People smarts are needed to power HR tech

HR and learning practitioners understand the relevance of technology and its benefits.

They also understand what some others fail to see – that it takes a robust plan of engagement to extract the full benefits of HR tech. At the end of the day, the technology is just a tool – It’s the people that bridge the value equation.

Research from global advisory firm KPMG uncovered that leadership and planning is essential to leverage the full benefits of HR technology – something that supports our own experiences and insights helping on-board a diverse range of organisations to technology-powered training.

“Unfortunately, some HR functions are ‘hitting the wall’ and getting stopped in their tracks due to their narrow focus on new technology,” said Michael DiClaudio, Advisory principal in KPMG’s U.S. People and Change practice. Don’t treat HR tech as an IT project; it’s a solid, top-down implementation plan engaging the entire organisation. The job of HR largely starts once the software is ready to roll-out and continues therein – choosing the right vendor and configuring the system is just the tip of the iceberg.

So, what qualities does such a system have?

It considers the end user at all times; after all, they are the key stakeholder. This means thorough User Acceptance Testing to limit impact on end users post launch and increase user engagement.

Create useful and succinct supporting material and how-to-guides for technical and functional subject matter, and don’t stop there. Create multiple avenues for seeking support and guidance: not everyone will adapt to new technology in the same way. Consider a comprehensive staff tool kit of templates, methodologies, instructional videos, case studies, data visualisations and more, walking through every stage of the process.  Wherever possible provide access to live help via product champions or technical support teams.

Some of the on-boarding content should be mandatory for all, but create some additional self-directed activity to empower those who crave more information and more access. This process can also help you unearth internal champions who you can lean on to socialise enthusiasm and understanding of the new tool. This is a key strategy for sustaining appeal and engagement and over the mid and longer term.

When you’re creating your engagement plan, you’ll need to build it to accommodate everyone. Does everyone have a work email, or a personal email on-file?  If they don’t, launching HR tech could be an opportunity to catalyse a long-awaited update to a more streamlined IT system.

Does everyone have access to a device to access the online system? How will remote or distributed workers be included? Will hours be dedicated to training on the system and who will be doing that training? Will employees be compensated for learning the new system or will it need to fit in outside their normal responsibilities? If it’s the latter, the communication materials and the rationale for the change needs to be even more compelling for people.

Take your users on the journey and importantly, let them feel they own success along with you. Head of KPMG’s UK Cloud Transformation Practice Patrick Fenton underscores the importance of a clear and compelling vision of the destination you’re collectively headed toward: “You need to a paint a clear picture of what the future should look like and then address the diverse elements that need to be in place to generate the effective change you are seeking.” This destination needs to be sufficiently different from your current reality that it accurately represents productive transformation, not a superficial costume change. Connect that vision to business objectives that departments, teams and individuals can internalise and own.

We recommend early communication, starting pre-launch (e.g. ‘something new and exciting is coming, watch this space’), and communication around a soft launch if possible. For example, you might want to launch ‘friendlier’ courses earlier in the program, before moving onto ‘harder’ content, such as compliance requirements, offering plenty of time for completion and reminders for completion. Starting with the ‘tough’ stuff could alienate users and create an early psychological barrier for engagement.

Explore internal campaigns to incentivise engagement in creative ways over time; for example, a quarterly or annual competition anchored around learning or development milestones. Draw on intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivators. Bells and whistles only go so far. When someone truly sees that a way of working makes a positive improvement on their life, they’ll invest and commit.

Finally, it’s wise to consider the new expertise you’ll need to get the most out of HR tech. Data is nothing but noise if it doesn’t have a competent interpreter to analyse that data in direct relation to your business context. New tech brings new processes, roles and skills, particularly for the strategic HR business partner.

Without shrewd and considered engagement management, HR tech is destined to wind up on the stockpile of broken promises for the business of people. Ultimately, when it’s geared well and on-boarded intelligently, it can facilitate a whole of business transformation, with HR professionals the catalysts of this new working world. Just as marketing has moved from a cost centre to a revenue generator, the HR function is leveraging HR tech in its toolkit, to become a hub of data-driven insights, smarter decision making, efficiency and bottom line value.


If you’re considering eLearning program options, we’ve already done some of the research for you. Download the Beginners guide to eLearning systems: Change management and capital investment now.