There comes a time in many HR practitioners’ careers when they’re asked to oversee, manage, run, or be a part of a software implementation. A new human capital management (HCM) solution is one of the most important implementations around because it will have touch points with almost everyone in your organization. Just think about it – applicants looking for jobs, new hires working through onboarding, employees managing their time, putting in time off requests, or getting paid, managers submitting approvals and consulting data analytics, AI, or machine learning to make more informed and better decisions – every person on this list will rely on the HCM system you help deploy.
I’ve gone through multiple implementations over my career as an HR practitioner. Some rollouts were to approximately 2,300 employees and others were over 10,000 employees, and I’ve taken away some important insights from these 15 years of different deployment experiences. Here are my tips for avoiding an implementation disaster:
Don't just repeat the past – evaluate it
Purchasing a new HCM system is a good time to review HR processes that you have had for years or even decades. You must get this correct because it’s the foundation for the software you’re implementing to help you streamline and manage these processes. Make sure you look for opportunities to evolve and improve as you take stock of where you are now. Chances are you’ll find some great action items that will help align your approach with the modern, unified HCM platform you’re rolling out.
Here’s a quick example – at one of my previous organizations, several of our HR processes were very manual and involved information both on paper and in Excel sheets. Every time we made changes or submitted items through this process, we had to email around to get approvals. Of course, all that took time, and HR was blamed for taking so long to complete the tasks in question. We made this a priority during our HCM implementation and were able to move all those processes to workflows, automating all the steps and making it much faster to make changes and get approvals. We could also track the workflow and see where any holdups were with approvals.
It turned out HR wasn’t the issue – managers and executives were letting approvals sit for days while HR’s approval time was typically one business day. Armed with this information we were able to keep the process rolling and make things faster for our employees.
Ensure success with a team of internal experts
Don’t go it alone. Make sure to build a diverse implementation team including employees from a variety of functional areas such as payroll, IT, recruiters, managers, and both hourly and salaried employees.
Ask this group for input on the best practices your HCM vendor suggests and how each one will impact each of their areas. In addition, ask your team members to highlight what would make the biggest difference in their functional areas and allow direct discussion/collaboration between your internal implementation team and your HCM providers’ implementation team. This will help build trust, ensure that key voices across your organization get heard, and put multiple lenses on the implementation process that can bring issues up that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
Pay attention to your HCM vendor's service approach
The team concept goes double for the HCM software provider you select. They should have a group assigned to your project on their end as well consisting of an executive sponsor, a project manager, customer success specialists, experts on configuration, and different subject matter experts from areas like payroll, benefits, etc. Be sure to question the HCM provider about the implementation team prior to signing a contract.
These are just the basics a good provider should have. A great HCM provider will also have HR experts in their company to act as advisors or consultants if needed. Don’t be afraid to make them prove they’re experts – ask for a bio of the person you work with. At a minimum, they should have been a practitioner for some time and should have HR certifications or even advanced degrees in human resources management. Beyond providing expert insights, your vendor should also have clear paths to success for your internal administrators as well in the form of survival kits, access to a community of other customers, and the ability to suggest ideas relevant to your organization’s needs.
One word: Overcommunicate
Any organization implementing a new software understands they need to communicate the change that’s happening, but great software implementers overcommunicate starting all the way back in the selection process. Leadership, managers, and employees should receive communications on the who, what, where, when, and why of the HCM buying process, and this needs to carry over to implementation as well once you’ve chosen a solution. I suggest communicating to all employees on a regular basis (weekly at a minimum). This allows employees to expect the communication and hear about updates and progress.
During my implementations we always used a variety of media to communicate. Touchpoints included print and email communications, organization-wide kickoff meetings and smaller departmental check-ins, focus groups, feedback surveys, and reports to the executive committee. We provided updates every week through whichever channels were most appropriate, and it got results. I remember an employee providing the feedback after our initial in-person kickoff meeting that they were so grateful we took the time to present to all employees about what was happening, give clear reasons for why we were changing, and provide a roadmap of our path forward.
As a final note here, a great HCM provider should aid you in this endeavor from their end with marketing materials, trainings, technical documents, etc. to make sure that your employees feel comfortable with the technology switch no matter what their level of technical experience is.
Make sure your vendor cares
It’s critical that you make sure your HCM provider cares about helping you both during implementation and long after deployment is a distant memory. Without an HCM vendor that’s willing and eager to set you up with the right level of continuous support, it will be extremely difficult for you after your go-live date. That’s why you need to make them prove they won’t forget about you.
So, how do you know if your HCM provider cares about getting support right, you ask? Well, prior to signing your contract for your chosen HCM system, you can ask some of the following questions:
- Do you care about continuing to support us after our system is live?
- Great! Tell me how.
- What type of feedback do you offer customers during and after implementation?
- Who does that feedback go to?
- What do they do with that feedback?
- What happens if we have an issue with the implementation, have given feedback, and nothing is done about it?
- How do we resolve a dispute over implementation?
- What happens during the handoff between implementation and support?
These are just a few examples, but the main point is that you’ve got to understand if your HCM vendor has a plan to guide you through implementation, get you to an HCM system that’s set up to meet your needs, and keep you supported as you put that system into practice and start learning and growing as an organization through your new HR technology.
Conclusion: This all starts way before implementation
To even start tackling any of the considerations I’ve laid out here, you first need to find an HCM system that meets your organization’s needs. If you go through that evaluation process correctly, you’ll learn a lot about how your deployment will go before you even start it. Not sure where to start? I suggest you check out this HCM Buyer’s Guide. It’ll walk you through all the details and help you make sure you’re bringing your best to both the buying process and implementation.