It's not what you do, it's the way that people do it that matters. Image: Shutterstock

Monday 24th August 2015

The UX Bridge

Make user experience a priority in your HR systems, says experts

If you’re looking into some new HR software, beware of bells, and especially beware of whistles. This is just one of those occasions where you should be listening to your inner magpie and following the shiniest object.

Interface and user experience may be the most underrated aspect of any piece of software, because it doesn’t matter if your new software can tie your shoelaces for you if nobody can find the “tie my shoelaces” option. Then they just tie their own shoelaces. Or resort to wearing sandals.

That may or may not be a metaphor.

According to Martin Hartshorne, Senior VP at Ultimate Software: “Usability is a major driver of employee engagement and adoption. The easier the technology is, the more it will be used, and the less time is wasted by employees.”

Surveys report that what drives companies overwhelmingly to change platforms is not a lack of functionality or features, but ease of use problems. So don’t let yourself be fooled by stacks of options. What matters is that the core services are easy to learn and use.

It’s a little like one of those occasions where somebody mentions to you how superior Linux to all alternatives is because it can boot up in 1.2 seconds and predict the time and manner of your death. Yeah, it’s great, but navigating it is like trying to find the bathroom in an M.C. Escher painting. You don’t.

Roly Walter form Appraisd. Photo: LinkedIn

Roly Walter, Managing Director of Appraisd, sums it up: “People want to spend money on the features that will save them time, but they’re not much value if no one wants to adopt the system because it’s too difficult to use.”

User experience or UX is a term more commonly thrown around in IT circles. It’s the little touches that mean you can hop from relevant bit to relevant bit with the greatest of ease, rather than spend ten minutes working out how to set the alarm on your phone.

So now stopwatch, clock, and alarm are all in one place, saving you from having to find three different things.

Two things that are for certain are that no software is one size fits all, and that any HR software package is not built by those in HR. Therefore HR have their own responsibility to ensure a good UX.

Taking advantage of any trial period is a very wise move. In a dream scenario, you might not even need to run any kind of extra training or answer a thousand helpdesk questions. But let’s not get too hopeful.

A poor UX can define a piece of software above almost anything in a person’s mind, such as when Windows 8 caused a backlash by removing the Start menu that had been a cornerstone of Windows OS’s since Windows 95. Hence we see Microsoft sneaking it back into its latest offering in Windows 10.

So remember next time you’re buying whatever next-gen flavour of the month, behind all the whizzbang gadgetry and promised land potential, can I use it? Is it harder to navigate than a Hummer down medieval backstreets?

The more people talk to you about what it can do, the more attention you should pay to whether anybody alive will have the patience to actually do it.

About the author

Jerome Langford

Jerome is a graduate in Philosophy from St Andrews, who alternately spends time writing about HR and staring wistfully out of windows, thinking about life’s bigger questions: Why are we here? How much lunch is too much lunch? What do you mean exactly by ‘final warning’?