There’s a New User in Town

The world of technology changes daily; however, the one thing that has remained constant over the years has been the user. Whether it is the mainframe, disk operating system, Windows, server or even the first generation of Internet applications, the user has mostly been the HR and payroll department.

These users have had to be trained and retrained on how to use new applications and functionality as time has gone on, but the process has been limited to a relatively small group. While they have been learning the routine, they have continuously been promised technology will make their lives easier. That isn’t necessarily true. New technology hasn’t made their lives easier, nor have many new features or functions entered the world of the HR and payroll space. Still, at least the number of people who have had to be trained is fairly small.

As we enter today’s world of connected, networked, mobile and always-on workers, our past learned behaviors must be thrown out the window. The lines continue to blur between work and life, and at the same time, software vendors in the technology space are designing applications for the workforce at large instead of small HR and payroll departments. We wake up these days realizing that our audience is no longer 1 percent of the workforce, but truly 100 percent. The impact of that increase has made our lives more exciting and challenging at the same time. One thing is for sure, deploying technology in today’s world could not be more different than in the past.

Once seen as a requirement of doing one’s job, adopting technology is now something that we have to earn from the workforce. Earning adoption from a workforce that is busy selling to, serving and supporting customers on a day-to-day basis is completely different than earning it from a workforce whose job it is to enter data about those same employees into a database. It’s a classic case of old versus new. Now we must give the workforce a carrot to ensure they begin using the tools and technologies we provide them. On top of that, we ask them not to use the technology like they did — to enroll in benefits, for instance. Instead, our goal should be to infuse new engagement and collaboration tools into the work they do daily.

HR and payroll functions went through a period of time when “employee and manager self-service” functionality was introduced. The concept was that employees and managers could serve themselves by entering and reviewing information such as their marital status, benefits or even tell the employer when they had a baby or learned a new skill. We found that each of these types of transactions were things the employee or manager did infrequently — once or twice per year — and things someone used to do for them. Now we are asking them to do it themselves, saving time that would have been wasted on the HR support line due to clunky user interfaces.

Today’s users are different. They are used to touching a piece of glass — their phone or tablet — to perform a function and interact with others, not navigating through menus to find terms they do not understand. They are used to doing things on a daily basis and getting value from the interaction, not from performing a transaction. To make things even more complicated for all of us, these new users are blended together with users who are still cautious to adopt new technology. Thankfully, these dinosaurs are rapidly dying out, and in most organizations they are the exceptions, not the norm.

Overall, today’s users are more connected, more collaborative and looking for valued content more than ever before. These three C’s are a must for all HR functions to keep in mind during every technology deployment.

Users have changed forever, so we must change our approach to marketing, training and for whom we are buying our technology. It is for the new users in town, and no longer for the function.

Jason Averbook is the CEO of Knowledge Infusion. He can be reached at