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5 tips for choosing the right HR technology

Choosing the right HR technology and tools for your company requires first understanding one truth: There is no perfect software. But from there, you can decide on what works best.

The HR software market has many applications available to organizations looking to automate manual HR processes or replace their current HR applications. With so many options at your disposal, it might be reasonable to expect that the perfect HR application exists; however, there is no silver bullet.

That's not to say that there aren't great HR applications, but they all typically have limitations in one area or another. And understanding that no panacea exists can help you better advocate for and choose the right HR technology -- the one that will be best for your organization.

As an HR leader, it is essential to have and set realistic expectations as you begin the process of selecting and implementing a new HR system. While you want to put a positive spin on the benefits a new HR application will bring to your organization, setting expectations too high may lead to disappointment. To reduce the risk of overpromising and underdelivering, consider the following points as you embark on your search for a new HR application to ensure employees have the best experience possible post-implementation.

1. Clearly document your requirements

The best way to validate that an application will meet your needs is to have clearly defined requirements. The more detailed and specific these are, the better you can evaluate each vendor's HR application and determine where it can meet your requirements and where it can't. Then, as you read about the different HR applications, watch demos and speak to others, rank each vendor's ability to meet your requirements based on your knowledge at the time.

Prioritize your requirements

Assigning an importance level to each requirement will help you focus on the most critical needs first. Not only will this help you stay focused, but you can also use the list to keep the vendors focused on what's most important to you.

For example, suppose a multilingual system is critical for your organization. In this case, you will want to ensure the HR application supports the languages you require early in the sales cycle, both from a user interface and help system perspective. You may also want to confirm how your system administrator can maintain custom forms and picklists in multiple languages to verify that they are possible and not overly cumbersome.

2. Research HR vendors

There is an endless amount of information available online about HR applications. Go through the vendor's website and the vendor's competitors' websites, then read blogs and opinion pieces from qualified professionals. This research can help you validate your requirements, introduce you to new vendors, and help you understand what is possible and what might be difficult to achieve.

3. Arrange demos

The first demo may be high-level, short and with a small number of people. The first demo will help you get an initial understanding of the vendor and their HR application. As you progress in the sales process, you should ask for one or more detailed demos to validate the application against your requirements. Provide a list of your most critical features to the vendor ahead of a demo. This will help them determine if and how the application can meet your needs. It will also give them the information they need to configure the demo site correctly. Also, include stakeholders in your demos who you believe will provide honest and insightful feedback.

Understand that large vendors aren't always better

While a more prominent vendor will often provide more features in their HR application, their system will almost certainly have limitations. In addition to the limitations, you may run into other challenges that don't come up with a smaller vendor, such as the increased complexity of implementing and maintaining a HR technology meant for large multinational organizations. Start your search broadly and include vendors of all sizes before narrowing down your list of vendors to the top two or three who are most aligned with your requirements and company values.

4. Take a buffet approach

Your preferred vendor may have a very good HR application with the exception of one or two modules, such as recruiting or performance management. Rather than dismissing the vendor altogether, consider building a solution from multiple vendors that, when combined, meets your requirements. While interacting and integrating software from multiple vendors can introduce some complexities, the end result may provide a more robust HR system that meets your employees' expectations.

Request references

Ask your preferred vendors for references before making a final decision. Ideally, the reference organizations will be similar to your organization in terms of size, country and industry. Be prepared with a list of questions to guarantee you get answers to your most important ones. For example, ask about limitations in the software, how many of their enhancement requests were implemented, and what they like and don't like about the HR application.

Speak to your professional network

You don't have to go it alone when choosing the right HR technology. There are professional HR associations in many cities and national organizations in several countries. Reach out to them and the HR professionals you know. Find out which applications they are using, what they like about them and what they wish they did better. If possible, try to find another organization that uses the software you are considering licensing. Many people are pleased to share their experience and provide honest feedback about what you can expect from the vendors they've worked with.

5. Prioritize communication

When sharing information about the new HR application, ensure you don't make promises that can't be achieved. For example, employees should understand what exactly will happen at the go-live. It may be better to communicate at a high level until you know for certain how a feature will work for your organization. When you identify limitations, communicate how the system will work and the mitigating actions you are taking to reduce the effect on employees.

As part of your communication plans, be sure to factor in how the implementation approach will affect promised features. While a phased implementation can reduce the risk of a large project, it does leave features on hold until the next phase. Therefore, you'll want to make sure expectations are set appropriately when discussing the HR application's benefits with employees. If you don't plan to implement a feature until phase two or three, you will want to avoid emphasizing it in phase one.

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