There is no doubt that HR technology can have a valuable impact. And not just for HR and people teams, but for all employees across an organization. Yet, while organizations across the globe are implementing new HR applications every day, from SuccessFactors to Workday, not every roll out is successful. Not even close.

In fact, some statistics suggest that implementations often fail. Josh Bersin Co., a HR advisory and research firm, surveyed 700 global HR professionals, and found that 42% of respondents believed their HR technology roll outs had failed or were not fully successful two years after install.

Was it because the projects took longer than planned, or came in over budget? No. It was because employees simply were not engaging with the new tools. In other words, adoption was low. As it turns out, digital adoption could be one of the most important factors in determining whether HR technology roll outs will stick.

1: Understand the digital adoption challenge

As you’d probably expect, driving digital adoption isn’t as simple as asking people to use the new system or application as part of their working day then hoping for the best. Adoption can often be hampered by a few different factors – and if adoption is low it’s likely your digital change, whether HR or otherwise, will be impaired.

Let’s run through a few different reasons that impact digital adoption:

  • Resistance to change: When new technology is introduced, it can disrupt established processes, and people may feel uncomfortable or uncertain about the tools being introduced. Resistance can lead to low adoption rates and, ultimately, project failure.
  • Poor user experience: If tools feel difficult to use or navigate, employees may become frustrated and abandon the technology altogether. With consumer-grade experiences only getting slicker, this ups the ante for business applications.
  • Lack of training or onboarding: Without proper training and support, employees may not fully understand how to use the new technology, leading to errors and inefficiencies in their use of the tools (and in turn, their work).
  • Low or ineffective communication: Effective comms are key to driving adoption. Without clearly being informed about the benefits and purpose of the new technology, employees may not understand its value or how it can improve their work.

The reasons are many but the pattern is clear. Focus on your end users – the people tasked with using these technologies day in, day out – and you stand a better chance of success. Don’t just take our word for it, hear from some of the global organizations leading the way from a HR software perspective.

Before we move on, a note to say that there are other factors in determining the success or failure of digital transformation projects beyond adoption. Feel like your adoption efforts are spot on, but still experiencing challenges with your change efforts? Check out our guide on the six reasons why digital transformations fail.

2: Try ‘non-traditional’ strategies & incentives

We know that adoption is key to making HR technology implementations a success. We also know how adoption could be hampered. So how do you drive it and overcome these challenges?

It’s a topic the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently explored. SHRM spoke to HR leaders across North America about their experiences and learnings from introducing new technologies within their organisations, to understand how they tackled the age-old adoption challenge.

One finding? That ‘non-traditional’ strategies are one of the most effective ways to drive adoption, but are still relatively rare in HR technology implementation efforts. In fact, PwC completed a study in 2022 that found two tactics in particular went far in improving the adoption of new tools: incentives and gamification (adding competitive elements or game mechanics into systems).

Of those surveyed as part of the study, 85% believed incentives would encourage staff to use new systems, but only 44% had tried such a method. 82% saw strengths in gamification but again, only 25% had deployed the approach.

Joe Atkinson, vice chair and chief product and technology officer at PwC, shared his own experience of gamification as a strategy with SHRM. The company introduced a new customer relationship management system and created a game – Client IQ – to encourage employees to enter data correctly.

Client IQ would give them a performance score, based on the quality of the data entry, that would then be viewable on a company-wide leader board. As Atkinson put it, “Everything driving scores are activities and actions we want employees to perform using the new technology. It had a very positive impact on platform adoption.”

3: Don’t overlook the digital employee experience

So, incentivizing or gamifying software rollouts could be one route to driving digital adoption. Another? Approach technology implementation through the lens of the digital employee experience (or DEX).

DEX is a crucial but often overlooked aspect of making workplace technology, well, work. And if ignored, it could actually be costing organizations significantly. Our report, The Hidden Cost of the Digital Employee Experience, found that large US businesses could be losing a staggering 172,091 productive hours every year through poor DEX. This is heightened for HR tools, which are used regularly business wide by the vast majority of staff in enterprise organizations.

As we noted earlier, a poor user experience can drive frustration, at the cost of adoption. We even noted this frustration created by using unintuitive technology as a key tech challenge for organizations to keep a careful eye out for in 2022. This is still very much the case in 2023.

The SHRM article highlights research from Gartner in 2022 detailed the three most effective strategies for improving HR technology adoption, and each related to the employee experience: make sure systems are easy to use; ensure the technology in question helps people to complete work accurately and quickly; and integrate the new tools into other systems and equipment that employees already use for their work.

In our guide to the digital employee experience we looked at how gathering feedback, use of data analytics, improving training and identifying DEX champions could all have a significant impact on improving the experience of key tools and applications. This applied whether they were existing or new.

Raju Vijay, Vice President Global People Services for Nissan, has previously shared with us how Nissan’s rollout of Workday – and people’s adoption of the platform – was aided by qualitative and quantitative DEX data.

“There’s been greater platform adoption, and we’ve streamlined global processes too. Most importantly, by acknowledging and interrogating the digital employee experience, we’ve shown our teams that we’re actively taking steps to resolve key issues.” Vijay explained. “Businesses have always spent energy, time, money and resources on the customer experience. Employee experience is equally as important, and should be treated as such.”

Want transformational change in your HR technology rollout? Our blog on driving change through digital employee experience has you covered.

4: Consider proximity & the flow of work

Another area that could improve digital adoption, explored by SHRM, was the impact of proximity. Essentially, how easy it is to access apps, platforms and systems, as well as how these integrate into the ‘flow of work’. SHRM again highlight a study from Gartner, which found proximity of platforms can have a huge impact on digital adoption.

Speaking to Rania Stewart, a senior director analyst for Gartner, she shared, “Our research shows a greater willingness by employees to try applications or tools that are close to where they perform their work every day.”

“People want to know why they should start using a new platform or application, or how it will improve their daily work lives,” she continued. “Will the new tool make employees’ jobs easier or more efficient, or will it simply benefit the company from a cost savings or another perspective?”

Giving employees the support they need is critical, and it often comes down to helping them improve or maintain a state of flow. We’ve touched on this previously in a panel discussion with Forrester and ServiceNow. In short, when things get in the way of completing work tasks, employee experience and performance can suffer. Establishing a flow of work is vital, especially when you are embedding new technology and focusing on driving the adoption of it.

The flow of work can often be disrupted by application inefficiencies or inconsistencies across multiple platforms. Identifying and fixing these can go a long way in driving platform uptake and engagement, especially when coupled with an ability to deliver support at the right place and time. Remember Stewart’s question: will this tool make employees’ jobs easier or more efficient? If not, how can you make improvements to it?

Before we progress, we want to note the importance of seeing your HR technology rollout as a long-term, ongoing process. Organizations can often fall into the trap of seeing such projects as a ‘one and done’ effort – which is often where the ignorance of DEX, proximity and other strategies to drive adoption begins. Having a long-term view will set you up for greater success, but we appreciate it’s no mean feat. If you need a steer, we have a comprehensive article on how to sustain software change success after launch.


There are many areas to consider when it comes to solving HR implementation challenges. You have DEX and the importance of employee and application data. You have the possibility of incentivising change. You have platform integration and proximity. How and where should you get started?

If you ask us, we’d suggest exploring a digital adoption platform (DAP), many of which can help you achieve the above and more. We built our own DAP, Adopt, and its personalized support and predictive analytics can enhance the employee experience, provide continuous learning and monitor adoption. Our Success Stories page shares case studies from leading organizations that have utilized DAPs to support their software implementations.

To wrap up, remember these key areas when embarking on the implementation of new HR technology. Completing on time or under budget are not the true markers of success – user adoption is. When it comes to adoption, explore new strategies to help drive it. Whether that’s gamification, a close eye on the employee experience or the proximity of your new technology to other tools your people use. And consider how a DAP could support – it might mean the difference between software failure or long-term success.

Insight by

Daniel Gripton

Insight by

Daniel Gripton