We’ve talked before about the difference between designing for the workforce vs. HR. One of the consequences of newer solutions delivering better manager and employee experiences is that we see many point solution vendors being successful augmenting the HR system of record vendors. This is not a new phenomenon. Over the years, we have seen the market seesaw back and forth between integrated solutions (buy as much from a single vendor as possible so that there are fewer integration challenges) and point solutions (buy point solutions to get best-in-class capabilities where it really matters even if it makes managing the portfolio more complicated). Where it matters depends on the type of process or journey. Any journey or process that is high value to the worker should have a focus on employee experience. If it is high frequency and high value to the employee, then it is likely a specialist solution may be needed.
In many respects, this is a false dichotomy. In large, complex organizations, no one vendor has ever met all of the needs of an HR organization. It is critically important that an enterprise has accurate, up-to-date worker data in a system of record. However, we need to stop thinking of the system of record as the center of the universe. From an employee and manager perspective, the system of record is just another point solution because it is just one part of their experience.
Enterprises will need to integrate data from multiple systems in order to create great employee experiences. They also need to think less about processes and more about personas and journeys as they design those experiences. In fact, some activities do not lend themselves to process-thinking at all, like learning and career development. In addition, they will need to think about how they deliver experiences to the workforce.
What is a system of record anyway?
Paraphrasing Gartner’s definition, systems of record support core transaction processing and manage the organization’s critical master data. So, in the HR world, core transaction processing is processing the work, life, and organizational events related to workers (HR master data). This is critically important in order to make sure that people are paid appropriately, get the benefits they are entitled to, complete their compliance or organizationally required training, and more. It also makes sense for these types of transactions — and the processes supporting them — to be more standardized. There is not a lot of business value from creating multiple ways to process payroll or to ensure required training has been completed.
It is also critical because other enterprise and HR systems rely on that data. It is not unusual for a large, complex organization to have more than 100 interfaces from their HR system of record to other systems. In that way, it makes sense to consider the system of record the center of the universe. However, the challenge is that transactions do not equal experience.
Experiences > Transactions + Interactions
Employee experiences are more than simply the sum of transactions and interactions. What does that mean? Let’s say that a worker is promoted from an individual contributor to manager. In the HR system of record, there will be a transaction like a promotion or job change that you need to execute to update the system, usually based on some sort of process or workflow. There may be other transactions linked to that event like a pay increase. So far, so good. The system of record supports what is needed to make sure the worker master data is updated appropriately based on the work event.
That is great for HR, but what about the new manager? We have not typically viewed promotions in systems of record from the perspective of the new manager. Why? Because the new manager had no role in updating the worker master data. But the experience for them includes more than just the transactions and the interactions with the HR system, such as the payroll increase or the new power to approve time off requests. The experience is not simply that those transactions and interactions happened. It’s how they happened — how were they notified and recognized? Did it take lots of redundant steps or data the system should already know? How were they prepared for the new role?
As we’ve discussed before, if you are designing for the workforce, you should start by thinking about the experience with the new manager at the center.
Maybe you start with congratulations or recognition for the promotion. Then, the person promoting the individual contributor to manager (or HR) initiates the transactions for the promotion to take effect, but it also triggers other things like a recommended learning path for the new manager, addition of that person to a community site for managers where they can ask questions to more experienced managers, introduction to a mentor and recommended actions to take with his/her new team (like scheduling 1 on 1 conversations), and more so that they start the new role in the best way possible. It is all of these interactions along with the transactions that ultimately deliver an experience. All of these steps in the journey could also be in different systems as shown below.
Building a great employee experience often requires multiple solutions to work in concert with one another.
Delivering great experiences
So, how do you deliver great experiences? You start with knowing your workforce and developing empathy for who they are, and what they want and need. One method for doing that is developing personas. Personas are archetypes for different segments of the workforce.
Different personas may have different needs. For example, in a construction company, the needs of a newly promoted project manager may be very different from the needs of a new finance manager. You would still have the same transactions required in your system of record, but the experience you want to deliver may be vastly different. A Finance Manager will likely focus on more developing soft skills like developing interpersonal relationships, leadership skills, and communication skills. A construction project manager would also need to develop those skills, but they also may need to develop hard skills like delivering great customer service, project/team management, and data analysis. How they develop those skills and when may also be different.
As we discussed above, processes and transactions focus on data, but journeys help to intentionally define experiences for a persona. That is important. You might have different journeys for different personas because they have different needs and expectations. And the same persona — indeed the same person — will likely require different experiences for different journeys. For example, a single journey for onboarding, which is somewhat standardized, may be fine but multiple journeys might be considered for career planning because it is highly individualized.
Journey maps help you intentionally define experiences:
Let’s walk through a journey map example. Much like a process, you start with the steps that are needed and group them in a logical fashion. However, many of the steps are not transactions. They are not things that necessarily happen in a system at all. For example, if our learner has a question about the learning program, they may call their manager and ask them. The manager may also need support to answer the question too, which is an obstacle. Also, current state journey maps help you understand what your persona may be thinking or feeling (and how) during the journey. Quotes provide a visceral way of understanding those feelings. Document those opportunities for improvement as well as for removing unnecessary obstacles; use them to intentionally design better experiences.
Notice that on the journey map, there is not a specific system in sight. The point is to think about the experience first, and then look at technology, where appropriate, to deliver. When you start from that perspective, the HR system of record does not play a greater or lesser role. However, it is not necessarily the center of the universe. It needs to be considered along with other solutions in a portfolio. In fact, specific point solutions can take on a larger role, especially modern ones that were already developed with employees and managers at the center of their design. In our next blog post, we will look at the role of data in delivering more meaningful as well as personalized experiences.