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How to solve problems with a new HCM platform … and how not to fail      

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Once upon a time in a less techie world, HR pros used spreadsheets and paper. No one misses that world because human capital management (HCM) and human resource information system (HRIS) technology offer huge time savings, make the complicated easy and allow HR pros to work from anywhere.

In the HR world, two things are in abundance when it comes to these platforms: choices and opinions of them. 

As a practitioner, I’ve used and considered many. When asked which is the best, I can tell you what I prefer but it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. You must deliberate carefully through tedious details to calculate the right match for your organization. 

Here’s a brief process to help you make the right choice.

What you want from HCM, HRIS technology

This list is easy to compile and generally long. With the possibility to employ a system to run payroll, track attendance, maintain electronic timecards, record performance issues, conduct performance evaluations, enroll employees in benefits, hold electronic personnel files, view and acknowledge company documents, post jobs, onboard, offboard, keep equipment inventory, run EEOC reports, maintain OSHA logs, track time off and FMLA, and more, knowing what you want is the first step in making a decision. 

What you need

This list is tougher, but you must figure out what the most useful features are to meet your immediate and long-term needs. Start with your wants and highlight the capabilities that are most important to you and your organization. Don’t overlook reporting, tax filings, labor allocations and general ledger synching. Remember to tackle the needs of accounting as well as HR. Your payroll processing will impact a budget alignment and a financial statement.

What you can afford

It’s important to have a budget. Modules for benefits or time tracking may come as add-on pieces with separate costs. You can factor in time savings anticipated with the system change for your analysis. Will payroll take a few hours instead of two days? Are fewer people involved?  Manpower is a cost.  Look at prior actual costs, year-one implementation fees and overlap fees in changing systems.

Know your timeline

Before you go any further, evaluate when to switch. Implementation can take two weeks or two months depending on how robust your build is and how complicated your company is. Certified payroll processing will take additional time to set up. If you are multi-state and need multiple sick leave policies, additional time will be needed to get it compliant and correct.  Make sure you plan appropriately so you aren’t working from Disney during a family vacation, or worse, your lead accountant is when you have vital questions.

Get additional help

Before searching for a vendor, reach out to your insurance broker to see what their clients use, and which systems they find best and why. Some brokers may have relationships that can translate into a discount for you. I have even found brokers who provide a project manager to assist if there are electronic carrier feeds involved.

Make a list of the pros and cons

Some larger enterprise systems can be clunky and lighter systems can sometimes surprise you. To evaluate vendors easier, compile a simple chart of a system’s advantages and disadvantages and compare it against your lists of wants and needs. 

Watch out for …

Maybe your current system had more promises than delivery or it was hard to use. Don’t forget to explore if current failures can be averted with a change in platforms. Ask questions beyond “do you offer” and ask the “how do you” questions instead.

Some other things to look for:

  • Customer support is important and not all help is helpful. Systems with built-in help for pages/functions, along with a search to make application usage easier, are very important. Some vendors charge for service or helpdesk tickets separately after the initial term. Ask what is included versus offered, and ask what support is contracted or charged to you.
  • Implementation may offer levels of assistance for a price. Negotiating a lower fee for greater implementation helps to maximize guarantees that the product you were promised will be delivered.
  • How easy is it to make changes after implementation? If you need to add job titles, change company paid holidays or add a new PTO plan for executives, can you make these changes yourself or is there code that needs to be written behind the scenes by their team? 
  • Can you easily extract your data or is it locked? Can you download electronic files that you store? Can you extract a pdf or download CSV and Excel workbooks? If you record inventory or disciplinary actions, can you produce valuable reports from what you put into the system?
  • The user experience varies by role from admin to manager to employee. Be sure to demo each role so you understand how it looks and is used, and look for potential frustrations before you commit. Modules and complexity can alter the experience for your organization. Ask for a sandbox account to play in and practice tasks.
  • Billing composition varies by vendor. Some have a PEPM (per employee per month) charge, a PEPP (per employee per payroll) charge, a technology fee or a combo.  Is there an additional charge for producing tax forms? Look for charges outside the cost of payroll processing and system usage, and compare costs on a monthly and an annual basis. Verify if billing is by each pay run, monthly, quarterly, annually or a combo.  Many companies advertise the monthly cost and fail to address additional billing for quarters (such as tax filings) and annuals (such as training licenses).

Your decision will pay off if you’ve taken the time for a thorough evaluation and have involved all departments and people who will be impacted by a new system rollout. Demos are quick so sit through them a couple of times with the right people present and ask questions.

Request references you can call to ask about their system experience. A rush in selection can cause an organization lasting misery and chase away impacted staff. A detailed evaluation process can protect you from failure and be a defense if a promise falls short.

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