In the months following the pandemic, Gartner predicted IT spend would reach $4 trillion in 2021. In the two years since, this shows no signs of slowing: Gartner projects IT spend will reach $4.5 trillion in 2023, up 2.4% from the previous year. Yet as digital transformation continues to gather pace, is our focus on technology being put in the right areas? Are employees equipped with the support to navigate a proliferation of tech? Is it being used to improve their experience?

These are the questions people managers and HR teams should be exploring, particularly given findings that employee stress is at an all-time high, with engagement low. In fact, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report noted that only 21% of employees feel engaged at work. Could technology play a role in improving this and the overall employee proposition?

As it turns out, the adoption of HR technology is one of the topics on the minds of HR and People leaders, as noted by LACE Partners, a leading consultancy for HR professionals, in its recent HR’s ‘One Big Thing’ report.

We spoke with Chris Horton, Director at LACE Partners, to get his thoughts on how digital transformation has shaped HR and people teams. He had lots of thoughts on the move towards more technologically-enabled HR, especially given the pace of digital change.

Digital transformation as a lifeline

“Digital transformation was a lifeline for many companies during the pandemic,” Chris notes. “Though many organizations had explored how to extend their use of technologically, or introduce new tools, the pandemic made it an absolute necessity, practically overnight.”

And since then, it appears that the drivers of digital transformation have shifted again. Rather than digital transformation as a lifeline, that companies are dependent on for their very survival, it is instead being focused on as a solution to common challenges organizations often face.

This is the case within HR particularly, where digital transformation is being explored to transform the employee experience. Why right now? Chris believes there’s a few potential factors. “This is the first time in a long-time where employers no longer have the ‘upper hand’ in recruitment and retention. Skills shortages, wage inflation, the cost of living crisis and need to refocus post pandemic – these are all influencing a shift towards greater employee agency.”

One key area that matters to employees? Their digital experience. “We see the digital people experience as a big growth area,” Chris shared, “Employees want a slick, seamless one.”

Digital employee experience (DEX for short) covers a lot—from onboarding to the digital tools employees have at their disposal to support their work. Organizations that want to stay ahead of the battle for talent need to pay attention to it.

LACE Partner’s recent report identified the adoption of new HR technology as an important theme.

“How can employers pursue this? It’s all about making things simple. Asking ourselves how we can remove overly complicated steps, simplify things in a way that really impresses. For people managers, this can come from the development process or, for example, onboarding. Technology can really enable this.”

So how can technology simplify and personalize the digital employee experience? Think about the basics – without technology, we wouldn’t have virtual meetings. Though many would argue that a Teams call or otherwise cannot truly replace face-to-face interactions, it certainly does make things easier when in-person isn’t possible.

As Chris puts it, “the pandemic proved that technology can drive connection – however we need to look at how we truly engage people – and use technology to enable this”. Deploying technology in this way should be a vital area of focus for those in HR and People Management.

Take the onboarding experience. This doesn’t start once the employee is in the office, it starts from the moment they’ve signed the contract (if not even earlier) and it extends well beyond the first week. Chris shared, “It’s an important period that a savvy employer can use to really impress new hires, and technology forms a part of that.”

Mixing transformation with consolidation

In 2021, employee experience research by AppLearn found that 76% of workers were spending up to 6 hours a day using business applications. Whether it’s working spending six hours across multiple applications, or having numerous ‘online’ and ‘offline’ responsibilities to balance, employees can be pulled in many different directions at work. So how can employers deliver this more seamlessly? Consolidation.

As Chris puts it, “There’s always boom and bust, creation and consolidation, and there’s a need for consolidation right now.” With the proliferation of workplace technology, there’s a need for applications to feel more integrated and intuitive.

In Chris’ eyes, bringing things together could improve the DEX and productivity simultaneously. How and when support is delivered is key to streamlining the process. “It’s all about clever learning mechanisms, having multiple routes to learning that people can easily access.”

“If you make processes feel more complementary of one another, you’ll get more consistency and also help people learn them much more quickly, than if they need to access ten different applications or sources to pick up one end-to-end process.”

And there is technology out there – not least digital adoption platforms (DAPs) – that can further streamline this process. DAPs can be used as tools to consolidate the experience across multiple different applications, so that it feels more consistent to the user.

Such platforms also give you the ability to personalize applications according to the individual user, their role or experience, whether a welcome message when they first log-in, or in tailoring help-guides and support in accordance with their tech savviness.

With work dynamics shifting and technology to support evolving alongside this, now is the prime time for HR leaders to truly push their digital employee experience forward. It could help you stay ahead of some of the key challenges we as HR leaders face this year.

Insight by

Daniel Gripton

Insight by

Daniel Gripton