Question: What do you think is the least-liked feature of the Learning Management System (LMS), according to Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 LMS Trends Survey?

Answer: Ease of use.

People just don’t think the LMS is as intuitive as it can be. And it’s not just our data — user experience is becoming more of an issue than ever before. But it’s not just about enjoyment—there is an actual return on dollars invested in the user experience.

“On average, every dollar invested in UX brings $100 in return. That’s an ROI of a whopping 9,900 percent,” says one research report quoted in a Nov. 19 article on Forbes.com

Reading the article coincided with Brandon Hall Group’s recent briefing with the NetDimensions team. Adrian Weaver, head of product management at the learning technology company, shared this piece of information: “The more a particular screen is viewed or used within our system, the more time we spend on making usability a priority. … This is so important to us that we even have a dedicated person to handle user experience.”

computer terminalWhen it was the only technology to use, the terminal with the green text was just fine. But when you just put down your iPhone to pick up your iPad to see something in higher resolution while you’re waiting for your conference call to start, you probably have little appreciation for clumsy UI and hard-to-find controls.

The more we use technology on a personal level, the more we expect our work technology to be of the same quality. Many companies, like NetDimensions, are bringing on dedicated designers to look after the user interface.

Providers: How to Prioritize UX

There are two ways to begin, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. First, take some time to do user testing with customers.

  • Ask them about layout, color, and function.
  • Measure how long it takes them to get to their most commonly used features.
  • Ask them to find a core function and measure how long it takes.

If you have never looked over someone’s shoulder as the person navigates your website or product for the first time, you are missing an opportunity to see the experience through fresh eyes. These are the basics of UX testing, but all too often I see companies that have developed this interface based on their own preferences instead of those of the customer.

In addition, consider having a dedicated resource simply to focus on the overall usability of the system. Give the person ownership over the interface, and have them join in the customer meetings. As mentioned in the Forbes article above, this should more than pay for itself over time.

HR Executives: This is Your Role

Until now this conversation has been mainly directed at the solution providers, but there are also requirements for the HR leaders in the audience. During our recent survey on Employment Value Proposition, we asked respondents to assess their current HR technology. Here’s how it broke out.

  • 13% said they make life easier
  • 40% said they get the basic job done
  • 40% said it’s okay, but a pain to do some things
  • 7% said employees avoid using the system at all costs

Ouch. The call to action for the business leader is this: make sure your technology is usable and value-add. If not, people will not only see the technology as a burden to be avoided, but they may even see the HR team as a whole as a stumbling block to organizational success.

A few weeks ago I heard the talent leader for a large utility discuss the results from an internal survey. The topic was the HR team, its level of service, and how comfortable staff felt approaching members of the team.

While the topic wasn’t exclusively devoted to technology, the parallels are hard to ignore. People who don’t feel comfortable talking with members of the talent, benefits, or learning teams are not going to get the full value.

The same applies to our technology decisions. Leaders, you must make every effort to maintain a technology stack that is user-friendly and accessible to the right people at the right time. For instance, Fairsail HRMS recently released a mobile upgrade to their system allowing users to access key functionality on an Apple Watch. I suspect other providers will be pursuing this type of integration in the coming months, because this is the level of engagement users want from their software, whether at work or home.

  • Providers, how are you ensuring technology is focused on the user experience?
  • HR leaders, are you making usability a priority in your technology selection?

Ben Eubanks, Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group
@beneubanks

Ben Eubanks

Ben Eubanks, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is an HR professional and industry influencer. His experience working as a leader in the human resources field has provided him with a broad range of experience encompassing smaller organizations, government contracting firms, and the nonprofit sector. He has hands-on experience with various HR disciplines, including recruiting, benefits, employee relations, and compensation.

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