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Could having one HR app improve employee experience?

News that Walmart has moved to a single HR app to combat the issues of HR tech sprawl across their company is telling.

David Howell

HR app
Credit: REBEKAH MAYNARD via Twenty20.

Unleash Your PeopleHere’s how your business can follow suit and streamline your HR tech to deliver real-world advantages.

  • 38% of UK HR decision-makers spend up to 10 hours a month updating data between different HR and business systems.
  • 41% of remote workers are overwhelmed by the number of tools and technologies they must use.
  • 61% are not completely satisfied with the workplace tools they have no choice to use with a lack of integration a major complaint.
  • Could having a single HR app be the solution?

Every business process has been moving through a period of change and evolution.

In HR, the adoption of digital tools has been revolutionary. However, the number of HR tools available and how these integrate has been a real challenge.

Walmart’s decision to create its own HR app – known as Me@Walmart – which enables its staff to perform several key tasks, speaks volumes about how HR tech must change.

Talking about the move, Drew Holler, senior vice president of Walmart’s people operations, said: “The right tools can be the difference between fast and frustrating.”

The pandemic has, of course, radically altered how work is organized and, therefore, how human capital management (HCM) is delivered.

The use of digital tools to manage the instant remote workforces that appeared meant quickly locating and deploying these tools.

It’s no surprise that the HR tech stack that often resulted were a mishmash of different tools with little integration and an even worse user experience.

App fatigue has become chronic across many businesses as they struggle to remain efficient and competitive.

The 2021 Digital Workplace Trends and Insights report from Beezy reveals that 41% of remote workers are overwhelmed by the number of tools and technologies they must use, and 61% are not completely satisfied with the workplace tools they have no choice to use with a lack of integration a major complaint.

The proliferation of HR tech is not surprising as enterprises have raced to adjust to the new normal.

According to Thomsons: “Around half of organizations are now using ‘best-of-breed integrated ecosystems’ with 48% of respondents saying that best describes their HR technology landscape.

“With 32% of respondents self-styled innovators and 31% early adopters of technology, this is obviously the way the market-leaders are moving.”

This approach to the HR tech stack is supported by Steve Black, chief strategy officer and co-founder at talent platform Topia, who told UNLEASH:

“While there is an explosion of HR tech solutions available, in the words of Fosway Group, Europe’s number one HR Industry Analyst, ‘no one system can do it all.’

“We firmly believe that it is important that HR look to build an ecosystem of integrated solutions. When employees struggle to recall which systems they should log into, you know you are in trouble. 

“The bar for quality and user experience pulls HR teams in the other direction – specialist apps that are great for a specific topic. 

“Ultimately, a core platform, surrounded by deeply integrated specialist solutions will help strike the right balance for leading organizations.”

Steve Black, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Topia

With so many HR tools to choose from, many enterprises have been fighting application sprawl.

However, Sage concluded that over half (63%) of the HRs who responded to their report believe their HR tech is not fit for the future.

“It seems likely the rising use and awareness of HR technology, is also leading to increased awareness of the limitations of current, potentially outdated solutions – especially if these solutions aren’t scalable, cloud based or driving the agility the organization and industry demands,” Sage concludes.

Less is more

For several years businesses have understood the value of the masses of data they can now collect.

As a result, HR has also become data-driven: Indeed, according to the HR trends survey from ISG, the shift to more SaaS HR tools has also been accompanied by an expansion in data gathering and analysis, with 40% of respondents stating they have successful created a data-driven culture in HR.

Greig Johnston, CEO at Vidatec, explained to UNLEASH that a shift to integrated HR systems is inevitable: “Part of solving the technology-culture puzzle is making processes like onboarding and retention more seamless while outwardly projecting your company’s values and wearing its culture like a badge of honor.”

“Instead of littering a new starter’s desk or filling up their inbox with countless contracts, handbooks and training documents, your business should be looking to digitally house everything in one, easily accessible place.

“Happy employees are engaged employees and first impressions are everything, so starting your people journey on the right foot will be invaluable in ensuring long-term engagement.”

Greig Johnston, CEO at Vidatec

Is there an absence of one comprehensive HR application that can be used to meet all the core requirements of CHROs? CIPHR commissioned YouGov to carry out an independent survey of 500 senior UK HR decision-makers in March 2018.

The headline finding was that nearly two-thirds (62%) of senior UK HR decision-makers said their organizations either already benefit from integrated HR systems or would benefit from such software integration.

Of those two-thirds, nearly two-fifths (38%) spend up to 10 hours a month updating data between different HR and business systems.

“Technology has come along, we’ve grabbed it, and now suddenly we have all these systems and we’re not really sure how to integrate them and use them together,” says Kathryn Kendall, chief people officer at HR platform provider Benefex.

“Historically, HR’s approach to technology has been very reactive; if there’s a problem, we’ll find some kit to solve it.

!Thought hasn’t been given to how that new kit fits alongside the overall HR strategy, and often it’s been brought in in the context of functional silos.”

The future of HR tech

HCM clearly has a strategic value, but this value must not be eroded by the potential paralysis an overly complex HR tech stack can bring. The HR function is being re-shaped by technologies such as AI and a range of automated systems. The key is to have a clear goal for these technologies to prevent tech overload.

The importance of the employee experience and the need to support wellbeing and mental health are intimately connected to the HR tools a workforce comes into contact with. For HRs, the tools they use must empower them to deliver the experiences they know will benefit their companies strategically yet ensure that the technology used is intuitive and integrated.

As businesses look towards their post-COVID future, how they manage the HR tools they have deployed and rationalize the HR tech stack they currently use will need to come into focus rapidly.

“We definitely need to get to a place where we are using less applications. Having 20 different apps just in the HR team isn’t helpful,” says Nick Gallimore, director of talent transformation and insight at Advanced.

“It’s actually counterproductive. I think it’s fair to say that we have all recognized through the pandemic that the age of multi-tasking is over, and employees need space to be able to focus and get the job done.

“The only way we can achieve that is being doing less manual, time-consuming tasks and taking the time to focus on where the value add is.”

However, research from ISG does indicate that organizations are consolidating the technologies they use to deliver a more streamlined HR delivery. This behavior is clearly a reaction to HR tech sprawl and the negative impacts this is having on productivity.

Topia’s Steve Black concludes: “Organizations are questioning more and more whether they need another technology solution. What do we already have in place, how can our existing tech solutions add value to our needs are critical questions they are asking themselves.

“The key is looking at how well solutions integrate across all HR functions and synergize with the wider business to build an ecosystem of technology that connects data across the business, removing complexities and delivering a seamless employee experience.

“Organizations who do this well will get the most value without overwhelming both HR and employees.”

The direction of travel does seem to be towards fewer siloed HR applications, yet comprehensive solutions that can deliver every need currently allude CHROs. The HR tech landscape is in massive flux.

Expect a rationalization to take place where businesses may take their lead from Walmart and build their own HR application to meet their precise needs.

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