Tech Insights: HR Technology That Delights — and Improves Communications

We’re used to software that is hard to implement, expensive and doesn’t quite live up to our hopes.

In some recent research I did on selecting talent management systems, one of my favourite quotes was “I’ve never led an HR technology intervention, but I’ve been the victim of them.” (The poignant line didn’t make it into the final report, so I’m pleased to share it with you here.)

In contrast to the common tales of being disappointed, an article by Amanda Stone, Director of Training and Communications for the restaurant chain Houlihan’s, describes an HR software implementation that had a bigger impact than they imagined.

Like any big, dispersed company Houlihan’s needs to do a lot of internal communication. This was handled through an intranet page with a long list of news headlines. Since people often didn’t read this, managers would work around the system with direct emails. The result was ineffective communications.

Modern communications in a current company problem

This wasn’t an unimportant issue. Stone writes:

While the problems were many, communication was at the top of the list. It was clear that the company’s (lack of) communications infrastructure needed to be addressed.”

What Houlihan’s did was pretty straightforward, they got a modern communications Internet platform (Jostle) and used it as an attractive and central place to disseminate all company news and initiatives, as well as stories on the fun side of the organization. Stone says,

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The field particularly enjoys getting glimpses into what really goes on at the KC support center and in other restaurants outside of their own.”

So far so good, but what was really surprising is how big an impact that simple upgrade to communications had, playing a role in improving business outcomes like happier crew members, declining staff turnover, more consistent operations, improved guest satisfaction and higher same-store-sales.

We have to be careful to recognize that a communications platform is only one piece of a big effort at improved organizational effectiveness; but it nice to see some HR software delighting the organization the way it has.

Overachieving HR software implementations are rare, so let’s celebrate them when we see them.

What is interesting?

  • Houlihan’s saw engagement as something subtler than a score on a survey; it was a feeling that arose, in part, from the quality of communication across the organization

What is important?

  • It’s easy to see the value of HR tech that supports operational or the compliance needs, but sometimes we need to invest in the soft stuff like a fun and attractive communications platform. For this kind of decision it is time to throw out the ROI analysis and just embrace the instinct that sometimes employee-centric software will make a surprising difference.

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought Indeed.com for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.

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