The explosion of technology available to people outside the workplace is forcing employers to keep up with their employees’ digital expectations within it. In our 2018 Digital Employee Experience Survey, CEB, now Gartner, found that 74 percent of employees say they expect more access to state-of-the-art technology at work today than three years ago. However, these technologies can take different forms: Motorola’s modular phones, for instance, offer a multitude of features ranging from camera styles to gaming platforms, while the Light Phone markets itself as a “dumb phone” with features limited to calling and texting.
Both of these phones are at the leading edge of mobile technology, but they offer their users dramatically different experiences and are marketed to different sets of consumers with different preferences. HR leaders face a similar challenge in choosing from the growing range of options available to them how to most effectively deliver technology to their own consumers: employees.
When deploying new digital technologies, most HR functions focus on making as many digital solutions available to employees as possible. Many accomplish this by putting their HR resources into an app, providing “on-demand access” where all information is available anytime and anywhere. Just like we as consumers are used to having access to most types of information on demand outside of work, replicating that experience internally for employees has a certain appeal for organizations.
However, the results of an on-demand approach don’t live up to employers’ expectations: Our latest research on digitalization has found that deploying HR solutions through on-demand access only generates a 4 percent impact on employee performance, at most. This is better than no promotion of digital tools at all, but despite its intuitive appeal, in practice the on-demand approach overwhelms employees, confronting them with too much information and too many choices about how to use HR solutions.
Fortunately, there’s a better way.
In a piece at the Wall Street Journal last week looking at how mobile technology is being deployed in warehouses, Erica Phillips profiled some e-commerce companies that are pursuing different approaches, such as TechStyle Fashion Group, which has its warehouse workers using an app on Apple iPod Touch devices that enables them to fill orders more easily and which the company says has cut training time in half for new hires. Another company, Flexport, uses emojis in their warehouses to indicate where different boxes are meant to go.
In both of these cases, the organization has designed a process that works by making it easier for the employees to do their jobs. This approach, creating what we call an “effortless experience,” has a greater impact on performance than any other strategy for introducing digital technologies, our research shows. HR, too, can make its digital processes effortless—and can boost employee performance by up to 15 percent by doing so.
There are two elements of an effortless HR experience: Constraining the choices employees have to make about how to use HR solutions, and nudging employees to take the appropriate next steps. Flexport’s emoji labels and TechStyle’s app-based instructions both provide the exact next steps and actions the employees need to take to accomplish their tasks, without additional back-office operational information such as weight, destination, and type. In the same way, HR solutions should share only the information employees need to complete the task at hand, in order to minimize effort. Whereas the on-demand approach can confuse employees with too much information and lead to choice paralysis, the effortless approach minimizes these risks and maximizes the best fit for solutions to consumers.
Achieving an effortless experience also means delivering information to employees when it is most relevant and timely. Look again at the example of TechStyle’s warehouse app: Rather than giving employees a hard copy or digital list of items to move and then make them plan their route, the app is able to provide instructions to the relevant user at the moment the instructions are needed: when the employee reaches the item. Digital HR solutions can be delivered in the same way, such as by proactively directing new hires to onboarding resources or putting internal job opportunities on the radar of high-potential employees who may be ready to move up in the organization.