How an HCM platform improves the employee experience
9 minute read
If employee experience is high on your organisation’s agenda, a great HCM platform can help you move the needle. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the most important functionality to look for and the impact it has for your employees, HR team, and organisation.
You know an HCM platform is exactly what your team and workforce needs – a powerhouse piece of HR software that helps you boost efficiency and effectiveness. But other senior decision-makers can be more difficult to convince, especially when budgets are often already strained.
As HR Future reported in 2021, the number of HR decision-makers that highlighted EX as the most important part of their HR strategy tripled over two years to 2021. Likewise, EX budget doubled and is expected to keep growing.
Many tools exist that can impact the employee experience, from survey software to remote collaboration platforms. But there’s one crucial piece of kit that sits at the centre of everything: an HCM system.
The right HCM platform can transform your employee experience, because its sweeping functionality impacts employees in many ways.
In this article, we’ll assess the most critical features of HR software to look for, and how each impacts the employee experience, including:
- HR services
- Performance management
- Rewards and benefits
- Training and learning
- Analytics and reporting
What is an HCM platform?
Let’s touch very briefly on definitions before we dive in. An HCM platform – Human Capital Management platform – is HR software with a suite of tools that help organisations recruit, hire, manage, develop, pay, and retain employees. It’s also called HCM software.
The term ‘HCM platform’ is often used interchangeably with terms like ‘HR information system/software’ (HRIS) and ‘HR management system/software’ (HRMS). There are often subtle differences in the scope of these systems but there’s no single agreed term.
Nuances aside, an HCM platform is a piece or suite of technology that automates and digitises activities across the full spectrum of HR processes and activities.
Must-have HCM platform functionality to improve EX
An HCM platform is a fantastic foundational investment if you’re looking to improve the employee experience, because its broad functionality impacts employees from their earliest days as a job applicant to their final days of tenure with your organisation.
Every employee has progressed through your recruitment journey (whether internal or external), so the employee experience starts with the candidate experience. That’s true even for unsuccessful applicants, because they might often later become a successful hire for another role within your organisation.
Choosing an HCM platform with robust recruitment functionality is crucial to attract, engage, and hire in a way that’s better both for you and for candidates.
Good HR recruitment software alleviates pressure from your team by digitising and automating time-consuming processes, simplifying admin, and enabling talent pooling for faster, smarter hiring in the future.
This translates into a better experience for candidates, who move through your process more quickly and easily, and are better informed. It also means your team has more time to focus on activities that add extra value for candidates, such as improving job adverts, creating content for your careers site, or refining your onboarding programme (see below).
This doesn’t just improve candidates’ experience during recruitment. It also has a big impact for quality-of-hire, retention, and culture, as you’re hiring people who better understand and are more aligned with your organisation.
The next stage of the early employee experience is the onboarding process. Like recruitment, onboarding is an area that organisations often gloss (at least from an employee experience perspective) but it’s crucial. You only get one chance to make a first impression, after all.
Starting a new job is often emotional, so there’s a lot riding on your onboarding process. If your new starters feel confused, frustrated, ignored, or abandoned, they’re not likely to start life as an employee feeling great.
On the other hand, a great onboarding experience can leave them feeling supported, appreciated, and excited about starting their journey with your organisation.
Choosing an HCM platform with in-built onboarding functionality makes activities like collecting references, managing contracts, conducting background checks, and sending relevant information fast and easy. So you give your newest employees everything they need to settle into their role and become productive contributors, faster.
There are endless ways employees need to interact with HR throughout the employee lifecycle. Requesting holiday. Absence management. Updating their employee record. Requesting information. Logging and managing expenses. Reviewing company policies. The list goes on.
In the main, those tasks are boring and time-consuming on all sides. Your team waste hours conducting basic administrative requests and passing information from place to place. Managers and employees waste hours waiting for information they need, stalling decision-making and holding up projects.
It’s not efficient, and it’s certainly not a great employee experience.
That’s where employee self-service functionality can be so valuable – especially if it also offers mobile access so employees can use the platform anytime and anywhere. (That’s especially important with the shift to hybrid and remote work).
Choosing an HCM platform that empowers employees and gives them self-service access to their data means removing an unnecessary middleman from core HR admin tasks, so employees and managers have control over their own HR services. It’s a vastly better employee experience – and it saves the organisation lots of time and money.
Plus, removing friction from processes typically means they’re more likely to be completed, faster – without HR constantly needing to chase, delegating your tricky ‘must-dos’, such as updating employee data, from your HR team to your employees.
Done right, performance management is a major driver of organisational success – and a huge contributor to employee’s overall experience at work. (Hence why managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement).
- Aligns people with organisational goals, to make achieving those goals more likely
- Highlights training needs to help employees develop skills and confidence
- Identifies career progression opportunities and powers succession planning
- Helps managers spot and solve issues to improve engagement and retention
Performance management is difficult to get right, though. Managers are often under-equipped and lack the time, confidence, and tools to do a good job. As a result, the process often feels cursory and worthless. Employees can be left feeling uncertain and anxious; let down; unsupported. Ultimately, these factor are a major cause of low engagement and high attrition.
Choosing an HCM platform with robust performance and talent management functionality is essential to make this essential process work better for everyone.
The employee experience conversation often focuses on more emotional aspects of the workplace experience, like helping employees develop a sense of purpose and supporting wellbeing.
But another facet – pay – is extremely important, especially in today’s tough economic climate. (For example, three-quarters of Britons want to change jobs due to the cost of living crisis).
A reliable, consistent, accurate, on-time payroll process is the foundation of the employee experience. Just ask anyone who’s not been paid on time.
At the same time, payroll is typically one of an organisation’s most time-consuming, manual processes. For example, the 2020 Deloitte Global Payroll Benchmarking Survey reports that 45% of payroll staff in EMEA say manual payroll input is the most time-consuming aspect of payroll, and payroll staff work an average of 25 hours overtime monthly. This makes payroll an excellent candidate for automation and optimisation, so look for a vendor who can offer a truly integrated HR payroll system.
Great functionality to look for is online payslips. Electronic payslips aren’t just cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and secure from the organisation’s perspective. They’re convenient, accessible, and provide an instant record for employees.
Rewards and benefits
Rewards and benefits play an integral role in the employee experience. As the CIPD says: “Employee benefits offer a way to attract and keep people, contribute towards improving wellbeing, and encourage required behaviours, achievements, values, and skills”.
But those benefits depend on timely, correct, and no-hassle benefits management and admin.
If you’re still relying on spreadsheets, the process could almost certainly use an efficiency overhaul. In that case, look for an HCM with access to a digital employee benefits portal.
Or perhaps you’ve already got a rewards solution in place. If so, look for an HCM platform that integrates with that platform and supports single sign-on (SSO), so employees don’t have to remember multiple passwords.
Total reward statements are also an extremely useful feature that some HCM platforms offer, which pull data from various sources to compile an employees’ total reward package into one document.
This is a great way to show job applicants and employees the true value of working with your organisation – so they appreciate what a great deal they’re getting. (And you improve recruitment delivery and retention: not a bad day in the office).
Training and learning
Great training is win-win for organisations and their people. It’s a major boon for the employee experience because it builds employees’ confidence, supports them to perform better in their role, and opens doors for career development.
To put some figures to the discussion, a major 2019 study found that 70% of employees would consider leaving their job for an employer who invested more in L&D – that’s nearly three-quarters of all worker.
At the same time, more than half of CEOs see skills shortages as a major challenge to profitability over the next decade, so solutions to this issue are typically welcomed with open arms.
If you’re weighing up new HCM platforms, it makes good sense to look for technology that includes learning management functionality so it can support an effective L&D programme.
Even if your organisation isn’t as mature on the L&D front as you’d like, securing this capability now helps future-proof your investment. With growing skills shortages and the continuing importance of employee experience, training and learning is only becoming more important.
Analytics and reporting
Strong analytics and reporting functionality is a must-have when you’re considering an HCM platform. Good analytics makes better use of the reams of HR data your organisation generates, in service of building a more effective, efficient HR function.
Better intelligence isn’t just good for your team and the wider organisation – it also improves the employee experience, helping you to optimise your people processes.
For example, HR analytics could help you better understand the causes and consequences of attrition, powering employee engagement strategies that improve the employee experience and employee retention. (As just one example, perhaps you’d invest more heavily into mental health support. More than a tenth – 15% – of employees experience mental health problems in the workplace, and research says better support here could save UK businesses £8bn annually.)
We said at the outset of this article that there’s no standardised definition of an HCM platform, and accordingly there’s no standardised functionality list.
If you’ve been researching providers, you’re probably seeing lots of overlap but there might still be areas where you want to add (or keep) best-of-breed tools to your tech stack.
With that in mind, it’s super important to still create a seamless ecosystem of tools through robust integrations and single sign-on access for users. Otherwise, you risk the tools you’ve designed to improve the employee experience damaging it instead, by becoming fragmented, complicated, and confusing.
If improving the employee experience is an important priority for your organisation, an HCM platform offers a robust foundation – and one that’s typically more cost-effective than adding multiple standalone employee experience tools.
A good HCM platform positively impacts employees throughout their time working at your organisation, from their first day to their last – as well as empowering a more efficient, effective HR team that can generate better outcomes for the business.