Small companies growing to become a mid-sized organization or transforming through acquisition into a large company can find themselves overwhelmed by the complexity of manual human resources processes. A process that was once manageable on Excel spreadsheets may quickly become untenable as headcount grows and recruiting goals explode to meet new market opportunities.

In the midst of hyper-growth, it may seem overwhelming to ‘fly and fix the plane’  by implementing a Human Resource Information System, yet continuing manually presents business, regulatory and employee satisfaction risks. Many companies leap to a quick fix solution to remediate risk. However, a more balanced approach of defining the vision and gathering requirements will pave the way for implementation success, rapid return on investment and high user satisfaction.

A framework that enables Human Resources, IT and Senior Executives to work together to determine the best road forward includes:

  1. Creating a shared understanding of Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and other system options
  2. Defining corporate, HR and IT priorities so that the system will fit well into the overall technology and strategic landscape. Prioritizing also helps to show a rapid return on investment.
  3. Surfacing HR’s key goals and pain points to make sure the solution is the right size for the challenges at hand while also providing a path toward achieving medium and long-term initiatives
  4. Drafting high-level implementation process to set expectations for timing and resources

With a small group, the framework can be initiated with a single-day workshop.

  1. Create a shared understanding of Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and other system options

Human Resources automation software offers a range of features emphasizing different HR functions.  Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions focus on helping the HR professionals assess their employee base and run analysis for hiring and promotion decisions. Systems focused on assisting with the needs of employees are considered Human Resource Management Systems (HRM). HRM often provide employee self-service for things like enrollment and time-entry as a way to increase HR productivity. Some companies bundle both features into a single platform. Decision-makers should understand the options and determine what is most important to make the vendor selection, and to inform the prioritization of implementation. In addition, determining which capabilities will show quick wins for the business will enhance both Executive support and user adoption.

  1. Define corporate, HR and IT priorities so that the system will fit well into the overall technology and strategic landscape as well as prepare to show a rapid return on investment for the corporate investment.

Human Resource Systems can impact everyone in the company but may also interface with other systems.  Integrating and sharing data with Financial Systems, Payroll Vendors, Active Directory and Learning Management Systems makes great sense. Integrations help to decrease multiple versions and create accessible, authoritative data sets that can be used for analytics and be maintained for regulatory requirements. Given the potential for HR systems to become foundational to a company’s information landscape, it is important for stakeholders to view adoption decisions from a high-level, taking into consideration existing technologies and future planned initiatives. Comparing the User Interface to existing systems and choosing a vendor with a similar look and feel or navigation pattern will lower the learning curve and increase adoption rates.  Linking HR automation with high-priority implementations are also a good way to gain Executive and stakeholder support.

  1. Surface HR’s key goals and pain points to make sure the solution is the right size for the challenges at hand, while also providing a path toward achieving medium and long-term initiatives

HR systems provide opportunities to improve the experience of employees, enable better business decisions by Managers and Executives and protect the integrity of sensitive personal data.   Increasing the productivity of HR itself providing HR professionals with tools to achieve departmental goals are also selling points of a good HRIS. While HRIS providers offer a broad range of functionality, it is important to highlight the most pressing pain points and immediate goals. Companies that have aggressive hiring targets can prioritize Recruiting and On-boarding functionality.  More mature companies may focus on Talent Management to re-organize within the company and build succession plans. Defining the priorities of HR will guide a decision to the best solution to meet those needs. 

  1. Draft a high-level implementation process to set expectations for timing and resources

Finding the right HRIS with functionality to meet business needs is exciting, and the anticipation of the improved efficiency and user experience will drive initial enthusiasm for the initiative.  However, to manage expectations and prepare stakeholders for the effort of implementation, HR and IT should work together to define an attainable timeframe for the project.  Discuss resources that will be required including internal project managers and HR SME’s as well as external system integrators, consultants and even a PMO to oversee all of the moving parts. Developing a governance structure will identify points of contact and create accountability. A clear understanding of the scope of each participant’s effort is also key to avoid misunderstandings about ‘who is doing what’ down the road.  It is better to over-estimate the time and effort that it takes to launch an enterprise system so that unpleasant surprises are minimized. It also helps to start the Communications process at the earliest point to minimize resistance to change.

The adages ‘draw many, build one’ is good advice for engineers and for Human Resources departments planning to implement an HRIS.  Iterating the mission statement, project plans and team structure will be worth the effort as the project progresses.  Using this framework to get started will focus the attention of stakeholders and provide supporting documentation for why and how decisions are made.