Is Your HR Software Stressing You Out? It May Not Be Your Fault.

Man staring at computer screen frustrated with HR software

Today's HR professionals have enough on their plates. Stressful HR software should be nowhere near their dinner tables.

Intuitive HR software is like a devoted best friend: It knows you well and makes life easier.

Unintuitive HR software is like a persistently hostile acquaintance: It barely knows you and makes life harder.

In today's fast-paced, digitally driven workplace, HR professionals need devoted technological best friends to help them effortlessly complete their tasks and make their priorities easier to manage. One of these best friends is an intuitive user experience. Intuitive user experiences can help today's software-equipped HR professionals spend less time fighting their software and more time using it by decreasing the number of pathways they must take — and decisions they must make — to get work done. In other words, intuitive design can make work for today's HR professionals less stressful.

What is the user experience?

In software product design, the user experience, often shortened to UX, refers to how a person using a piece of software experiences that software. If you've ever used Microsoft Word, you've had a user experience. Microsoft Word is the software, and you're the user experiencing it. Many user experiences are frustrating, confusing and counterproductive. Where to go and the steps required to complete a task may not be clear. Perhaps eight steps are required when just two would suffice. Maybe there's too much information, not enough helpful information or too many bells and whistles. An intuitive, people-first approach to user experiences aims to solve these problems by making software usage easier, faster and more pleasurable.

Intuitive user experiences and work stress

Intuitive user experiences become a particularly vital workplace asset when disruptive workforce events, such as talent shortages, mass resignations, economic shifts, global health events and other labor force changes, threaten the engagement, health and well-being of HR professionals, not to mention the engagement, health and well-being of the employees on the receiving end of their efforts. As employees endure rising stress from personal and professional sources, they become naturally less tolerant of bad user experiences at work, especially user experiences that complicate their ability to get their work done. These infuriating, counterintuitive user experiences could also inadvertently introduce ongoing workforce disruption into otherwise stable organizations.

"Design matters now more than ever because employees and HR practitioners have less patience for putting up with poor design," says Jacques Pavlenyi, senior director of product marketing for ADP Workforce Now. "If it gets frustrating enough, they'll just leave the company and go somewhere else. You've started to see that happen."

"In a world where everything is variable, HR professionals should have something constant and updated to help them adapt during times of change. Why not let that be their HR software?" says Joe Kleinwaechter, vice president of UX design systems at ADP. "Why not take that off the list of things they have to worry about tonight?"

De-emphasizing capabilities, emphasizing people

Historically, HR software has focused on capabilities. High-quality HR software should have a range of capabilities — payroll processing, time tracking, benefits management and more — but what good are capabilities if the software that houses them is ultimately confusing, disruptive and stressful to use? Users may eventually adapt to an exasperating user experience and complete their capability-enabled tasks, but at what cost to themselves and their organizations? Moreover, are those capabilities organized to support the everyday user rather than the software's developers, product designers and others who ultimately won't be using the capabilities on a daily basis?

"HR software has been notoriously bad," says Kleinwaechter. "A lot of it is companies that come together and don't complete their acquisitions. So, you start seeing the product look like the company's organizational structure. That's what so much HR software looks like. I've got a benefits area, a talent area and a payroll area, and they don't talk holistically together. That's where the HCM world right now is glaringly weak. From a user's perspective, talent, time, pay and benefits are all intertwined."

"Where design comes in is creating tools and user experiences that focus on getting work done and outcomes rather than just throwing capabilities at you," says Pavlenyi. "A lot of software is designed to do many things, but it's not necessarily designed so that the person using it knows all those things or can use them to help them succeed in their work. Why not, instead, think about, 'What's my user journey? What am I trying to accomplish, and is the thing helping me accomplish that making it worse or not helping?'"

Less thinking, more using

By reducing the time and effort necessary to complete software-powered tasks, intuitive user experiences redefine traditional notions of productivity and hyper-productivity that encourage getting lots of work done at all costs, no matter what. Instead, they help people focus on the right work at the right time and achieve that work with the least amount of stress possible by minimizing the need to think about the software and its processes, changing "Why can't I do this thing faster?" or "Why can't I find what I need?" to not thinking — just using.

"It's more than just driving productivity. Good design removes unnecessary and excessive work or thinking," says Kleinwaechter. "It's about not putting such a load on your brain to think about, 'How do I use this system?' One of the things we're trying to do is minimize that cognitive work. Instead of going to seven different screens to get information about an employee, just go to one, so you don't have to remember what seven screens you need to get that information. Is the software designed to tell you when you need to do something, or does it bury it somewhere, or is there a red flag you have to go looking for?"

Choosing intuitive HR software

Intuitive user experiences sound excellent, but what do they look like in practice, and how do they benefit today's busy, software-equipped HR professionals?

Here are seven user-friendly benefits HR software should provide:

  1. Smooth system responsiveness that expedites the completion of standard HR tasks

  1. Dashboards that prominently display critical issues in need of addressing

  1. Insights that highlight items employees need to complete

  1. HR tools that let managers quickly complete their team-related tasks

  1. Transference of the intuitive user experience to mobile devices for fast on-the-go use

  1. Ease of use for payroll and benefits practitioners and employee self-service tools

  1. Statutory alerts that help reduce organizational risk

These are just some of the benefits of HR software designed to benefit the user, not someone behind the scenes. And whether you're partnering with a UX-focused provider offering these and related benefits is most important. That way, you don't have to think about your HR software stressing you out or slowing you down. You can just use it.

Learn more

Download our guide, "Future proofing your business: The top four technology must-haves for your HR and payroll platform."