Designing and Increasing the Adoption of HR Technology

By Kumud Kokal, Head of Business Systems, Airbnb

Kumud Kokal, Head of Business Systems, Airbnb

Picture this. You are either embarking on a journey of digital transformation in HR or moving from the legacy applications to the cloud or have successfully implemented the most innovative application in the history of HR Technology. The mantra is “If I deploy it, they will come”. But they didn’t.

A recent study in the “Sierra-Cedar 2016–2017 HR Systems Survey White Paper, 19th Annual Edition” shows that companies are spending anywhere between $100-$500 per employee annually on HR technologies. That’s a boat load of dough. The CFO and the CHRO are looking for an ROI on that spend. They want employee and manager self reliance not only to reduce overall spend but also to increase ownership and adoption. They want trustworthy and accurate data in these tools so that the organization can make insightful business decisions. They want metrics to see opportunities to improve effectiveness and efficiency. None of that is possible, if only a handful of people are using the applications. 

"The applications have to add value to the employees’ productivity, make their lives easier and provide information they need at their fingertips"

How does one design and increase the adoption of these systems? Here are five strategies that I have used at the companies where I have led the implementation of HR applications:

1. Answer the WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) question. In a fast paced, ever changing world bombarded by emails, messaging apps and social media, what’s the incentive for an employee to use these applications? The applications have to add value to the employees’ productivity, make their lives easier and provide information they need at their fingertips. Some example questions that employees have are

a. How much time off balance do I have?
b. What are my benefits and how much am I spending on them?
c. What does my total compensation structure look like?
d. How am I doing in my current role and how can I grow to the next level?
e. What learning and development opportunities are available to me?

If the technology helps answer these simple questions, you are off to a good start. If not, go back to the drawing board and help answer some relevant questions.

2. Manage the change. Helping answer the WIIFM question, helps employees understand how they will benefit from using this technology. But understanding the benefit alone is not good enough. We all know that eating healthy and exercising is good for us. How many of us actually do it on a regular basis? This is where change management comes in. Start by devising a clear communications plan, highlighting both the benefit as well as the ease of implementing your application to get the largest benefits. There are many tools that you can use as part of your communications strategy. Some of these are:

a. Executive communications: Executive sponsorship and buy-in helps promote the cause tremendously. Communication can be in the form of videos, emails, podcasts … anything that can be mass distributed.

b. Posters: They create a buzz. These can be digital or paper that would be put up in hallways, common areas or what the heck, even in restrooms.

c. Training and Education: Build a training plan. Identify the various personas (e.g. employee, manager, leader, HR Partner) and customize the training for them. Alternatively invest in a digital adoption platform that provides in-application help.

d. Shout-outs at the departmental or company all hands: Group forums are a great way to promote the launch of new products and applications. Leverage them.

e. Reminders: Apply the Rule of 7. Remind your audience at least 7 times for the message to stick.

3. Gamify the launch. We humans are social animals and love to play games. That’s been ingrained in us since birth. One of my personal success stories of leveraging gamification was when we launched an enterprise-wide global HCM platform. We created a contest for our employees to validate and update their data in the system and to complete three simple tasks in the application. That would enter them in a drawing for an iPad. We had a usage rate of 74 percent, gave away iPads to three lucky winners and it was the best $1500 investment in data integrity, quality and adoption.

4. Make it available on a mobile platform. The lines between the use of our desktops (do we even have those anymore), laptops, tablets and smartphones has become really blurry. These days, we expect, or rather demand, that we should be able to accomplish a task on any platform. Our workforce is constantly on the go and highly engaged with their smartphones. Hence, it is imperative that these HR apps are available on our mobile devices to increase adoption of their usage.

5. Remove all barriers. Make it absolutely easy to accomplish the task at hand. In one word … Simplify. Look at the business processes that you have configured in your system and simplify them. Do they need to have a separate login ID and password to access the application or can they use single sign-on? Does the business process need three levels of approvals or can some approvers simply need to be notified of the change? Any steps that help in reducing friction and barriers to accessing and using these applications go a long way in increasing their adoption.

In conclusion, these strategies will help your employees see how they can achieve their goals faster and easier by using your applications, resulting in increased adoption of the tools and systems that you are looking to launch or have already deployed.

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