Workplace collaboration platforms are already an office staple for professionals working “desk jobs” in fields like technology and media, but these tools are less common among frontline employees in hands-on roles. Nearly two years after its global launch, Microsoft’s workplace collaboration platform Teams has added a series of new features to improve its functionality for workers in fields like retail, hospitality, healthcare, and manufacturing. The latest upgrade was rolled out last week, GeekWire’s Nat Levy reported, including:
- [A] new customizable mobile experience comes with a series of features specifically for workers on the go, such as location sharing, smart camera and the ability to record and share audio messages.
- Teams will now include a template to help IT managers grant individual employees access to the features they need.
- Microsoft is working on a set of APIs, which will debut in public preview later this quarter, that will allow companies to integrate workforce management tools that handle things like scheduling and payroll directly into Teams.
- Coming later this quarter, Microsoft is enabling a Praise feature, which allows employers to call out important contributions from workers.
This announcement comes just a few months after Microsoft showcased a series of new features for “first-line” workers at its Ignite developer conference in September. These included scheduling tools that enable users create and share schedules, swap shifts, request time off, and access announcements from their employers. Microsoft also revealed that it had a secure patient care coordination tool in private preview as part of an effort to bring Teams into the health care field.
Workplace, Facebook’s foray into the workplace collaboration technology market, has already come a long way from its highly anticipated launch in late 2016. As Facebook has added more features to Workplace, a key element of the platform’s evolution has been integrating it with a growing number of commonly used enterprise software tools (also a major selling point of competitors like Slack and Microsoft Teams).
Its most recent integrations reveal that Facebook’s ambitions for Workplace go well beyond intra-office communication. The social media giant has entered separate partnerships with the human capital management systems ADP and Paychex, HR Dive’s Kathryn Moody reports, which will enable employees to access pay and benefit information through Workplace:
Employees using the ADP integration — which links the ADP Virtual Assistant with Workplace by Facebook — will be able to access their pay statement summaries, pay deductions, time-off balances and other pay-related information. They’ll also be able to get notifications on when they’ve been paid, and generally can access this information from anywhere and on any device that supports Workplace.
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.
Gartner is projecting worldwide IT spending to reach $3.7 trillion this year, a 4.5 percent increase from 2017, with enterprise software expected to be the fastest-growing component of IT spend, growing by 9.5 percent from $355 billion last year to $389 billion in 2018. HR technologies are among the leading drivers of innovation in this space, with significant spending forecast on software-as-a-service solutions in financial management systems (FMS), human capital management (HCM), and analytic applications. Big data, algorithms, machine learning, and AI are among the technologies expected to drive growth in IT investments in the coming years.
(For readers who want to hear more about our IT spending forecast, Gartner analysts discuss these findings in detail in a complimentary webinar, available on demand here.)
For talent management leaders, this information carries significant implications. In the coming years, technology will inevitably be more embedded into the HR function: The only choice for leaders is whether they want to be on the front or back end of the adoption curve. Technology in the HR realm is advancing at a rapid rate, but the function seems consistently hesitant to take advantage of the opportunities and efficiencies it offers. A wide range of tools are newly available or in development that can help solve perennial HR challenges such as candidate vetting, employee wellness, space management, analytics strategy, recruiting and retaining diverse employees, understanding drivers of high performance, making learning more accessible, or offering digital assistants for all employees.
It’s time for Siri to get to work. Voice-command technology has already entered the workplace in the form of a benefits assistant, while one major tech company is betting that it can improve enterprise collaboration as well.
Emma is a voice-command app built by healthcare provider Alegeus which helps employees with their benefit plans. The service will take the place of a call center or help desk and is programmed to answer 100 questions on topics such as flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, and other tax-advantaged benefits.
“There’s such a glaring obvious need for people to get easy and accurate information when they need it in a convenient way,” John Young, Alegeus’ senior vice president, consumerism and strategy, told Amanda Eisenberg of Employee Benefit News last week. “Consumers have questions but people don’t often seek the answers because they’re not easily available… what Emma solves is that instant resource for normal people.”
For those concerned with the privacy issues that may arise, the app will have a multi-layered authentication and authorization framework to maintain high levels of data security. Alegeus will not disclose how many clients are using Emma, but claims there was “considerable interest” before it launched.
Amazon, best known as an online retailer, also happens to be the largest cloud services provider in the world, and is looking to tweak its Alexa technology to speed up communication and information sharing in the office. Though the Seattle-based giant has been tight-lipped about the details of its plans, it has posted job listings around a “New AWS/Alexa Service” that offer some clues:
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com
The development of business software and advancement of analytics are playing a big role in shaping the future of the HR function, and diversity and inclusion is no exception to this change. Last year, SAP announced a commitment to building software to enable corporate diversity on its popular SuccessFactors HCM Suite. Updates beginning this month will aim to remove bias from the hiring, performance review, and promotion processes.
One new feature will scan job descriptions for biased terminology geared towards men and recommend words to replace them. By the end of the year, another new feature promises to prevent managers from making biased decisions in staffing, compensation or promotions. Sarah Kessler has the details at Quartz:
Companies will have the option to set rules for their organizations, such as triggering a notification when a woman who has previously been rated highly gets down-rated after they take a leave of absence (which could be indicative of bias against women who take maternity leave) or if someone who has been rated highly consistently for years has been overlooked for promotions.
Two of the most important trends in HR today are the growing importance of technology within the HR function and its increasingly strategic role within the organization. In fact, a new survey from Paychex finds that these trends are closely linked, Nick Otto reports at Employee Benefit News:
According to the inaugural Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, more than two-thirds of HR leaders at small and mid-sized companies say they have grown beyond serving a traditional administrative function to taking on a more strategic role within their respective organizations. And technology is helping to drive that shift. A growing number of HR leaders (41%) are meeting with their CEO or CFO — or both — on a weekly basis, according to the survey, while close to one-third have access to top management when they need it.
Three-quarters of respondents said that HR technology has enabled them to become more strategic and efficient on the job. In addition, 60% of respondents considered their HR technology to be very effective for payroll, retirement and benefits administration, and time and attendance tracking, indicating they feel that technology is allowing them to maximize their effectiveness when it comes to the administration of critical business functions.
These findings are great news for HR leaders, and not at all surprising; new technologies are driving innovation and disruption in every facet of the working world, and HR is no exception. Technology is a key factor driving the increasing pace of change, which challenges HR to keep the workforce aligned. Furthermore, with digital talent playing an ever more important role in shaping the organizations of the future, a strategy-focused HR function is a vital parter in preparing any organization for a digital transformation.