The HR technology industry, now more than a $15 billion market in software, is exploding with growth and innovation. (Bersin HR Technology 2015). Most organisations look like they have it all together in the HR technology space.
Conference presentations are filled with analytics, cost savings, efficiencies gained, workflows improved and on and on it goes. Wouldn’t it be great to see someone stand up & present “This was a terrible project with terrible outcomes and this is what we learnt and how we fixed it?”.
Coming together to share experiences and insights is a great way for industry experts and HR practitioners alike to learn from one another.
The truth is, most HR organisations are still working hard to enhance and find more capability, looking for more proficient technology solutions. Insourcing, outsourcing, looking for yet more costs savings that technology will support.
What I have learnt is at the very least HR processes must be so integrated into our corporate lives that they can be done as part of our daily work.
The mobile device will soon be the primary interface to all HR-related applications. The focus of new applications should now be “mobile first.” The user interface, experience and design should be built around this pretence. As software becomes just another corporate commodity, the data, decision-making, and analytics is what is driving real value.
Consider the following fact. Most companies spend 30% to 60% of their revenue on payroll (people). This huge expense goes into salaries, benefits, training, facilities, and all of the people-related services that the business provides. If we want to improve profitability, customer service, revenue generation, or product quality, shouldn’t we look at one of the biggest expenses we have in more detail? This is where, as HR practitioners, our data analytics are invaluable – Note! Know your numbers & their validity or die trying!
It bemuses me that while other management disciplines have been reaping the benefits of presenting analytics for years, HR is now just starting to see the advantages. Bersin’s 2015 Technology Report states that 4% of large organisations have any ability to “predict” or “model” their workforce; but more than 90% can model and predict budgets, financial results, and expenses. So the problem is not “lack of skills”; it’s more a historic problem of lack of investment, poor data quality, and an underfunded talent analytics team.
There are some great initiatives in the HR technology space and recruiting is still considered a hot area. The New York-based company Take the Interview, has released an app designed to let companies conduct video interviews via mobile devices.
However, this is an exception. Few organisations are being proactive in mobile recruiting. Slightly dated now, but judging by the results of LinkedIn’s 2013 Global Recruiting Trends Survey, 49% of 3,300 talent-acquisition leaders in 19 countries surveyed by LinkedIn said mobile recruiting “is not a priority for our company” and only 13% said they had invested in making their careers sites “mobile friendly.” “These factors have made it painstakingly difficult for candidates to search for, discover and apply for jobs via mobile,” says Leela Sriniasan, LinkedIn’s director of marketing for talent solutions.
It’s always lurking just beyond the next project corner or milestone………the creeping scope. Once the project gets underway, definitions are expanded or morphed to include either new technologies, additional process areas or more users. These expansions in the project scope are usually not met with the same scrutiny or due diligence that the existing parts of the project may have been evaluated with. These become notorious for scope creep and associated resource allocations – budgets and so on tend to be an afterthought and invariably leads to missed deadlines and cost overruns.
Another common issue is the dedication of internal resources to the project’s implementation for the duration required. I have personally been bitten by this one. Another takeaway here is, when the project is long and the stakes are high, build in redundancy resources as a back-up. People get tired, particularly if the implementation project is in addition to their day job.
While the availability of internal resources is always a hot topic, it’s high risk to get wrong. These people are your subject matter experts and crucial to make important decisions about system configuration, deployment and end user adoption. My advice to HR leaders is, have this fight with gusto. Full time, dedicated commitment from people who understand the detail is worth the blood, sweat and tears. Most HR technology projects will not succeed, or at the very least, will be significantly compromised without these experts involved early and often.
Another big area overlooked is change management. Few system implementations will touch every single employee in an organisation in some way. Careful planning, communication strategy, stakeholder analysis & project management of the change needs to run in parallel with the actual implementation. Again, the use of internal resources will help inform where issues in adoption and adaptation are likely to occur.
What about a Project Manager? – Yes, yes & yes again, BUT it needs to be an experienced Project Manager. While HR technology and other kinds of enterprise technology projects share some fundamental elements common to most types of technology roll outs, there are plenty of aspects specific to HR technology.
For example, HR workflows, user acceptance and change management. While a Project Manager is a costly investment, it is one that will pay for itself in the long term by keeping the project on time and on budget. The Project Manager should also manage your vendors and the handover from the “sales team” to implementation team, which is often a tricky handover.
It is a gross over estimation that as the HR Leader and principal stakeholder that you can also manage the project. Don’t be offended, it’s a discipline all of its own – you need a subject matter expert support as you would for any other type of big initiative.
But which technology solution is for me? A Project Manager can also help you here. Someone who knows the industry, the vendors and their products & pitfalls.
Of course, there are industry-leading solutions everywhere you look supporting every HR process you can think of. Areas such as performance management, learning management, on boarding, pre-boarding, payroll, recruitment & this list goes on, but just because a given solution has all the bells and whistles, including awards & clients of note, does not mean it is the “right” one for your organisation.
Frankly, I have had vendors blatantly lie in the requirements gathering phase of a project to get the “gig”. By the time you realise the truth, tens of thousands of dollars, man hours & other “fix its” are in play. Not to mention the legal stoush and the ultimate dive in morale of the project team and ultimately, your reputation could be on the line here too! When it all goes south, the finger pointing of a collegiate project team is rife.
The only way to ensure your organisation arrives at the solution most likely to be the best fit based on your specific combination of requirements, existing technology infrastructure, integration with other platforms, culture, budget and strategic objectives is to conduct careful, thoughtful and disciplined research and evaluation. Good Project Managers will come armed with templates to assess your requirements and to match the product to the solution. Keep in mind, you may need multiple products requiring multiple integrations to achieve the right end user experience for you.
The right technology can act as a potent force, freeing HR of mundane administrative tasks, so they can focus on more strategic, higher-value work. However, we need to recognise technology alone isn’t going to solve our issues.
Remember the old adage – rubbish in, rubbish out. If you have terrible processes now, they will just become terrible automated processes and workflows if you don’t clean them up in the first place. But the power of technology can maximise efficiency once you have the right data and processes available.