HR Tech solutions promise us streamlined processes, digitisation of manual and laborious keying, time saved, improved user experience, increased employee engagement and of course lower costs than existing systems and processes.
So… if we believe all that, and personally I do, why is it that so many HR tech projects fail? And more importantly what are the reasons for businesses not being able to leverage HR technology, when it has so much to offer.
To give you some perspective, a survey from UNLEASH indicates that 84% of businesses didn’t consider their HR tech projects highly successful. Let’s fix that now.
Relying too much on technology
The truth is, that it’s the harmonisation of people and tech that’s needed, but let’s not forget it needs to work for the business too. Maybe you remember your first ‘sat-nav’ and following it religiously down a narrow road, that somehow didn’t seem quite right, but you kept going! This is why you need people too, to apply a human logic and sanity to everything.
Whether you’re a technophile or a technophobe the question is “Is technology really a quick fix?” When you consider the complexity of all the inter-related HR processes, the honest answer is it’s not quick (if you want it done in a week that is), but it is the right answer. A great HR Tech solution can be delivered in months not years, check out Fridays. But it’s the combination of technology and people that really delivers. Its unrealistic to expect tech alone to solve all the employee, engagement, payroll, learning, recruiting and people strategy processes.
Avoid the pitfalls from the outset, by managing expectations of all involved, including your stakeholders. Get your users involved from the outset, this helps manage their expectations, so when you press the ‘go-live’ button, yes there is some magic and some major improvements, but this still needs people.
The best tech solution is the one that gets used, which is born out by a KPMG study that claims only 7% of project failure was due to the technology itself – back to the right mix of tech and talent. So often companies invest large amounts of time and money in introducing new tech systems with the goal of improved efficiency, but after the exhaustion of implementation and the initial excitement of the new shiny process and systems, people revert to old behaviours. Success isn’t achieved automatically when you press the go-live button.
Poorly defined project goals and objectives
There are plenty of places to trip up, such as poorly defined project objectives, poor communication and poor project management. Try to avoid too many cooks and decisions by committee, a consensus is just fine. This really speaks to pulling together the right team, with the right mix of skills. Sometimes that may mean looking outside your organisation, as often internal staff don’t have the depth of experience you need. A good HR Tech vendor will make this easy for you and balance their skills with yours. However, you need to avoid poorly defined project goals and objectives. To help you avoid the pitfalls and an extended HR implementation process consider the following:
- Have a clearly articulated vision
- Understand what you want to achieve. What does success look like?
- Understand and address the question ‘Where does the business and HR processes need most help?’
- Technology allows you to streamline processes, where and what are the opportunities of streamlining
- Don’t do this in siloes or isolation – HR tech is wide reaching and impacts business functions in all areas, even the ones you didn’t consider
- What are the HR processing that need most attention? Staff engagement, recruitment, training, payroll, scheduling, wellness etc…and just as important, what can wait?
All the bells and whistles
When you start your journey of desk research and investigation its easy to be wowed by what you didn’t know you could have or even considered. Despite the comments earlier you have to select HR technology based on the ‘employee experience’ you want to achieve. Looking through the lens of an employee is very different to looking at process and capability. Yes of course you need a platform that meets the business needs, but you also need to consider the users.
Today, what we might have considered expensive bells and whistles say five years ago, should be built in. Mobile-first is essential – its neither bell nor whistle, it should be core. With such an array of HR technology available to you, covering the entire employee life cycle its easy to be tempted into add-ons that you don’t need. Does it add value? Is it essential or a nice to have? The most important thing is does it work for you and is it ‘future-proof?
You are the customer and if the add-ons make sense, go for it, but consider impact, outcomes and cost along with ROI. But in the mix needs to be staff engagement, staff adoption, staff satisfaction and the value of that. The more you increase the scope of your project the more risk you add to its delivery. Might it be better to start sensible and grow your solution?
Get the right team
Having been part of one of the biggest HR Tech implementations I understand the importance of the right time, team dynamics and the right mix of skills, which may or may not be inside your own organisation. Considerations to ensure it works
- Everyone needs to be able to work well together
- Different characters and approaches can help, but avoiding character friction. Implementation projects can get quite intimate so being able to work together under pressure and late nights is worth thinking about
- Try and leave the egos at the door. Individuals will come with their own agendas, potentially looking for glory and accolades, set the scene and parameters
- You will be working with others such as a consultant and the vendor
- The Project team need to be advocates for change, their enthusiasm will rub off around the organisation
Building a strong partnership with IT will serve you well. You can’t run a successful HR Tech implementation without IT whatever it is. And don’t forget payroll too. Consider the other stakeholders and operational teams who need to come on the journey with you.
Most of all avoid the siloes, don’t keep it all a secret, take staff with you on the journey. Cross functional collaboration is critical. Don’t play the yours or mine, set the language dial to ‘ours’. It should stay there post implementation too.
Don’t underestimate Stakeholder management, change management and communication
This is not a 101 on stakeholder management and change management communications, it’s a reminder about how important this is built into your planning and process. At all costs don’t underestimate the power of your stakeholders – who could be either advocates or derailers and a big impact to the overall success of your project
- HR tech should meet business goals as well as workforce and cultural goals, so share, communicate and collaborate
- Create a true engagement and stakeholder management plan as part of overall implementation. Without this you will create an uphill struggle later
- Transparency and openness of progress all the way -the good and the not so good. Things happen, so a degree of honesty and humility can really help, but you need to be the judge of the right approach for your organisation. Something as simple as a regular update from the CEO or project lead
- Mange stakeholder and staff expectations, which links back to relying too much on technology
- Stakeholder management 101 – be proactive with communications
- Engage at all levels of the organisation and communicate with them – a regular comms note from the CEO
Getting the communications right around new HR tech implementations can really help, influence and reduce the resistance and barriers to change
- People are nervous of change, especially when it comes to technology… might they think they will lose their jobs?
- Show how roles can be more enriched, able to focus on stuff they love…!!
- New systems need new behaviours – invest in the time to manage change prior and for 12 months after implementation
- You have to work at changing behaviours – the tech won’t do it all for you!
- People will hear what they want to hear so limit the number of ‘promises’ you make to clear and deliverable benefits
You need data and you’re possibly thinking about a new system because all the reporting and data is disjointed, disconnected and difficult to verify
- Rubbish in equals rubbish out – implementing HR software is about automating systems, process and workflow – check the data you migrate – its worth taking the time
- Connect your siloed data
- Invest the time in sorting the data going into the new system, it really will pay dividends
- Map out dashboards, workflows and define what minimum reporting do you need
- What data should be near real time? New systems mean better visibility upon which to make informed decisions
Inability to track and measure success
All our bosses want to see what impact this investment has had to the business. As part of the project plan put in place, benchmarks – how things are today so you can measure the success
- Time saved
- Removal of duplicate data entry
- Staff engagement
- Employee churn
- Staff adoption
- Value ££ of efficiencies
- Show the softer successes
- Where self-serve is reducing HR time
- Data accuracy – as duplications are removed
- Decision making based on accurate data – no longer guess work
As you can see there are plenty of things that can trip you up, when it comes to your success from an HR Tech project. But do not be put off… technology is an enabler and its worth doing, but its important to be employee-centric, focus on the ultimate goal of user experience. If its user-friendly, no friction it will get used and make a significant and positive impact to the business and to your people.