionals that you could easily train, but now they're far more open to line employees and managers," Hanscome says. …

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