Have you jumped on the podcast-listening wave yet? If not, now’s your chance to listen to ExactHire’s own Jessica Stephenson talk with JoDee Curtis and Susan White, co-hosts of the “The JoyPowered™ Workspace Podcast,” about considerations for choosing and implementing HR Technology. Topics include making a business case for new HR technology, what to seek in a software application, and how to determine if a vendor’s customer support is really as exceptional as they say it is. Check out the podcast recording and episode Q&A highlights below.
HR Technology Podcast Episode Q&A Highlights
Tell us about your company, ExactHire, and what services and technology they provide.
We develop software that automates and improves the hiring process. Specifically, that includes HireCentric applicant tracking software and OnboardCentric employee onboarding software. We also have relationships and some integrations with a handful of employee assessments. All of our applications follow the Software-as-a-Service model, commonly known as SaaS.
How do you make a business case for incorporating more or new HR technology in your organization?
Making a business case starts with a discussion on how change can make the company more profitable. One of the primary reasons making a business case to senior management remains a challenging task is because the language and analytics traditionally used by HR professionals may not be as compelling to others in leadership roles. For instance, while turnover percentage and time-to-fill are reliable indicators to many in the human resources arena, these HR metrics don’t necessarily translate well to CFOs, COOs, or presidents.
For example, when adding applicant tracking or employee onboarding software, some HR leaders focus primarily on justifying these new applications by focusing on efficiencies gained and/or staff time saved. While these points certainly have merit, they also fall outside the common terminology of many finance and operations leaders. Because efficiency and staff time saved in HR are difficult to quantify and not as directly attributable to the bottom line, these savings may be discounted or dismissed entirely.
However, focusing on what direct impact those efficiencies can have on the revenue growth or profitability of the organization changes the conversation completely. Identify the KPIs that impact business outcomes and then paint the picture of how those business outcomes can be positively changed as the result of new technology implementation. Don’t forget to record benchmark levels for your KPIs and organize your findings for senior management. Consider a SWOT Analysis in which you are illustrating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and then spread the word to gather internal support from those who will be most heavily impacted by the software application.
Should HR technology revolve around an employer’s payroll system? Thoughts on integration vs. same system?
We certainly encounter employers pondering this question frequently, and what’s right for one organization won’t be ideal for another. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, so I’d suggest asking these questions to help determine which approach might be best for your employer.
- First, what are the overall priorities of your organization, and for your HR department? For example, how important is recruiting relative to other HR functions? What about employee onboarding? If hiring is not a high volume activity, then that probably points you in one direction versus another.
- Second, how much hiring will your organization do over the next year or two? Your projected volume is going to impact your choice, and it might also tie into the next question…
- Which is…what specific applicant and/or employee data do I want to be pushed into payroll? So, once I’ve hired someone, what exactly from the applicant tracking or recruiting side should push into payroll? And, once those items are pushed, will I still need to key in additional info such as Social Security Number, birth date, etc. because an ATS wouldn’t necessarily house that kind of sensitive information. That’s a bigger question on the ATS side than the onboarding side. That is, if you’re pushing from an onboarding application into a payroll module. Make sure you understand what that is and make sure you understand how important it is and how much of it there is.
- Looking at features, does your hiring volume necessitate you to consider a more robust system that has the bells and whistles you need with a better user experience; or, is end-to-end integration the most critical need?
- How will your needs look next year or in a few years compared to today?
- And finally… price, is there a notable difference between the options? If there is, what is the opportunity cost of choosing one solution over another… in terms of sacrificing a more robust feature set or conversely in time spent importing data in lieu of an integration option.
What should companies look for when choosing an effective technology partner?
- Support. Be honest with yourself about your organization’s support needs, as well as how much implementation assistance will be required. Will your ongoing support needs be satisfied with a 3-day wait for the support tickets you submit, or do you really need same-day assistance in most cases? Consider the tech-savviness of your internal product champions, as well as your end users.
- Training. Find out what training includes in the beginning? One session for all admin users? Sessions specific to restricted users too? What else? What about when your department has turnover later on? Do you have access to recordings of your training sessions? How often is the product’s online knowledge base updated? Are there other resources you can use to get help: newsletters, Q&A sections, videos, animated GIFs in training tip sheets, etc.?
What are some things companies should look for when choosing an HR software application?
You must know your true needs vs. your “icing on the cake” wants when it comes to functionality. Your priorities will be impacted by factors such as
- your organization’s size and the industry in which you work,
- your compliance needs (for example, affirmative action plan reporting, E-Verify, work opportunity tax credit),
- your average number of hires per year,
- whether or not you have a decentralized or centralized org. structure,
- the budget allocated to HR tech spending,
- your need to integrate with any existing applications,
- organizational growth plans, and
- your potential need to move data from one system to another…in the case that you are leaving another provider, for example.
In evaluating these factors, remember to consider the needs of stakeholders such as HR administrators, hiring managers, supervisors, employees and payroll / finance partners.
How can I get technology vendors to help me develop a business case to senior management?
With evaluating a provider’s support resources as we talked about earlier, I would ask your tech vendor if they have any case studies, blogs, e-books or other content that help provide tips on how to make a business case, as well as specific ideas on which KPIs might be the most well-received by senior management. For example, talk in the language of profit per employee or revenue per employee rather than turnover. Additionally, if it’s important for your tech vendor to partner with you in discussions with your senior management team, go ahead and ask for that.
At ExactHire, we know that the product itself is not the only key to success for our clients. We strive to provide timely content that will help our users make the most of not just their product usage, but also how to tackle thorny HR topics they encounter on the job that might loosely relate to an aspect of our product. For example, tips on I9 audits, the latest on work opportunity tax credits, which states have adopted ban the box legislation or that now restrict salary history questions.
What do you do when the technology that works best for the HR team is not always what works best for the users?
Considering the user experience…both internal admin and hiring manager-level users, as well as applicants or existing employee end users…is critical to successful technology adoption. So, if you are in a position to select a new software application, there are some questions you can ask to assess whether you’re on the right track. Consider to what extent other specific groups in your organization will use the application. It may be more important to meet some groups’ needs than others.
- How easy will it be to encourage others to consistently use the application?
- Will you need to do some due diligence to train people on how to use it; or, does your partner do all that?
- In either case, which will be the most well-received by your employees?
- Will it be pulling teeth to get others to use the software? Consider the reasons why it may be.
- Do you have the wrong software? Or, are employees overloaded with work and/or not as tech-savvy in some areas?
- Where will others use your software? Will they mostly be on their desktop, or will it be via phone while on the go?
- This answer will vary widely depending on whether you are looking at technology companies, healthcare and/or manufacturing clients, for example. If it’s while on the go, then make sure the interface is mobile-friendly.
- And, finally, does the software have an employee self-service orientation that will ensure your data remains accurate into the future? That is, employees can make their own changes as circumstances change.
When purchasing technology, how might I project system needs a year from now, five years, to know if the system is easily customizable and scalable?
Like so many things, the answer for what is right for your organization will boil down to how well you know your organization. Be in tune with senior leaders’ plans for growth, what market conditions or legislative changes may impact your industry’s hiring curve, and whether you’re looking for any other functionality as a result of changing compliance needs. For example, in the next few years will you likely become a federal contractor of a certain threshold and subject to Affirmative Action Plan reporting for the first time?
Questions to bear in mind include:
- Are the software application’s user logins unlimited? Or do you pay per user, or per job posting in the case of recruiting software?
- Are there other HR modules you may wish to add in down the road? For example, learning management, performance management, etc.
- If you’re using a single sign-on application available with a full HRIS, are the individual HR modules robust enough for your needs today and tomorrow?
How will we know if it will be easy to get to the data insights we need?
Think about the types of reports you run today, as well as what you wish would be easier to get insights on. Then, ask your tech partner if the available canned reports are sufficient to meet those needs. Find out if there’s a report building tool available to get insights on demand. If not, then what does it look like (in terms of time and cost), to get reports created by your vendor? Is it super time-consuming and/or expensive for those one-off requests?
Is it ok to ask to talk to other clients who are using the system; and, learn how they are using reports or have customized their own?
Absolutely it is. First, I recommend doing your homework and asking your own HR contacts for their feedback on different systems. Then, when you are late in the process with one or two final potential vendor partners, do ask them for references. Additionally, vendors may have existing content in the form of blogs, white papers, etc. that highlights customer use cases and illustrates how they’ve used products to solve specific customization and/or reporting requests.
Technology vendors always seem to think their customer support is terrific and available. What are some questions we might ask to get more specific answers?
I don’t disagree with that statement, so asking questions to get the actual data is important. Here are some suggestions:
- How robust are the training materials available to learn the system? Better yet, don’t just ask this question…see how easy it is for you to find the training materials from the corporate website or within the support knowledge base. If it’s pretty easy to find materials when you’re not even a customer yet, it will only get better once you are.
- How is customer support structured, and what is the average response time? I like this question because some providers will have tiered support services that provide more support for more money. Others will have the same level for every customer. If there is a tiered structure, then find out the difference in response time for each tier, as well as whether certain tiers only provide email support without phone assistance.
- How long will product implementation take? This is a huge one as I’m sure we’ve all heard horror stories about systems that have taken more than a year to implement! Know that the answer to this question will depend of course on what type of system you are implementing…an ATS should take less time than a full HRIS, of course. And some systems with multiple modules will not be implemented all at one time. So clarify whether implementation is likely to take only weeks or months and months…and then do your homework to validate whether the expectation set was the reality for other customers who previously implemented.
- Finally, know that you play a huge role in the length of your own product implementation…many times implementations draft on because the customer isn’t responsive even when the vendor is.
What are the biggest internal obstacles to making a change to your HR technology stack?
In my experience, they fall into these buckets:
- The staff bandwidth of your HR department
- Getting employee and/or hiring manager buy-in to change
- A lack of desired integration options
- A lack of awareness about new features available in the market
- Inertia – the pain of making a move from an existing system
Specific to an applicant tracking system, how might we also consider the candidate perspective? What is most important and what issues have you had engaging applicants or employees in the past?
When considering the applicant experience, it really comes down to interface and time…particularly in the last few years. So you have these considerations:
- What is the employment application length and is it easy to navigate?
- Is there a mobile-friendly interface?
- Can candidates find your job postings where they would expect them? (e.g. integration with external job boards, social media posting)
- And on the onboarding side…the time it takes employees to complete new hire paperwork; update employee data.
- Is it a joy for your workforce to interact with your HR software applications?
We are planning to implement a new HR technology that allows users a more self service model. What are some ways I can get employees to embrace the new technology?
I’m a huge advocate of informal videos and animated GIF images to help people pick up on things easily. Additionally, depending on the make-up of your workforce, you might consider in-person workshops or webinar training to help people understand the types of things they can input in the self-service model, as well as how often they can make changes, how they know the change was successfully entered, etc.