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How much of your HR tech is like Wordle, the Party Game?

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research
Dani Johnson
Before co-founding RedThread in 2018, Dani Johnson led the Learning and Career research practice at Bersin, Deloitte, and previously led research at the Ross School, University of Michigan. Dani holds an MBA and a MS and BS degrees in mechanical engineering from BYU. Before Kid, her favorite vacations involved a backpack, a map and Google Translate.

My family has a group chat dedicated to Wordle. Five of us complete the Wordle every morning and post our scores. I know we’re not alone.

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Over Christmas, I realized this might be an obsession when my sister-in-law gave us Wordle, the Party Game. That’s right, folks; someone (Hasbro) thought it would be a good idea to make an analog version of Wordle.

It’s still in the packaging, and for good reason: It’s downright tedious to play. Here are the rules:

  1. Host picks a five-letter word and writes it on the Secret Word board. 
  2. Everyone else, armed with a small dry-erase board, takes their first guess. 
  3. Host then reviews each guess and places green and yellow tiles over the letters appropriately.  
  4. Players cross off the letters they’ve used that aren’t in the chosen word. 
  5. Players guess again! Keep going until everyone has solved the Wordle or reached six tries. 
  6. Host reveals the Secret Word and marks everyone’s scores.

Anyone who has ever played the real Wordle New York Times puzzle understands how ludicrous this sounds. It takes a fun, short exercise and makes it almost unplayable. Our particular copy of Wordle, the Party Game, is destined to become a relic—something that will sit on our shelves and remind us when we tried that one thing. Not, incidentally, unlike so many HR technologies. In fact, Wordle, the Party Game, is an excellent metaphor for how some HR tech implementations go afoul.  

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Wordle, the Party Game, was an iteration of something that existed in another form. Its poor execution makes it unusable. Similarly, most HR tech is purchased to iterate on existing processes (e.g., how you find, hire, onboard, train, develop and coach). But a lot of that tech, regardless of its promise when purchased, turns out just like Wordle, the Party Game: tedious and unusable. 

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. HR tech implementations provide fantastic opportunities to improve existing HR processes—if they’re put into place thoughtfully and intentionally. Here are three things to keep in mind before your next tech implementation.

  1. Use HR tech to rethink your people systems entirely.

When organizations invest in HR tech, they are generally looking for ways to make things more efficient. We’re all for this. Stupid work should come off their plates to free them up for more strategic work.

Wordle, the Party Game, is a blow-by-blow recreation of digital Wordle. It mimics the same steps as the existing game. We see this being done by organizations when choosing and implementing HR tech: recreating what is already in place. While this may result in some efficiencies for HR functions specifically, it likely overlooks more significant gains for the organization more broadly. Tech implementations are a perfect time to consider the process as a whole and understand what could be better.

For example:

  • Does the process require unnecessary approvals, reports or steps? 
  • Are there better ways to route information or get necessary data? 
  • Are we clear on the outcomes we want and expect from the process?  
  • Could interfaces with other systems in other functions also be simplified? 
  • Are there ways to minimize the lift, not just on the HR function but on employees, managers and other functions as well?

Understanding what is needed, not what exists, may also affect the vendor you choose. You may not be looking for the vendor with the most features or flexibility. You may be looking for the one that can help you improve upon your processes rather than fitting into them.

Outside points of view during this exercise are really helpful. And you know who has outside perspectives? HR tech vendors. Using them as sounding boards and thought leaders can help you think through your goals. One HR leader we talked to pulled in three of her HR tech vendors, explained a process that wasn’t working for her organization and collaborated with them until they arrived at the right solution.

2. Use HR tech implementations as an opportunity to do entirely new things.

Digital Wordle and Wordle, the Party Game, technically provide the same outcomes. But in the case of digital Wordle, technology dramatically enhances the speed and ease of those outcomes.

The things we can do with HR technology now, compared to even 10 years ago, are astounding. We have more abundant, granular data on our employees—what they want, how they feel, how they’re performing, what skills they have and where they want their careers to go. We have access to more complete information about how our organizations run, enabling better, more holistic decisions.

And those aren’t even the sexiest ideas; those are the here-and-now ideas. Listening, ChatGPT, metaverse, better use of digital exhaust and improving AI will continue to shape how we work and what we can provide to employees. We should be dreaming and experimenting with some of these technologies to ensure we can take full advantage of them.

3. Use HR tech to support and enhance your culture.

Wordle, the Party Game, isn’t a good party game because it’s too tedious for a party. There isn’t enough going on while the host checks each card. You can’t see or play off of anyone else’s guesses. There’s little interaction in general. It doesn’t fit the culture of a party.

Tech should align with and support your culture. Consider all the tech options out there as the universe. You shouldn’t be not looking to implement a universe, and you also shouldn’t be looking to implement one single shining star. You should aim to create a constellation that works best in your given environment and culture.

See also: How technology can play a ‘critical’ role in building EX

That constellation is different for every organization. What works in one organization may fall flat in another. For example, one leader we spoke with got rid of all self-directed learning for its scientific-minded workforce because they didn’t make time for it if they weren’t learning together in the same place at the same time. Another did the opposite—making development mobile and bite-sized to meet the needs of its consultants, a group that was rarely together and didn’t put a high value on in-person learning.

HR tech solutions should work together to enhance and improve your culture rather than work against it. Tech—and how it integrates into other systems—is an important component of the overall employee experience, affecting engagement and productivity rates.


To put it bluntly, Wordle, the Party Game, is a dud. It doesn’t make things easier or more streamlined, it doesn’t consider the radically new things tech allows us to do and it doesn’t fit the culture of a party, much like lousy HR tech implementations. HR tech, particularly now, holds incredible promise, but only in the hands of intentional HR leaders who carefully think through how that tech can improve the process and experience—not just for HR, but for the organization as a whole.