By Neil Jensen
After roughly 20 years in and around HR technology, it still surprises me how hard it is to deliver a successful HR transformation effort. Whether it be key components like self-service transactions or the redefined role of the HR generalist, I can honestly say that I’ve seen far more failed initiatives than successful ones. Without question, business users end up being left with the impression that HR is simply shifting their work to managers and leaders, and that not much was really done to “transform” the function.
Design with your end user in mind
While it’s easy to place blame and say that it’s just “HR being HR,” I find the root cause to be in the original design of the initiative. Far too often, the team designing plans for the transformation doesn’t stop to consider the real experience of the end user. They look only through their own lens — their own perception of reality — and then start to push out capabilities. They miss the fact that most employees and managers only touch HR-related content on an as-needed basis; that could mean any frequency from once every few weeks to once a year (or longer). Whether it be transactions or critical processes, oftentimes the end user is faced with a lot of HR-speak that needs a special decoder ring to make sense.
We implement Workday’s suite of cloud-based apps for many of our clients because the Workday platform caters to HR, managers, and their direct reports — moving key components of the Worker Experience from the traditional HR silo and redistributing them where the Worker Experience is actually happening: between a manager and their team, and between the greater company structure and individual employees. Ultimately, if you consider an optimized Worker Experience at the heart of your HR transformation, you dramatically improve its success rate.
This requires focusing on all the key interaction points along the employee journey and ensuring they empower, engage, and improve the experience of your workers. This applies to transactions and process completion and even direct interactions via the phone or in person. The right HR-related technologies make every part of the employee life cycle visible and provide relevant action items at key touchpoints (i.e., milestones like promotions, anniversaries, and changes to the org chart). These are the types of changes in technology and strategy that truly transform the HR function.
The missing piece: the foundation
The critical component that is most often overlooked in an HR transformation is the data and content that sits beneath everything. You may have streamlined processes and transactions with simple steps, and you may have set up tiers of service and a solid escalation model, but if the underlying data model and naming conventions of things like job, organization, bonus plans, etc. isn’t intuitive, all of the seemingly optimized processes and transactions fall by the wayside or become considerably less intuitive. The self-service aspect of your transformation fails and managers and leaders throw up their hands and revert back to old behavior.
My best advice for clients venturing out on a transformation effort is to take the time to map the experiences of critical audience groups paying attention to all components of those experiences. This typically includes employees, managers, and leaders, but should also include other critical roles within the organization. By mapping out the employee journey from each perspective, you can identify areas that fall short and course-correct before it becomes a problem. You can also ensure that the task in question fits within the broader context of managing the workforce.