Skip to Main Content
Filter By +
Topic +

Boosting Engagement and Minimizing Tech Frustration: 3 Ways HR Can Improve the Workplace

I want to talk about what workplace tech is doing to your employees. To do that, let’s talk about binge-watching TV.

On a recent weekend, I had some free time and wanted to start a new streaming series I’d been meaning to watch. I was immediately presented with challenges.

First, I had to determine where to find this series; locating a show’s home among the myriad streaming services isn’t always obvious. After a tedious search, I found the right platform, but I faced another hurdle: My login credentials had expired.

I guessed my username and password … and failed. Hitting the “I forgot my username” link prompted me to enter my phone number and wait for a text message with a code to retrieve my credentials. Because my phone was elsewhere in the house and I was frustrated (“Why doesn’t this just work?”), I gave up.

The point of the story — other than having too many streaming subscriptions — is this: When technology doesn’t respond to our desires, expectations and needs in a timely and user-friendly manner, we get so frustrated, disappointed and even angry, we’re likely to turn it off, switch to a replacement or stop entirely.

Workplace tech frustration is real

That example is low stakes in the big picture, but imagine a similar scenario in a professional setting.

Instead of searching for a true-crime series, I could be searching for training and development content to advance a task I’m working on or seeking answers to questions about benefits options during open enrollment. What happens when the content and information are not easily found and, when found, are only accessible through an additional HR tech system I’m not well-versed in using?

""As in the streaming example, my instinct would be to simply give up and move along to something else. That’s easy to do from the sofa on a Saturday night, but not so easy at work when it’s time for benefits enrollment or when important deadlines are looming.

In the workplace, we often don’t have the option of “quitting” a frustrating technology. Employees must figure out how to accomplish their objectives and work through the challenges that user-unfriendly, nonintuitive workplace tech creates.

Fortunately, most employees persevere and find ways to get what they need to do the work. But their anger and frustration lingers:

  • “Why did it take so long to do that?”
  • “Why are there so many HR systems?”
  • “Why won’t this just work?”

Frustration by the numbers

Data shows employees’ frustration with workplace technology remains elevated. Just how elevated? In a 2021 study conducted by Paycom and OnePoll, researchers found 77% of employees are frustrated with outdated tech at work.

Combined with our own personal experience, these findings present clear evidence that HR and business leaders must address the challenges that outdated, difficult-to-use tech create for the workforce.

At best, employees will use their accumulated frustration as a catalyst to disengage from their work; at worst, they use it to seek employment opportunities elsewhere with organizations that prioritize the employee experience with technology.

In fact, a survey conducted by Adobe revealed 49% of U.S. workers are likely to leave their current job if they’re unhappy or frustrated with technology they use at work.

3 ways organizations can rise to the challenge

The need for organizations to address these technology concerns is underscored by the effect tech satisfaction has on employee engagement.

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report, engagement had been rising overall prior to the pandemic, but progress has stalled: Engagement rose by just 1% in 2021 to 21%, which is below its 2019 peak of 22%; both scores are quite low.""

With the persistence of low engagement, organizational resources have to consider all approaches to improving employees’ experience, including providing them with the modern, user-friendly technology they demand to help them succeed on the job.

But how? It boils down to three key action items.

1. Improve the experience

HR and business leaders must work to ensure technology partners deliver consumer-grade experiences, especially for the tools employees rely on to perform their jobs.

But it’s not enough to have just any technology; you need the right technology: one that meets employee expectations for user experience, accessibility and efficiency.

2. Focus on fewer platforms

HR leaders should strive to limit the number of workplace tech solutions employees are expected to learn and use, whether to perform their jobs, manage personal information or undertake career development. The ideal? One.

All too often, frustration is caused by navigating too many systems, each with its own login credentials, user interface and terminology. Employees expect to feel as comfortable with workplace tech as they do with apps in their daily lives, from how it looks and works to the simplicity of getting access and assistance if needed.""

3. Make engagement easy

Employers should ensure technology meets employees where they are. For example, tools for employee and manager self-service make information and transactions easily accessible and clear. Learning software can place development right in the employees’ hands.

Even communication tools like Paycom’s Ask Here can increase their engagement by connecting them with the answers they need, which helps you identify gaps in policies and procedures — information shared across the organization.

Great tech for great results

Workplace technology must make the lives of employees easier through automation, collaboration, speed, analytics and rich insights. Without this, businesses risk putting their employees’ — and their own — engagement and mental well-being at risk, not to mention risking business productivity and reputation.

It’s more important than ever for business leaders to understand employees’ frustrations with workplace technology and take steps to close the gaps between expectations and experience as quickly as possible.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.

About the author
Author picture, Steve Boese
Steve Boese
Steve is one of the Co-Founders of H3 HR Advisors and is also currently the Program Chair and host of the HR Technology Conference, the world’s largest gathering of the global HR Technology community, and a columnist for Human Resource Executive magazine. He is also a frequent speaker and author on topics in Human Resources, HR technology, and the workplace. Steve co-hosts the “At Work in America” Podcast (formerly the HR Happy Hour Show), a part of the HR Happy Hour Media Network, and is the longest running and most downloaded podcast in the Human Resources field. In 2022 he co-created and launched the “Workplace Minute” the evolution of the “HR Happy Hour Show on Alexa”, which was the first Human Resources podcast for Amazon Alexa-enabled devices. Steve has spoken at numerous events in Human Resources and HR technology all over the world, including events in Barcelona, Singapore, and Shanghai.