How can HR integrate new digital tools?

Employers should create a culture of continuous learning to integrate digital tools, said CEO of Tomorrow University

New digital services introduced by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have not reduced pressure on employees as expected, analysis by the National Audit Office (NAO) showed.

HMRC introduced new digital services to help the department meet high volumes of telephone queries, and to allow staff more time to help people who need extra support.

However, according to the NAO, HMRC's new services have failed to reduce employees’ workload as expected. While the total number of calls that employees have taken has reduced, the total amount of time that advisers are spending on each call has increased.

A third of callers to HMRC's digital helpline were unable to speak to an advisor, data from February showed.

In response to the digital service having not met targets, the government announced that it will commit £51 million to improving the performance of HMRC's phone lines, to meet demand from callers.

As HMRC works to improve the effectiveness of its digital tools, we asked HR professionals how people leaders can successfully integrate digital tools in their organisations.

Neil Pickering, senior manager of HR Innovation at UKG, explained that HR should ensure that digital tools will benefit employees before they are implemented.

He told HR magazine: “When implementing new technology, organisations must have a clear understanding of what the tool can truly deliver, how it benefits employees (not only the business) and how success will be measured. 

Read more: Digital tools cause intergenerational conflict at work, research suggests

“When technology implementations fail it’s often due to poorly scoped projects, unreasonable implementation timeframes and ineffective change management.”

David James, chief learning officer at 360 Learning, told HR magazine that employers should consult employees to understand how digital tools could enhance their workload.

He suggested: “Ensure the new digital tools are addressing the pains of users. Too often, systems are designed to address the pains that the implementing organisation wants to solve but it's not matched with end user needs. 

“You'll gain traction if it's helping people to do what they want to do, better than the current way. Truly seek to understand problems from the user's perspective, and use simple processes and tools to make their lives easier. If it's too hard then users will find another way.”

HR software Workday has faced criticism on social media for complicating 'the simplest tasks', instead of improving productivity. Systems such as these require managers to invest in training, and employees to use it, a commentator in The Guardian argued on 12 May.

Read more: How HR professionals can build a culture of lifelong learning

Christian Rebernik, co-CEO and co-founder of Tomorrow University, noted that employers should create a culture of continuous learning to encourage employees to effectively integrate new digital tools.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “HR teams and employees alike need to practice their technological mastery: the ability to understand and use technology effectively in daily life. 

“By cultivating a culture of continuous learning within organisations and investing in the likes of short courses and qualifications for employees, you can hone this skill. 

“A deep understanding of HR technology, its impact, and how to best use it can drive sustainable change within organisations.”

James noted that employers could monitor the success of digital tools by asking employees for feedback.

He added: “Check in regularly with employees to see how they are using and finding new digital tools. 

“Large software organisations often have customer success teams whose job is to make sure you, the customer, are happy with the platform or service. 

“Run user tests and collect feedback from team members and if a tool isn’t working the way it should, pass that feedback to the customer success manager and raise any issues.”