Matt Charney, Executive Editor at Recruiting Daily, shares his perspective on HR technology selection and implementation, and the importance of including technology department leaders at the beginning of the selection process.
Q. What is the single most important piece of technology an HR pro can have in 2016?
While it’s not as sexy as SaaS or social media, the fact of the matter is that the single most important piece of technology any HR professional can have in 2016 is a pretty old fashioned one: the telephone.
Studies repeatedly show that for talent acquisition and retention, the companies spending the most money on HR Technology – those multinational enterprise employers who are the mainstay of client sliders and case studies, and the primary market maker in this space – are in fact the most likely to pick up the phone before doing anything else, and the most likely to name the telephone among their most effective tools of the trade. In an age of high tech, those companies that can afford the luxury of being high touch are finding that doing so pays much more significant dividends than simply relying on software and systems.
Because of the proliferation of emerging HR Technology products and evolving players selling into this market, however, getting through the noise and getting optimal results has become increasingly difficult. The single exception seems to be SMS, which maintains over a 90% open rate, with the overwhelming majority of these messages read within 5 minutes of being sent – and HR needs to embrace this medium because, frankly, no one reads emails from HR, although that’s not necessarily new (or news to anyone in this profession). Texting, of course, is the real “mobile’ solution we should be focusing on at the moment – further reiterating the continued importance of the telephone to practitioners even in 2016.
Q. Why is it important that HR include their technology department leaders at the beginning of the software selection process and not after the contract has been signed?
With Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn, Salesforce purportedly entering the HCM game and solutions like Facebook at Work or Google for Business finding increasing traction, the market continues its trend towards consolidation and convergence with consumer technologies.
Similarly, the growing portfolio of products and point solutions in the average stack and increasing reliance on integrations to connect disparate systems both inside and outside the department (primarily through APIs) mean that just like HR cannot function in a strategic silo, neither can the tools of the trade.
In the future, there will be no HR Technology – it will just be enterprise technology with HR functionality, something that’s been promised since the days of Tier 1 on-premise ERPs that we’re finally seeing widely adopted by leading edge organizations.
This, of course, means that partnering with tech leaders is an inevitability, but HR pros should do so proactively to not only build these relationships and acumen but also to ensure tech continuity and connection beyond compliance issues like data governance and documentation. This partnership also will functionally minimize future surprises, headaches and security risks that will inevitably surface after said contract is signed.
Q. What do you want HR professionals to understand about the process of selecting HR software? What are the key considerations?
HR Technology isn’t a short term fix but a long term investment. Make sure you not only like the product, but the people selling you the product, too – you’re buying both, and you’re going to have to live with your decision. Don’t buy functions or features, but instead, invest in partners who see you as more than a sale, but instead, are invested in your success. If you don’t like how you’re treated during the sales and selection process, than don’t sign a contract – because that relationship inevitably is as good as it’s ever going to get.
Q. What important questions should HR professionals ask HR technology vendors in the selection process?
There are three key considerations every buyer should break down in the software selection process:
1. How will this help me do my job better or make my life easier? Selecting, implementing and optimizing software is hard work, and you’ve got to understand that if a tool or technology requires too much, then you’re unlikely to get much return on any investment you make in HR Tech.
2. How does this address an existing need or business challenge? So many products and providers are simply selling solutions into the market by creating new problems or addressing needs that are commodities (eg video interviewing, “employer brand”) than necessities. If it’s not a problem, you don’t need to invest in a product. Sometimes, the best answer is to keep doing what you’re doing – and at many companies, recruiting and retention are far from broken. Change for the sake of change is specious.
3. How does the vendor or partner actually make money? The answer is obviously off of you, the buyer, but if they can’t answer exactly how their business model and monetization are structured (are there variable costs like services or data storage? How much will this actually cost versus our current system?) then you can’t make a truly informed purchasing decision, period. Ask this, and you’ll be surprised by how few vendors can categorically address this.
Q. What advice do you have for HR professionals that will help to ensure a more successful technology implementation? Where are most mistakes made?
If a vendor is offering a true cloud based solution, then there is no implementation involved – multi-tenant solutions involve simply turning on a switch and doing some configuration, so provider with a significant implementation or services layer involved is likely written on a code base or involves functionality that’s already obsolete in today’s interconnected and integrated tech world.
The biggest mistake in buying software is relying on stuff like demo environments, one sheets or customer success stories in decision making without ever seeing the actual product in a live, real time instance. Look to buy products that you can try (the best often offer free trials or tiered access) and take for a test drive – the best products don’t need shit like bus wraps or big booths to sell to buyers. They speak for themselves.