HR Technology and the Use of HR Portals in Creating a Positive User Experience
As the HR function for competitive organizations has changed, evolved and matured (from one of pushing papers and hiring employees to becoming that of a full-fledged business partner tasked with helping to design the strategic direction of the company), so too has the technology afforded HR to become more sophisticated, user-friendly and comprehensive in its approach for providing workforce solutions.
Prior to 2001, the word “technology” – in HR circles – was strictly limited to HRIS systems which were utilized for benefits administration, payroll and recruiting efforts. Today, however, the paradigm has shifted and HR systems are now designed to provide the users (i.e. employees) with an abundance of workforce solutions and enhanced communication strategies. It all started in the early 2000’s when HR began to work with their IT partners to disseminate information in real time, reduce heavy workloads and minimize questions/interruptions by designing HR portals and intranets that enable employee populations to view benefits/401k statements, insurance coverage, the company’s policies & procedures and virtually anything else within the HR realm in real time.
As a result, within the past 15+ years, virtually every business has deployed HR portals/intranets to not only communicate with their employee populations in real time, but they trust these tools to help their HR teams save time and money, thus, enabling HR to focus on what’s important: growing their businesses and managing their workforce as opposed to the consuming and taxing process of working through thousands of files. Unfortunately, however, for those organizations that had more than one system in place (i.e. one for payroll and another which was added on at a later date for inter-office communications), they soon realized that this resulted in cumbersome ineffective systems that have control over them rather than to have one system in place that works for all departments/functions and has the proper controls over important information that impacts the workforce. When HR departments lose that control, and users are turned-off by a cumbersome application with a poor user experience (i.e. UX), the HR system can become more of a burden than an advantage for the entire company.
For that reason, the technology must be easy for the end-users to operate and be trustworthy. As any employee will tell you, the many new features and functionalities that have been added within the past decade to make the end-user experience a positive one, has been consistent because of the high-quality output, whether the portal is accessed via a mobile device or desktop; and, now, with the cloud, it’s imperative that the HR technology be highly customizable to support an optimal UX, while delivering a variety of features, provide quick functionality, and can be accessed anywhere, anytime. As a result, HR portal gives employers (and the employees) the tools they need to manage time, attendance, pay statements, and more with convenient access and workspace flexibility.
One of “the” core functions of HR technology is to share knowledge. When employees have the option of viewing their information online in real time, it reduces the burden of administration time, ensures that the output is reliable and valid and decreases distribution costs, resulting in greater profitability. Employee productivity and engagement can be significantly increased using HR systems when they can develop, collaborate, and share feedback with one another. While these portals were originally designed to simply streamline HR functions, greater use can come from them if they are utilized productively.
HR technology provides valuable data to management teams
While in the past, the primary function of HR functions was the management of the HR department, leadership relies heavily on the information gathered to make informed decisions about their teams. When management relies on critical business insights, they need data presented in an easy-to-read dashboard, not hidden in files. Dashboard visualizations connect and engage the staff. When management can see and understand their team’s data, they solve problems and discover opportunities that may have gone unnoticed. A key component for this is consolidation. Know where you stand, communicate results to your team, take action, and ultimately improve performance by bringing metrics front and center in one easy-to-use system of record.
Lastly, these portals need to be simple, scalable, and creative. If you have a system that will not or cannot change with your business, then it will only be an annoyance to the entire workforce as your company grows. The last thing you want to do is to hold your business back with out-of-date technology that is wasting the workforce’s time. These systems should be expanding the business, not obstructing it, by providing a positive user-experience.
HR technology can transform the way a team works, thinks, and interacts with one another. However, if the workforce doesn’t use and value it, then it is pointless. It is imperative to understand what your employees want in an HR system, even if it means interviewing the actual people who will use the product. Software designers and engineers need to look beyond simple metrics and create something that is focused on the user experience. They also need to listen to the client’s requests and concentrate on their needs for every new product. Again, these systems must be easily managed, secure, trustworthy, and most of all, usable, useful and scalable.
Let’s develop creative ideas on how you can design your own HR portal.
Mike Russell is a seasoned professional with three decades of experience in the fields of HR and OD. In addition to having a career trajectory of HR Generalist to a VP within ten years, Mike also has a long and successful background as a Consultant/Business Partner to CEO’s, Presidents and Executive Directors in both the private and non-profit communities across a wide spectrum of industries.
As the sole-proprietor and owner of Organizational Development Solutions (ODS), Mike partners with business leaders committed to insulating their organization(s) from potential liability, increasing organizational effectiveness and adding shareholder value.