Skip to content

The power of convenience in HR transformation


By Peter Ayres, Alight Research and Advisory Center
Share
The power of convenience in HR transformation

As organisations strive for HR transformation, the concept of “convenience” may be one of the most obvious ways to increase employee engagement.

We all have a predisposition to make our lives as easy as possible. It’s typical to look for the quickest and easiest ways to get what / where we want when we want it, and however, we want it. Convenience has a powerful psychological effect on our engagement. On the contrary, inconvenience can have the opposite effect.

“In the developed nations of the 21st century, convenience - that is, more efficient and easier ways of doing personal tasks - has emerged as perhaps the most powerful force shaping our individual lives and our economies.” Tim Wu, architect of The Tyranny of Convenience.

Why is convenience so important to employees?

Outside of work, we’ve become accustomed to literally clicking for action. Ordering food, experiences, services, whatever we desire. It’s made us impatient and unforgiving. If Pizza X can’t deliver in 10 minutes, Pizza Y can and so they win the order.

Inside of work, we’re starting to expect this same rapid response to our requests, whether to log on and be fully operational within seconds or to access learning and career opportunity portals.

The move to hybrid working has fueled this. Most in recent years have experienced changes to the way they work dues to lockdowns, and many have continued to work this way, through choice or at the behest of employers.

The psychology of convenience arises here. If we’re online at home, we expect a consumer experience. And, there is a lot that has to happen behind the scenes to create this “convenience”, but for the user comes a learning curve – and many, by default,  are reluctant or perhaps even fear change.

For many, learning new systems is inconvenient because it’s not core to their job function, and so in the short-term, slows them down. This creates frustrations and a drop in engagement.

Once manual processes are now virtual. Support teams are now hidden behind ticketing systems. The perceived immediacy of the human touch is gone.

Convenience is a driver for HR transformation

Cloud HR and workforce management systems underpin the future of business success if everyone uses them. The data pushed through and created in these processes is business intelligence gold – but only if the data is complete – which requires all employees to be actively engaged in using the systems.

Change must be convenient

At the most basic level, we must make sure that any HR system or process changes are easier for people than any alternative. This means modelling change with an end-user mindset. Where it’s not possible to make processes easier than they were before, clarity, communication, and change management programs are vital.

Here are a couple of “real-world” examples of fostering end-user process change, both encouraging waste reduction.

 

  • Just Eat plastic opt-out

The tick box for “don’t send me cutlery, straws, or sauce sachets” comes pre-checked. This makes it easier for the consumer to opt-out of single-use plastics and for Just Eat to effect a behavioural change in their clients.

 

  • Nespresso free pod collection

All users are required to do is leave pods in a bag for doorstep collection. This makes recycling as easy as throwing the pods in the bin.

Nespresso collected 76,933 tonnes of used aluminium from UK doorsteps in Q1 2020, up 52% from the same period in 2019, suggesting a positive behavioural change as the result of process convenience.

 

These two examples demonstrate how simple it can be to get people to adapt to change. Make it easy to do and demonstrate a positive outcome from the actions. In these cases, environmental savings, but in business, improved workflows might be the outcome, or self-service HR.

Professional warning – convenience can’t be rushed!

But here’s an important warning: as professionals engaging in this type of change, we must not succumb to the temptations of convenience!

Giving in to the temptations of convenience risks a result that is not truly easier or more accessible and may fail in its objective of ease. Here’s a real-world example from my past.

Working at a FTSE 10 company, I found a major issue in Employee Share Plans: employees didn’t understand anything about the system used to manage their shares. Not how to access their accounts, sell shares, change PINs, or bank account details, anything. Where could they go for answers?

To deliver a result that seems effortless and easy, we must do all the hard, detailed work upfront. It’s important that we do:

  • research
  • benchmarking
  • process analysis
  • critical thinking

A 300+ page “help guide” on the intranet. So, employees did what was easiest: they called and emailed the Share Plans team directly because their contact details were in the company directory! This resulted in a chronic, overwhelming volume of calls, which meant the team couldn’t focus on their day jobs and had to establish a rota to deal with the influx of contacts.

To solve this problem, I had to make the solution easier than picking up the phone or firing off an email.

The answer was to make the help page into a wall of short, animated videos, showing the answers to the most asked questions. Instead of having to find the number, call the department, wait on hold in a queue and explain the problem, an employee could pick a topic and have an answer from a video in thirty seconds.

It suddenly became much easier to pick and choose an FAQ video than to even write an email. This outcome was only possible because of the statistical analysis of contacts, detailed scripting, and development of the videos, having obtained the buy-in of the right stakeholders.

No corners were cut, and I didn’t give in to any ‘convenient’ options that appeared but worked it through to make the end user’s experience easy.

The outcome? The volume of calls and emails to the team dropped over 80%. This not only meant employees were getting the answers they needed easily, but also the Share Plans team could do their regular jobs more effectively.

All this was achieved because it was made easier to do the right thing; think how this approach could affect your projects!

Key points to remember when managing HR transformation projects

  • People love convenience
  • Approach changes from an end-user perspective
  • If you want to effect a change, make it easier to do or live the change, then not
  • If you can’t make it easier, make it as easy as you can
Peter Ayres (DK)
Peter Ayres (DK)
By Peter Ayres

Having lived and worked in the UK, Hong Kong, China, and the Netherlands, Peter brings insights of the challenges and opportunities diverse environments, and work cultures bring to the HR and change projects he delivers for national and international organizations. Peter has worked in HR transformation since 2008 and is experienced across the spectrum, from initial design, through analysis, planning, implementation, and embedding.

Prior to joining Alight, Peter worked for Shell, Reckitt, the UK National Health Service (NHS) and International Baccalaureate Organization.

Related reads


Shaping the cloud for your people: Perspectives for a CHRO, CIO and CFO

Your company’s success depends on giving your employees what they need to do more with technology—more efficiently, more flexibly, more securely.

Adaptable HR - What can be learned from outstanding HR organisations?

Adaptable HR is a way of working that enables HR to thrive in a world of constant change while creating a competitive advantage for the business.

Acquisitions and Workday. Plan for your acquisition, and avoid reworks.

There can be a number of reasons why organisations pursue acquisitions, but the key to success is data integration.