HR tech Number of the Week: HR systems overload

HR technology developers have introduced a vast array of new solutions and apps to provide employees with information, engagement and access to services, especially important as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the world of work. However, this HR technology revolution has increased the number of HR modules at work inside of today’s organizations. According to a survey from Sapient Insights Group, the average organization now deploys 16.24 HR solutions.

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According to Sapient’s 2020-2021 HR Systems Survey White Paper, the average number in 2020 was 10.23 and 8.85 the year before.

This dramatic growth in the number of HR systems in the workplace is most recently being driven by employers’ need to support a virtual workforce and adopt employee tracking solutions required for contact tracing or health and wellness, according to Stacey Harris, chief research officer of Sapient Insights Group.

What does this mean for HR leaders?

An increasing number of HR applications inside an organization can lead to more complexity for HR leaders. More HR solutions also mean a requirement for enhanced HR tech expertise, more software to maintain, more vendor contracts to manage, and more adoption and user support work, says Harris.

Related: 3 reasons you need to care about emerging HR tech

Stacey Harris, Sapient Insights Group
Stacey Harris, Sapient Insights Group

“This shift to digitizing HR also then changes the skills and expertise needed in our HR leaders,” says Harris. “Today’s HR leaders need to understand the business and be experts in HR matters, but also need to wear a tech hat and partner well with procurement, legal, finance and IT.” They must also understand the technology lifecycle and be familiar with project management methodologies, all while effectively managing third-party vendor partnerships, she adds.

While the growing number of solutions is creating new expectations for HR professionals, it can also lead to app overload among workers.

“We do see some employee frustration and exhaustion setting in, especially frustration with environments where there are multiple systems needing to be used on a daily basis,” says Sheryl Herle, principal analyst at Sapient Insights. “There’s a lot of tolerance for logging into a particular system once or twice a year to complete a benefits process or cyclical performance process, for example, but there is frustration when employees need to use more than three to five applications on a day-to-day basis.”

That said, single-sign-on technologies are making it easier for employees to move from product to product to accomplish different tasks, says Teri Zipper, COO and managing partner at Sapient Insights.

The expansion of HR systems is expected to increase as companies continue to digitize all aspects of business operations. In some cases, according to Harris, there are a high number of distinct applications being integrated into the HR technology ecosystem in order to fill niche functionality gaps or meet local-level compliance and regulatory needs.

But the main driver for the greater number of HR applications in use is “simply [that] HR is expanding the digitization of all HR processes,” says Harris. “What used to be done through forms and document sharing is now a process performed in a system.”

Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus is the former HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children.