Often, employers fail to understand what their employees want from technology and how they use the technology provided. To allow for input from all stakeholders regarding the organization’s HR technology strategy, we advise our clients to create an HR technology governance committee.
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Productivity is a hot topic among HR leaders. Google “how to increase productivity in the workplace” and you’ll get some 53 million results. Among the top hits, most focus on how to make people more productive. Instead, I would like to look at how your people can help to make your HR technology more productive.

Simply stated, workplace productivity is about how efficiently workers accomplish the business’s goals. The wide integration of technology into the overall work experience, however, calls for engaging employees in the governance of the organization’s use of HR technology. A 2018 workplace study found that 90% of C-suite executives say their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, while only 53% of the employees said the same thing. This gap suggests that most employers fail to understand what their employees want from technology and how they use the technology provided. The result can be poor morale and decreased productivity.

Why a committee makes sense

We advise our clients to create an HR technology governance committee (much like a benefits or workplace wellbeing committee) to allow for input from all stakeholders regarding the organization’s HR technology strategy. This input can help to ensure the strategy supports the business’s goals and that the associated HR tech tools meet current needs and can be adapted to grow and change with the organization. The committee also can be key to educating other employees and generating company-wide buy-in for HR tech systems and policies.

If the idea of a committee feels overwhelming (or there’s a sense of “not another committee!”), then start with something less formal, like an employee task force or focus group charged with a narrowly defined task, a clear agenda and end date. Pick and choose tasks most important or deemed a good place to begin. With positive results, the group may evolve to something more permanent and that senior management sees as a critical component to a highly productive organization.

Constructing the committee
An organization’s people strategy and how it dictates the organization’s technology strategy should determine the make-up of an HR technology governance committee. Minimally, however, plan to include a representative from IT and any area of HR that “owns” technology used to support the organization’s people strategy, e.g., talent management, benefits, etc. Also, plan to involve employee tech users — both managers who rely on technology to do their job (performance) and end-users (timekeeping). Other core members include individuals whose jobs pertain to cybersecurity (think data breaches and risk management) and strategy (someone focused on corporate productivity). The strategy role could come from several areas within the organization.

Depending on the responsibilities assigned to the group, other stakeholders might be representatives from finance (payroll technology), marketing (internal communication technology) and operations (core business technology). Senior management should determine the committee’s level of authority (e.g., input only, set policy versus make recommendations). This decision will impact the makeup of the committee.

Role of the committee

Now that you have the group in place, here’s a laundry list of possible functions. Again, it may not be practical to undertake all these roles at the onset. Keep in mind, however, this group is about governing (not doing). The actual work associated with each task (including implementing any recommendations) should be the responsibility of an existing functional area.

  1. Evaluate current technology and how it is (or isn’t) working. Part of the organization’s HR tech strategy should be an annual review and grading of every piece of HR technology currently used. This can be a formal or anecdotal process. (If everyone hates the payroll system, you probably know that and why.) This group should assess how the current technology impacts productivity and identify possible steps (e.g., training, enhanced tools, internal marketing campaign) to improve productivity.  
  2. Govern service provider relationships. Shifting responsibility to third-party service providers for HR technology functions frees up time for more strategic initiatives, but there is an inherent risk of things not going as well as hoped. To ensure the best possible outcomes, employers must actively govern the relationship with their HR technology providers. Read our article with tips on how to govern the service provider relationship
  3. Stay current on what’s happening with HR technology. Ways to accomplish this include updates from your HR technology advisor (your benefits advisor may also wear this hat or can connect you with an HR technology specialist), attending industry conferences, information from professional associations (your HR leaders are likely affiliated with at least one) and technology provider user events. Note that while many user events include excellent industry speakers, some may be only about the product. Understand the agenda before committing. 
  4. Create, review and update a three- to five-year HR technology plan. Every company should have an HR technology plan that links to the organization’s people and business strategies. This plan should clearly articulate the objectives for HR technology, prioritize technology acquisitions and cover the entire workforce management cycle (recruitment thru retirement). Depending on the organization, oversight of this task might reside with the HR, IT or Operations department, which engages the C-suite for input, but a committee can provide a broader perspective that can come from a single department. The goal of such a plan is to reflect an understanding of the people and business strategies and how technology supports those strategies. A well-functioning HR tech committee can deliver on that goal. 
  5. Ensure the company’s HR technology supports its people and productivity strategy. This can be accomplished in various ways, including using technology to optimize recruitment, automate internal processes (e.g., payroll or benefits) or improve training and performance management. Ask about available usage data (may be available as part of the platform) and invite the provider or an informed analyst to help interpret the data. For example, how many employees use the benefits platform outside of open enrollment, and how does this compare to similar organizations (by size and industry)? 
  6. Monitor the optimization of new releases. With most HR technology software in the cloud today, it’s a rare organization that fully optimizes new functionality that becomes available with each release. Doing so takes time and someone to pay attention to what’s in the release and how it might benefit the organization. A committee can bring a big picture perspective to the review, keeping productivity top of mind. And, while it’s not necessarily the committee’s job to devise and implement new processes to optimize the technology, the group can flag opportunities for the appropriate department(s). For more on technology optimization, read our recent article on getting the most out of your HR technology
  7. Evaluate contract renewals. Review an inventory of all contracts with the associated cost and the renewal/expiration date and related clauses. The group should consider the level of satisfaction with the contract, e.g., do you want better pricing or to make changes to the service level agreement? Formalizing this process forces introspection about the current contract and the provider. Even if it’s determined there’s no need for action, the exercise typically results in renewed confidence in the technology and the provider relationship.
  8. Govern security access and review service provider security audits. When it comes to data breaches, it’s more about when, not if, especially as most breaches are the result of unintentional actions by an employee. Related is a lack of attention to how changes in personnel or structure create risk, e.g., an employee leaves the company, but no one shuts off access to company systems. As HR platforms contain sensitive data, having a group focused on policies related to employee access is important for a company’s cybersecurity strategy. A specialist should be engaged to assess a company’s exposure and advise on recommendations for protecting employee data. 
  9. Provide input on the purchase of new technology. When it’s time to purchase new technology, a dedicated team may be formed for this purpose, based on the specific requirements. However, someone from the HR tech governance committee should be part of this group, to share the overarching insight and intelligence related to technology and employee productivity. 

Whatever the specific responsibilities of the committee, their overall role should be two-fold: 1) to provide input that guides decision making around HR technology purchases and use as it relates to people and business strategies, and 2) helping to inform and educate other employees about the benefits of available technology and how to maximize its use. Again, it’s reasonable to start small but be careful not to create a bunch of siloed tasks that have no relation to the larger objective of increasing organization productivity supported by effective HR technology.

Assisting companies to identify and prioritize functions for an HR technology governance strategy (and helping to get the group started) is one of many consulting services Gallagher offers. Your business objectives, organizational structure, culture and current use of technology all play a role in implementing an HR technology governance committee. Contact us today if you’d like to learn more about how your organization might benefit from such a group.

About the Author

Rhonda Marcucci, together with Ed Barry, co-leads Gallagher’s HR and Benefits Technology Consulting Practice. Their team provides unbiased, well-researched HR technology and benefits administration consulting including sourcing advice and service provider capability audits. Rhonda’s extensive and broad-based experience in finance, accounting, administration, strategic planning, information systems, sales and marketing, and operations is instrumental in helping clients identify a comprehensive strategy and execute against it.

 

Consulting and insurance brokerage services to be provided by Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. and/or its affiliate Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc. Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. is a licensed insurance agency that does business in California as “Gallagher Benefit Services of California Insurance Services” and in Massachusetts as “Gallagher Benefit Insurance Services.” Neither Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., nor its affiliates provide accounting, legal or tax advice.