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Tech Disengagement: Definition, Examples and Solutions

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    Ideally, technology should enhance our lives. However, when bad or too many tools frustrate us, they trigger tech disengagement. At work, the phenomenon harms employees, opens the door to inefficiency and compounds HR professionals’ stress. Read how tech disengagement works and how a single, easy-to-use HR software helps companies overcome it.

    Today’s technology helps us accomplish what we once thought was impossible, even less than a decade ago. But no advancement comes without caveats. Tech is no exception.

    Think about the last time you:

    • downloaded an app you thought you’d love, only to discover it was frustrating and nearly unusable
    • gave up on returning an order because customer service required using a terrible chat or call-routing system
    • spent way too much time at a self-checkout because the machine couldn’t register an item after multiple scans

    All are examples of tech disengagement: a symptom of cognitive overload that turns the tools that should make our lives easier against us. However annoying it is in your personal life, it’s usually worse at work, where you have less control.

    Let’s examine how tech disengagement operates, harms employees and can be countered by the right easy-to-use software.

    What is tech disengagement?

    In short, tech disengagement occurs when we give up on hardware or software. It can happen when we’re overloaded by too many tools without a clear or simple way forward. We experience it with blatantly bad tech, too.

    Regardless of the triggering event, the outcome is the same. We abandon tech’s intended purpose and do everything possible to avoid it, like by:

    • misusing the software
    • developing inconsistent and insecure workarounds
    • failing to complete tasks the tool was designed to simplify

    Any digital experience has the potential to fuel tech disengagement. But when it hits something as core as HR processes, it can affect any employee in every industry.

    Examples of tech disengagement

    Tech disengagement can emerge not only at any phase of an employee’s life cycle, but even before their start date. From broken pre-hire tools to buggy development software, the phenomenon poisons the culture a company tries hard to protect.

    Like hot water and electricity, we rarely question foundational processes until they fail or stutter. Then, just working becomes anything but convenient. Consider what tech disengagement looks like in these three areas and the warning signs that come with it.

    1. Onboarding

    Tech disengagement sets a negative precedent, even for new hires and candidates. Think about a Day 1 employee who has trouble entering their direct-deposit information. Maybe the check scanning feature misinterprets data or the new hire’s account number disappears upon entry.

    Either way, HR steps in to enter the data for the employee, but accidentally mistypes a number. One botched paycheck later, that brand-new worker quits.

    2. Benefits enrollment

    An overwhelming 60% of employees find benefits important, according to a Morning Consult survey commissioned by Paycom. Even exceptional benefits won’t make employees’ lives better if they don’t have a solid way to compare plans and make selections.

    What would you tell an employee who didn’t sign up for a key offering because bad HR tech didn’t make their choices clear? When their well-being is at stake, your people need clarity. Tech disengagement could compromise their health when it strikes benefit administration.

    3. Performance management

    Today’s employees won’t stay if they can’t grow. Learning management software gives them a road map for their development — if the tech’s clear and easy to use. A poorly organized experience that doesn’t outline relevant trainings deters even the most motivated employees.

    Plus, if your performance management tool doesn’t establish a process to clearly document their growth, how could any leader accurately gauge potential? For employees to thrive, they must know how to advance. In this way, tech disengagement hinders their career trajectory.

    Negative impacts of tech disengagement

    When employees don’t use their HR tools, everyone in the business loses. Quick fixes and “clever” workarounds might relieve the immediate effects of cognitive overload, but tech disengagement takes its toll in the form of:

    • costly manual processes
    • compliance-breaking practices
    • HR professionals’ stress and burnout

    The presence of self-service software isn’t enough to avoid these pitfalls. Despite 92% of companies deploying it, 1 in 3 HR pros say they still enter 80% to 100% of employees’ data, according to an survey commissioned by Paycom.

    Every task HR performs that an employee could do chips away at the bottom line. In fact, Ernst & Young (EY) found just one manual data entry task performed by an HR pro costs an average of $4.78. Keep in mind multiple tasks make up a process.

    In other words, EY’s figure never truly exists in isolation. Take recording employee I-9s, for example: EY estimates $11.97 per instance. Of course, more complicated tasks demand a higher cost, such as:

    • $21.18 to compare benefit plans
    • $19.70 to calculate and update PTO balances
    • $18.37 to administer training materials

    These don’t even paint the full picture. Here’s how manual data entry adds up across six HR areas per instance:

    Costs of Manual HR Processes
    HR area: Cost per instance:
    Onboarding $58.79
    Benefits enrollment $89.00
    Training $75.75
    Expense management $79.45
    Time management $113.40
    Performance management $75.95

    What EY’s numbers can’t measure: the toll manual tasks take on HR pros’ well-being. Tech disengagement could explain the declining satisfaction of those in the field. Research from Workvivo reveals that among HR pros:

    98% felt burned out in the last six months, 78% are open to leaving their jobs, 71% don’t feel valued at their organizations

    Every HR pro has a reason for choosing their career, and it likely wasn’t to cover for the tech purchased to make their work easier. In this way, tech disengagement could leave them second-guessing their purpose. If it’s enough to push an HR pro, manager or any other worker away, businesses take the hit in recruiting.

    The Society for Human Resource Management found the average cost to hire an employee at nearly $4,700. Alternatively, replacing someone could cost up to two times the former employee’s salary, according to Gallup.

    Tech disengagement may start with frustration and unnecessary work, but it has the potential to end with turnover.

    How businesses can overcome tech disengagement

    Inefficient tasks, damaged morale and attrition don’t have to be the cost of doing business. And overcoming tech disengagement doesn’t require you to overcompensate elsewhere. Instead, you simplify.

    “The apps we remember most and we use the most are the ones that are the simplest,” said astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in a recent webinar on the science behind cognitive overload. “That’s an eternal truth in everything of this world.”

    At its best, tech engages, educates and supports us when it’s available in a truly seamless experience. At work, this could take the form of a single HR software that empowers employees to manage all their data related to:

    As a result, HR earns a permanent break from accompanying needless and costly manual tasks. By automating the transfer of data between each tool, the right tech creates a windfall of value across an entire organization.

    Paycom’s payroll experience, Beti®, is just one example. Each pay period, Beti automatically flags errors, then guides employees to fix them before submission. That way, your people ensure their pay is right every time, so HR doesn’t have to manually calculate it — or deal with direct deposit reversals, manual checks, general ledger voids, or fees for corrections and adjustments.

    Data from Nucleus Research backs this up. When the organizations Nucleus studied used Paycom and Beti, they benefited from:

    • over 90% less time spent processing payroll
    • 80% to 100% reduction in payroll corrections
    • up to 100% employee usage

    Next week, tomorrow or even right after you finish reading this blog post, you might hear of a new app or technological breakthrough. It could promise to change our lives and redefine our experience. It’s possible, but when it comes to any tech, remember:

    More isn’t always better, but clarity and simplicity are.

    Read our white paper to learn more about cognitive overload, tech disengagement and how the right HR software simplifies work for your people.

    DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.