Business Case, Core HR, Strategic Services
How We Use Technology to Build a Data-Driven HR Business Case
You’ve implemented an assortment of HR technologies to meet the needs of your organization and leadership believes all is well. Everyone is getting paid on time, receiving their health benefits, completing talent reviews, and able to access training and performance information when needed. But what do the people in the trenches who are actually using this technology think (end users, managers, and administrators)? If you can’t answer that question with confidence backed up by data, you need to think about why that is — and how you can start collecting this vital feedback.
When companies want to find out what people think, the traditional approach has been sending teams of consultants into the field in order to conduct face-to-face interviews and roundtable discussions. They ask how the tools are actually playing out in the workplace, where system users are having to build manual workarounds, and where processes may be in need of redesign. This approach still has value but conducting these discussions at any real scale is often too expensive and therefore not practical (so, you end up with a few anecdotes, extracted from watercooler conversations that may be accurate but not adequate when used as “evidence” to support a business case).
Fortunately, I believe new technologies offer an alternate solution. Recently we have found success using a digital diagnostic platform to survey employee populations and understand key pain points in order to help build the business case for HR transformation.
This technology lets us reach a much broader audience than we could ever do face-to-face — but scaling the information-gathering process is only part of the story. We’ve also found that the interview technology is effective at drawing out more in-depth responses from participants, giving us valuable information that companies can use to guide change.
But success doesn’t come straight out of the box, even with a powerful software tool. Here’s what I’ve learned about using technology to interview large groups of stakeholders.
Cast A Wide Net
The technical platform is transformative because it gives us an opportunity to reach a very wide audience — hundreds of people in some cases — in a matter of a couple of weeks and still get deep, high-quality insights from these interactions.
We can target key stakeholders of HR technology or a random sample of the entire workforce. We’ve created a set of standard interviews, including an HR diagnostic that targets a broad span of stakeholders across the organization to get their insight and perspective on the services and technology their company has deployed.
In less than a month we can have hundreds of responses and thousands of data points that allow us to determine areas where improvement may yield measurable return. In our analysis of the responses, we look for two or three important pain points to address and build them into the business case.
Maximize the Response Rate
We have found that how we approach the interview process really affects the type of responses we get. In the introduction, we frame the interview as more of a dialogue or a conversation than a survey, a subtle difference that we believe has helped us achieve excellent response rates, typically well above 60 percent. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a 90 percent response rate from the invitees. People also end up staying more engaged, providing more open-ended responses than we see with other methods.
Our interviews typically begin by asking people to rate a particular service or tool. We follow that with an open-ended question along the lines of “Help us understand why you ranked it that way.” We can also include quick checkboxes that ask whether more training or communication is needed around this topic. That follow-up question helps us build a well-informed change management plan.
These in-depth responses allow us to identify key focus areas — best bets that will likely have high acceptance by users and employees, while bringing maximum value on the dollar investment. It’s a completely new perspective. Company leadership may have heard the story before, but only from HR. When it’s coming from the people within their organization, it’s much harder to ignore.
Map Your Results
The typical technology-driven interview takes about 20 minutes, but we’re finding that participants are often willing to spend even longer on their responses because they’re really digging deep and taking time to offer their perspective.
More information is helpful, but it doesn’t come without logistical challenges. With many survey tools, analyzing these types of open-ended responses can be extremely burdensome. It still takes work, but the tool allows us to quickly categorize responses and run analytics to look for trends and themes.
We also run all the responses through a word-cloud program to see what keywords are being used most often, then dig deeper on some of those areas with additional analysis.
We have found the platform to be extremely useful in identifying gaps between how important a particular HR function is and how well the company is performing in this area. Looking closely at those gaps allows us to quickly home in on areas of high value and high return for the organization.
In several cases this analysis has helped make the business case for or against a technology solution by helping leadership see a consensus of pain points they weren’t aware of, often in areas of critical importance. This data from people on the ground can give businesses the confidence to make decisions to invest in technology to close those gaps.
High-quality and organized information from your organization’s workforce is a critical component when setting the framework for any HR transformation. Gathering that human data within large organizations will always be a labor-intensive task, but a digital diagnostic platform has the potential to make it much more efficient. It just takes a thoughtful and strategic approach to make it work for your company.