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Make HR simple

Survey: CHROs driving big tech investments to improve employee experiences

By Luke Stangel

  • The CHRO job will soon be defined by the ability to create consumer‑like experiences for employees
  • CHROs expect a big increase in digitization over the next three years
  • Companies will move away from single HR systems and towards platforms that automate many HR processes

HR leaders have long suspected that getting a new hire up and running quickly translates into long‑term retention. Testing this theory was difficult, however, as the necessary data was trapped in unconnected systems, on paper, or not tracked at all.

Australian engineering giant Ausenco got a chance to test the theory when it digitized and centralized its HR data. The analysis found employees who had a smooth, quick onboarding process were more likely to stay for at least two years at the company. Employees who crossed the two‑year mark often ended up staying for six years or longer.

“We see a really strong correlation between successful onboarding of employees and allowing them to become effective really quickly in the business,” says Neil Trembath, chief people and technology officer at Ausenco. “Employees who perhaps don’t get a great experience in the first six months, they’re most likely going to leave us.”

Ausenco’s experience is a harbinger of big changes to come for human resources. Within three years, 56% of chief human resources officers expect that their jobs will be best defined by the ability to create a digital, consumerized employee experience, according to a new survey of more than 500 CHROs commissioned by ServiceNow. That’s up from just 16% today.

They’ve got a lot of work to do to get there: 62% percent of CHROs say they’ve only digitized between 0% and 30% of HR tasks. Yet some 93% percent of CHROs surveyed said they expect to digitize more than 30% within the next three years.

Ultimately, these companies say their goal is to improve employee engagement and employee satisfaction by rolling out technology that’s personalized, predictive and easy to use.

Paper roots

Historically, HR has been one of the most tactical, hands‑on business functions. HR departments are typically packed with specialists who field dozens of emails and phone calls every day about paychecks, vacation time, expenses, equipment, hiring, and internal disputes.

But CHROs are increasingly automating parts of the HR workflow, and giving employees more access to HR information and their own HR data—a transformation driven as much by pressure from employees as by access to better technology.

“My life actually is very digital as an individual,” says Aileen Tan, group CHRO at Singapore‑based telecom company SingTel. “If the workplace is not as digital as in my day‑to‑day consumer life, I’m going to have a poor employee experience.”

In response to this pressure, Tan encouraged SingTel to make its HR platform available on a mobile app, with self‑service features built in.

Future tech

The implications for HR of some maturing technologies are obvious for all to see. AI‑powered software can comb through hundreds of resumes to identify a short list of the best candidates. Video conferencing makes face‑to‑face interviews faster and more efficient. Software can automate the new hire onboarding process, automatically provisioning equipment, desk space, a company credit card and car, while making sure new employees are set up for payroll and accounting before their first day.

Some 31% of CHROs in the ServiceNow study say their core role today is creating an amazing employee experience throughout the employee lifecycle, with these technologies playing a key role.

“There are opportunities, using data and employee input, to more deeply understand associates’ current experiences, including ‘moments of value,’ unmet needs and friction points,” says Tim Huval, CHRO at health insurance company Humana. “Using this approach, it will be possible for us to create efficient and warm experiences leveraging process, technology and the involvement of people.”

In the survey, CHROs say they’re increasingly looking beyond single‑purpose HR apps, with a focus on platforms that pull many HR processes into a single experience—with intelligent chatbots, self‑service portals and social features built in.

More than 80% of CHROs said they expected the software they invest in to live in the cloud, with more than 60% saying they wanted it to be mobile, and include collaboration features. If they’re successful, not only will these new investments help cut down on the volume of HR‑related emails and phone calls, they’ll improve the employee experience, as well.

Luke Stangel is a technology writer whose work has appeared in the Silicon Valley Business Journal, San Jose Mercury News, among other places. Earlier, he cofounded a consumer software startup, and worked at Facebook.

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