Are you thinking about implementing digital HR or about to start a new digital HR journey? This quick guide will provide some helpful tips and tricks worth considering.
In the past 10 years, the world of digital HR has grown immensely, with not only more and more organisations implementing technology but also with so many more solutions and vendors coming into the market, offering more choices than ever before. In the next 10 years, the digital HR world looks set to continue changing and evolving rapidly, with the next generation of technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain to name a few, starting to capture attention.
But how do organisations ensure success when it comes to implementing technology? It may not be an area that many are familiar with and with so much information out there, it can be very daunting.
Over the past 12 years, I have worked with world-renowned global organisations, across many different markets and industries. During this time, I have developed a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to implementing HR technology and there are many recurring themes, which I have incorporated into 10 quick tips and tricks below.
#1 Work within a strategy that supports strategic business goals
Be clear about which problems you are trying to solve by implementing a system. To be successful, it is crucial to fully understand the vision and goals of the business first and then create a digital solution to aid the realisation of these goals. Technology can be immensely powerful but should be viewed as the ‘enabler’ rather than the ‘driver’. To understand more on the importance of aligning your technology and business roadmaps, take a look at this article.
#2 Standardise and Optimise Global Processes
Implementing a digital HR solution is an opportunity to do things differently but more importantly, seek optimisation and enhancements. Businesses are dynamic and should always be looking for better, more efficient ways of doing things. There is always room for enhancements, so do not be afraid to challenge the status quo.
If you are part of a global organisation, think about how the business should implement global vs. local processes. In most cases, global organisations will see the benefits of operating one set of core processes – e.g. on-boarding, off-boarding, performance reviews, merit and bonus reviews.
Having global processes will make supporting the system, carrying out upgrades, enhancements and training more straightforward. It will also allow global HQ to keep better control and provide better management reporting. Ultimately, these factors will help keep costs to a minimum for the business and improve the experience for all colleagues.
#3 Choose the right vendor
Implementing a new system is typically a large investment and will be part of a long term strategy. Selecting the right vendor is a key element to get right – take time to evaluate all the options before committing to a vendor. New vendors are coming into the marketplace frequently and there are more options than ever before. Look at the things that are important for your organisation – these will be different for each company but some typical considerations might be;
- SaaS vs. On premise – There are pros and cons to both. Just because your organisation may have used on-premise solutions before, does not mean this is the best option for the future – more companies are moving to SaaS and cloud-based solutions. Research this thoroughly and take the time to understand the key differences.
- Support offering – What kind of support is offered? Is it part of the deal or at an extra cost? What resources are available on demand? What type of training is provided? Are there active user groups established?
- Update schedules – Are they dynamic? how often are updates? do you have any control over when to implement upgrades? how do they consider feedback from customers?
- Functionality – Think about what functionality will be required and how the system will be used. It is always best to consider your longer term roadmap, if at all possible – don’t just think about the immediate requirements.
- Reporting – Do you have specific requirements? is your business heavily metrics-driven? do you want a suite of standard reports? do you want to be able to write your own reports?
- Customisation – Often organisations want the ability to customise software, but this can often cause more challenges in the long run and increase the complexity and total cost of ownership. Think carefully about the pros and cons of customisation vs. configuration
- Integrations – Will you need to connect with other systems (internal or external)? what does the integration landscape look like?
#4 Set-up an effective governance model
Strong governance is key. Ensure you create a clear governance structure from the outset, including a Programme Board, with decision-maker level representation from the key areas of the business – typically HR, Finance and IT, but possibly others too. Ensure the overall budget holder is included in this group, set expectations and agree core principles. Provide regular updates to the Board as the programme progresses and use their influence to ensure swift resolution to risks & issues, when needed.
#5 Set-up a strong, dedicated project delivery team
One common mistake I can relate to is for companies to try and utilise existing employees to avoid additional cost of bringing dedicated resources in for the duration of the project. Whilst this may seem like a good way to save money, it has inherent challenges.
HR and IT colleagues are often experienced in their own areas, but rarely have the experience of implementing HR technology projects. It should not be assumed that IT resources have the correct knowledge and experience required, just because it happens to be a technology platform. The same applies for HR – often HR colleague have little or no experience of running HR technology projects. Of course there are always exceptions, where existing teams do have some of the experience required – but consider carefully.
Another reason for not using existing colleagues is that for the most part, they often have busy day jobs. It can be unrealistic to expect existing colleagues to balance business-as-usual (BAU) work with extremely demanding project deliverables.
Where projects are most successful, is where there is investment in a dedicated project team put in place, with a strong project manager. This core team is then able to focus 100% on the project and will possess the relevant skills and experience, having completed several successful HR system implementations previously. This experience is critical to success. However, be sure not to hand over full control to a contract project team – subject matter experts should remain plugged in to the project (see point #7).
#6 Plan ahead
Always be 10 steps ahead – don’t just look at what is happening in the present. A few critical success factors are often left to late in the game but really should be planned from the outset. A few examples include:
- Change management
- Training & roll out plan
- An end user support model
#7 Set up global SME representation
Be sure to include key subject matter expert (SME) representation, particularly during the design and testing stages. These resources can complement the core project team, to add further context around the organisation.
In the case of a global programme, ensure that relevant country representation is included. This is important to ensure ultimate acceptance of the end solution but will also assist with highlighting local challenges and legal considerations early on.
#8 Don’t underestimate training and change management
This is one of the most critical success factors but is often not given the attention it deserves. You can have the best system in the world, but effective communication and training can be the difference between success or failure.
Take the time to build a strong change management & training plan. Think about the following, as a minimum:
- Share your vision for how the new solutions will positively impact the business & make people’s everyday lives simpler, easier and more enjoyable
- Warm up business stakeholders to the idea, rather than dropping it on them with little warning
- Showcase and emphasise the benefits of system, rather than the features
- Don’t just list benefits to the business – the people of the business will want to know how it will impact them directly, rather than the business as a whole
- Be clear about implementation dates and any future plans
- Develop a communication plan for the roll out
- Provide good quality documentation – look at the idea of quick guides for specific processes or features, rather than one lengthy user manual. Be clear where to find this documentation
- Training may not be necessary for everyone but consider offering drop in or optional sessions for those who want to understand more or who are struggling
- Consider offering briefing sessions f senior leaders and line managers before the launch
#9 Consider a suitable and realistic implementation and roll out plan
Be realistic on dates (where possible) – often business leaders will set unrealistic target dates and in this case, there should be some challenge back to flag the risks of not meeting those dates.
Another strategy which can be effective is to undersell and over deliver (to the business) – focus on promising only the features that you are confident can be delivered in the agreed time frame. Position any additional features as a bonus. This approach which will often help a solution to land much better than promising a whole list of features, which are only partially delivered, as then the project may not be viewed as a resounding success.
Finally, consider the most effective option for roll out – is a ‘Big Bang’ approach really the best option? This will be a decision that is unique to every business and every situation. However, consider all angles and more importantly, be realistic. Often a phased roll out will allow a much more controlled approach.
Believe it or not, data is often not one of the first considerations when looking to implement a new system. It’s easy to get sucked in to all the features of a new system but data underpins everything – without accurate data, having a system is pointless and it will give HR a lot of bad press if people discover the presence of inaccurate data!
My advice is set aside time to look at and investigate the state of your data early on – this is more important for larger organisations that may have multiple countries and legacy systems. From here, develop a plan for extracting, cleansing and migrating relevant data to the new system. This process often takes more time than people think, so allow plenty of time and consider which resources you will use.