HR departments need sticky apps to appeal

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. The same can be said for employees and new applications. It can be the coolest, flashiest, most efficient and time saving application ever, but there will always be a few horses – or employees – who will resist using it.

Marc Pramuk, senior analyst for HR management services at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said the biggest challenges when implementing new human resources tools within an organization is indeed the human factor.

“Employees – and managers – can be a big obstacle, as these tools represent significant cultural change. However, the degree that these tools help them in supporting their jobs and the better management of their careers [is related to how well] they are understood and used,” he said.

Paul Hamerman, a director at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass., said one sure-fire way to get employees on board with a new application is to give them some tough love and take the old way of doing things away.

“If a company is rolling out a benefits enrolment process, then make it the only way that you can enrol in the process. Cut off the old process and tell employees that paper forms won’t be accepted. This is definitely appropriate for certain kinds of tasks that are administrative in nature,” he said.

Liem Duong, project manager at the Privy Council Office in Ottawa, recently implemented a new application to assist in HR management, and has experienced some of this cultural backlash.

The Privy Council Office has installed Nakisa Inc.’s Corporate Directory Services (CDS), which includes modules such as OrgChart and PhoneBook. The CDS applications have been deemed beneficial by most of the employees at the Privy Council Office, but according to Duong, there are always people who are dissatisfied.

“Some people still want to use the old system, but most of them use it and like it,” he said. “There are always people who want more.”

Albert Sayegh, executive vice-president at Naksia in Montreal, said developing applications that are attractive for employees to actually use is an obvious goal for the company.

An application isn’t any good if nobody’s using it, he said.

Hamerman said one way to get employees to use HR tools is to embed what he referred to as “sticky apps” into the employee portal.

“Employees find that if there’s useful information in their portal, like an employee directory or e-mail or scheduling, they’ll tend to use it naturally and will find that it provides value,” Hamerman said.

Another challenge around implementing HR tools across an organization is that not every employee in every company has his or her own desk or computer. According to Hamerman, many companies are setting up shared kiosks within the workplace so that everyone can access the necessary applications.

“A lot of companies are also putting employee intranet services up on the Internet which they can access through a password from anywhere, as many employees have Internet access from home. It’s a good strategy,” he said.

Pramuk predicts an increase in HR tool offerings and acceptance in the near future and said that part of the reason for this is that HR is interested in measuring and demonstrating value to their organization.

“This is all still early, and will likely take off in 2003. The biggest challenges are budgets, cultural acceptance and change management, and lack of technology infrastructure to link with tools and take full advantage of reporting capabilities across all HR data sources,” he said.