Are you looking to upgrade your HR technology? “Yes!” I hear you say.
Stop right there!
Too often we jump into an HR technology implementation prematurely, focusing on the exciting piece of technology and all the wonderful promises of HR transformation.
If one thing is for sure, it’s that a big HR technology project will expose all the holes in your HR strategy.
When you start an HR technology project without having a strong strategy or a clear idea of what your HR function is all about, you’re setting yourself up for failure: Decisions are made on the fly and your team is left scrambling to piece together a half-completed strategy.
If this is your first big HR technology project, these are some of the questions you’re going to run into. By sharing these I hope you can avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve run into over the last 10 years of working on HR technology and transformation projects. Answer these questions and your bumps in the road will be minor speed bumps, not cliffs that you’re going to drive off of.
Here are 12 important questions about your organisation you need to ask (and answer) before you implement HR Technology. I don’t have all the answers to these questions (after all it’s your HR strategy, not mine). But I will provide some examples of what I’ve done in past HR transformation projects to help you frame the questions.
1. Do you have clear HR strategies?
2. Are your clear HR strategies linked to business outcomes?
3. What are you trying to achieve as a business, and are your HR strategies designed to support those business outcomes?
4. Do you have the foundational elements in place to support a big HR technology implementation?
5. Do you understand the legal and organizational structure of your company?
I’m constantly surprised at how many HR people do not understand the legal structure of their company. You are going to be asked to make decisions during an HR technology implementation based on the legal structure of your company and my bet is (if your company is anything like the companies I’ve worked for) the fact that you’re putting in new HR technology is not going to trigger them to change the legal structure of the company. Make sure you understand it and then figure out how you’re going to accommodate it.
6. Do you have a jobs catalogue?
When we talk about HR technology integration, the jobs catalogue pops up over and over again. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard “If we had a better jobs catalogue, this would be easier.” So many of us put that piece of work off because it’s too hard, we can’t get people to agree, or we simply don’t know where to start. A good jobs catalogue will help you immensely in maintaining standardisation and keeping data flowing through the system.
7. What is the appetite for risk within your company? Are your executives very buttoned up? Do you need six or seven approvals before they feel comfortable? Or are they willing to take a little more risk?
8. How tightly does management control things?
9. Who is the control player within the company?
I’ve worked for many different companies on HR technology projects and every company had a different control player. In some places finance ran the show; some places, marketing ran the show. Finding out who the control players are is critical for your HR technology project.
10. What about your processes? Are you up for leaning out your processes?
11. Do you have to carry old processes into a new environment or is this a catalyst that you can use to simplify your processes?
HR transformation came into vogue around 1996 – we’re 20 years into it, so I think HR transformation is probably on the way out. The new thing you’re going to start hearing about is HR simplification. So the question is, are you going to start on simplification 20 years from now or do you want to be ahead of the curve? Start picking up on it now. Are your processes in a position to be simplified?
12. Do you have executive support?
If I had to give one tip that will see you through a big HR technology transformation, it is executive support. Let me share with you a story about leadership support.
I did some HR transformation work for a company. We had things rolling along and the CEO said he was supportive. I approached the CEO and said “We want to let you know what support really looks like because let me tell you what’s going to happen. At some point, over the next 18 months that we’re going to do this project, somebody is going to come to you and say, ‘this isn’t going work for me. I need an exception. I need to do this differently.’”
I said to the CEO, “If at that point you say, ‘You know what, you’re right. We’re going to make an exception in your case’, you will have a line of people at your door all asking for exceptions and we will fail on the transformation that you’ve said was so important. But if you hold the line, we’ll be successful. So, our success and failure is now clearly on your desk.”
About six months into the project, we were rolling out performance management, doing design sessions, socialising with the groups as to what performance management would look like in a new system, which we did in the same way for every team. The CEO got a knock on his door, it one of his senior executives Jeff saying, “This HR transformation work is great, I’m really supportive but our part of the business is a little different than everybody else. We’re going to need an exception here.” And the CEO said, “Jeff, we’ve made a decision we’re going to do this together. I’d appreciate your support because we’re all going to do this the same way in this company.” I never heard another word from anybody. Smooth project. Well, at least when it came to executive support.
About the Author
Mike Molinaro is an expert with over 20 years’ experience in HR transformation and technology projects. Prior to joining Barclays Bank as COO-Human Resources & HR Transformation Lead, he has worked in HR technology and transformation roles at Megitt PLC, NBC Universal and Comcast.
Mike is a regular speaker at our Australian conferences on the subjects of change management, leadership, HR systems and implementation.