Relatively early in my HR career, I worked for an organization that decided they wanted to move to a new HRIS. The parent company owned a PEO and a temporary staffing agency and wanted to go from using two separate systems to one combined system for both services. The executives vetted systems and made their decision. My team was trained on the new system and was responsible for manually entering over 3,000 employees from the old systems into the new system. This process took weeks and some very long hours, including weekends. And we ran into issue after issue where the system didn’t contain the fields we needed, didn’t have tax tables set up correctly, and so much more. We kept going back to our executive team and explaining the shortcomings of the system. Our test payrolls were a total failure. We became beyond frustrated, discouraged, and honestly, felt that the executives were brushing off our concerns.
While that horrible experience is forever engrained in my memory, it was a huge learning experience for me and taught me that there are some key things to think about when vetting a new system.
1) Involve the right people. While executives need to be involved and ultimately make the decision, talk to the people who are in the trenches day in and day out. Invite them to system demos, allow them to ask questions, and ask for their feedback.
2) Make a list and check it twice. If you have a system that you are looking to replace, ask why. What is it about that system that is lacking, what are your must-haves in a new system? What are those bells and whistles you’d like to have but could live without? And what are those things your current system has that you absolutely do not want in a new system? If you don’t have a system in place, sit down with those right people and brainstorm. What’s on their wish list, and which wishes are needs versus wants?
3) Anticipate growth. Don’t select a system based on where your organization is today, select a system that will get you to where you’re going in three to five years, and maybe even beyond. There are some systems that are better for smaller businesses and there are some systems that are better for larger businesses. If your organization is growing rapidly, you may want to focus your search on a more robust system that has more to offer. If you’re a smaller organization, you may not need all of the features that a larger system may offer (and you’d pay more for).
4) Check references. Ask around before selecting a system. If you have narrowed your search down to one or two systems you really like, get feedback from other organizations who use that system. Find out what they like and don’t like about it. Don’t ask the vendor to provide you with references, they are going to connect you with companies they know are happy with the system. You want to hear the good and the bad. One way to do this is to ask other HR professionals you know or pose the question to social media outlets. I see this done a lot on Facebook HR groups, and respondents give honest feedback. And keep in mind, what is a negative for one organization may not be a key factor for you in your decision, so weigh the feedback you receive appropriately.
So, what happened with the HRIS that my former employer selected? After months of entering data and trying to work with the vendor to get the system to do what we needed it to do and finding out that the vendor had only recently acquired the system from another company and didn’t understand yet the full scope of the product themselves, the executives made the tough decision to back out of the contract and stick with the two old systems we already had in place. It was a huge expense and costly mistake for the organization. And one that could have been avoided if they involved the right people, understood their needs and sought out references.