How the HR and IT Partnership Can Build Employee Engagement

digital thought bubble with engagement word

HR leaders must shift their technology focus from systems of record to systems of engagement. Digital transformation requires HR leaders to define goals clearly and work closely with IT to enhance the employee experience.

Employee engagement is no longer just about making associates happy and boosting retention. Now, organizations are realizing how engagement can affect other areas of business, like customer satisfaction and profit margins.

Employees' changing expectations and emerging innovative technologies are driving HR departments to shift their focus from managing records, which was traditionally their main function, to building systems of engagement. This new set of duties relies on a delicate balance between technology and culture.

What Are Systems of Engagement?

Systems of engagement prioritize relationships over transactions, and people over data. Data continues to play a key role in business development, and HR's work in this regard is expanding from simply storing and protecting data to finding ways to make work better for their associates using that data. HR leaders need to be strategic about technology, and having a strong relationship with IT is essential.

Understanding the significance of digital transformation in HR is the first step, according to Sugi Venkatesh, Division VP - HR for Global Product and Technology at ADP.

"Digital transformation is a very ill-defined term in the industry. It means different things to different businesses and different functions," says Venkatesh. "You can actually define it the way you want for your organization. Do we want digital transformation to just take out work and gain efficiencies on the backend? Or do we want to use the digital transformation initiative to actually shift the entire focus on how to use technology and enhance the associate experience?"

Give employees the ability to transact at any point, any place, in any medium that they prefer.

- Sugi Venkatesh, DVP - HR for Global Product and Technology at ADP

Supporting Employees Across Generations

ADP has chosen the latter. "About 56% of our ADP associates are millennials," says Venkatesh. "This is a population that's grown up on smartphones, and they don't do paper processing anymore, so they engage through technology."

While millennial expectations may be driving digital transformation in HR, associates from every generation can appreciate the benefits. Moving toward more personalized, frictionless relationships between the workforce and HR can ease the cognitive burden for everyone involved. This can be as simple as developing easy ways to access benefits information online or as involved as producing career journey maps. Younger associates want to be able to add dependents easily, while older associates may be looking for information about their retirement savings or succession plans.

From a digital transformation perspective, it's all about simplifying HR transactions.

"Give employees the ability to transact at any point, any place, in any medium that they prefer," says Venkatesh. "That's how you engage them and remove the cognitive burden. To elevate it further, I want to be able to use AI and machine learning to understand their patterns. I want to be able to anticipate their needs and go to them even before they're thought about."

HR and IT: Partners in Digital Transformation

Overcoming the challenges of digital transformation and creating systems of engagement that improve the work experience for associates across generations can be significantly easier when HR and IT are aligned on their objectives. HR leaders need to create well-defined goals and then communicate them clearly to IT. When IT has a comprehensive understanding of HR goals, they can develop solutions to bring that vision to life.

Using technology to streamline HR interactions can have a major impact. Replacing complicated paper forms with online self-service tools makes it easier for associates to tackle common life events, such as adding a new dependent to benefits coverage or accessing retirement savings account information. Implementing tools that simplify HR transactions for employees also help collect data that HR leaders can use to expand and refine the associate experience.

At ADP, leaders have focused on creating solutions that leverage the expertise of its own workforce to increase engagement and improve performance. For instance, a strengths assessment gives leaders a clear picture of each employee's natural talents, and personalized coaching in weekly sessions acknowledges those strengths and can help associates find ways to utilize and sharpen those talents.

By investing in the personal and professional growth of each employee, ADP has created an environment where people thrive. The relationship between technology and culture is key, and for organizations that value employee engagement, technology must enable and support a culture that is in line with HR's objectives.

Engagement Leads to Success

The shift from systems of record to systems of engagement is a marker of digital transformation in HR. As HR leaders become more strategic in their thinking about the future of work and learn to respond to the changing expectations of a new generation of associates, technology will provide a path forward.

"The possibilities are endless," says Venkatesh. "It's not just IT and HR coming together and solving some business processes to automate certain tasks. We're thinking next gen to use technology to engage our associates differently going forward."

Working closely with IT, HR can offer a smooth, personalized employee experience that makes every person feel valued and helps the organization identify and nurture talent for years to come.

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