The HR solution selection process usually follows a standard pattern.

Our HR leader defines a problem, like low employee engagement or inefficient operations. They know HR solutions exist to address their particular challenges, so they make a list and vet the options based on functionality, price, and support.

After carefully considering their options and reading copious number of reviews, our HR leader chooses a solution. They carefully plan milestones for adoption, create ROI calculations and then roll out the HR solution to the entire company.

Then none of the employees use it. Or they use it, but only after complaining about how much they dislike it. Now, our HR leader has two choices neither of which are very appealing: migrate to another HR solution or stick with a solution no one likes.

What went wrong with this story? Our HR Leaders was methodical and pragmatic and they did their research.

The problem was they forgot to consider what it would be like for the majority of people to actually use the solution they chose. Despite best intentions, our HR leader didn’t factor in the importance of usability.

What is usability?

Usability refers to how easy it is to access or use a software solution or website. To have high usability, the software’s design has to meet three standards:

1. It should be easy for people to become familiar with the first time they use it.

A well-designed HR solution allows a new hire to work through the series of steps required in the onboarding sequence quickly. Being able to rapidly complete small tasks in a longer process is a surefire way to tell if something has high usability.

2. It should be simple for people to achieve their objective using the technology.

Returning to our onboarding example, if your new hire’s goal is to complete legal documents and create their company profile, the HR solution should provide them with the easiest possible series of steps to do so.

3. It should be easy to recall the software design and how to use it.

Once your new team member finishes the initial onboarding process, they should be able to easily recall how to navigate the HR solution and find what their looking for — like the org chart or their onboarding buddy.

Why usability matters now

For a long time, HR technology wasn’t user friendly. Companies thought that if they developed a piece of technology that had a lot of features, people would use because it helped them do their jobs.

And for a long time, people tolerated HR solutions that were loaded with features but was a nightmare to use. Employees lived with the status quo, because they had no other choice. But then things started to change.

The iPhone (among other technologies) arrived and transformed the way people thought about usability. Suddenly, everyone had a highly usable piece of technology at their fingertips and they began to wonder why their technology at work couldn’t function the same way.

Companies also began to realize that if they built for usable software, their employees, i.e., the people who had to use the software, would be happier and more productive. Output would rise, and employee retention would increase.

This trend really gained momentum in the last 10 to 15 years, and now employees expect their HR solutions to match the high levels of usability they find in technology outside of work.

How to select a product with good usability

When you’re trying to gauge whether a design is usable or not, there’s only one thing you need to do: ask the people who are going to use the software.

Usability can be relative, so giving people a first-hand experience with the HR solution is the only way to truly know what they’ll think about it.

Here’s what you need to do: Survey the employees who will use the solution and find out what their biggest challenges are with their current setup. Keep those challenges in mind as you narrow the number of HR solutions down. Invite several employees to trial each of the HR solutions you’re considering and get their feedback.

This process is pretty straightforward, and it will save you a ton of headaches in the future.

Usability can be overlooked when evaluating different HR solutions, but it’s never been more important for employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.

If you’re looking for a new HR solution — perhaps that one system that could completely modernize your onboarding and HRIS operations — remember to look at more than just features, integrations, and pricing.

Be sure to consider the ease of use. And most of all, include some of the people who will use the software on a day-to-day basis in the research process.

Sapling’s Onboarding and HRIS platform helps mid-sized companies automate and elevate their employee experience, with deep integrations across all the Google G Suite applications your team already knows and loves.


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The #1 Reason Employees Don't Adopt New HR Solutions