How to Buy the Right HR Tech Solutions

Don’t be dazzled by bright, shiny objects when choosing your tools.

By Meghan M. Biro April 20, 2018

Making a technology decision involves endless forks in the road—and sometimes what you choose is not the most cost-effective, or even the most effective, option. You may wind up with a fancy software application that handles everything except the core function you wanted from your new tool.

How does this happen? Well, product marketers are pretty good at exploiting our blind spots. They know how to dazzle us with the power of cloud-based offerings, “big data” and all the other things that tech can do—to the point where we don’t always see things clearly. We chase shiny objects, become friends with the salespeople and get distracted by promotional promises. With so many options, how do we make good choices that give us what we really need?

When investing in HR technology solutions, remember these five tips, which will help keep you from flying blind.

1. Don’t succumb to scope creep

Just because a tech solution can do something doesn’t mean you need it to do that. Know your objective before you go shopping and stick to solutions that can meet that goal. Do you need help with recruiting? Payroll? Performance management? Engagement? Recognition? Are you looking to achieve greater diversity and inclusion?

If you already have platforms in place that you like, and workers are comfortable using them, find out if you can integrate new tools with existing solutions to avoid redundancy. Or, if you’re looking for one central provider to manage the entire employee life cycle, does the system offer the functionality you want within your budget?

Once you set clear requirements, don’t exceed them. There’s no reason to expand the scope of your initiative or incur additional costs. 

2. Don’t get distracted by shine and buzz

I call this “Tyrannobyte Syndrome.” Without even knowing what something is, we hear about it and think we want it. Someone jokingly uttered the word tyrannobytes at a gathering recently, and half the people within hearing distance perked up. Of course, there’s no such thing as tyrannobytes. But the concept of a monster-sized unit of data was irresistible.

Instead, focus inward. Do you really need enough data storage to rival a “doomsday” seed vault? Is blockchain a necessary component of your software solution? If you’re not sure, research your options and consult an expert before you sign on any dotted line.

3. Don’t marry for the honeymoon

Customer service isn’t just a concept. In HR tech, reliable vendor support must extend well past the courtship stage. After initial adoption of a technology product, do you have access to responsive customer care? Do you get the benefit of any system updates, fixes or improvements the vendor makes moving forward at no additional cost?

It’s critical to have continuous help. You should also be able to measure the effectiveness of your HR tech tools in meeting your organization’s objectives. Your tech provider should set up some yardsticks—and then share them with you. If the provider is really in it for the long haul, it will be transparent about how to assess its performance against your goals.

4. Make sure they love you for you

If you’re a small organization or a scrappy startup, will your HR tech partners still pay attention once they sign you up as a customer? If you’re not a big account that will increase spending through the duration of your contract, determine what’s in it for them. Will you even have access to your friendly salesperson if something goes wrong, or just the customer service department where you don’t know anyone?

Check the provider’s reviews and talk to other customers your size. Do smaller companies rave about the provider or are the kudos just from the big fish? Does the vendor have evidence that shows its commitment to customers? Data is far more convincing than brand hype. Your CFO won’t care about warm and fuzzy testimonials. Dig into the vendor’s performance record.

5. Expect easy-to-use tools

There are some amazing offerings on the market as veteran HR tech companies trot out their 2.0s and new products enter the fray. Artificial intelligence is in the mix and is proving to be immensely capable for certain tasks. But no matter how sophisticated the tool is, will your team be able to work with it? How about your less tech-savvy colleagues? If there is a problem, will the provider troubleshoot and help solve it in real time? Software glitches or human error, or both, happen. You don’t want to be stuck in chatbot limbo if you have a real problem, or face a useless FAQ page when you have a question that requires a nuanced response. You want to work with a dedicated person who knows you, your team and your company’s objectives. He or she should be 100 percent behind you. 

Once my brand’s logo is pasted on a tech provider’s homepage, I don’t want to feel like I’m just another trophy on the wall. If it’s the right solution and the right HR tech provider, it just might be the start of a beautiful relationship. 

Checklist for Managing HR Tech Deployments

When planning for new tools, you will need to:

  • Define what will constitute success upfront; measure it over the course of the project.
  • Identify stakeholders and ascertain levels of commitment, then re-evaluate commitment over the life of the project.
  • Consider the gap between where your organization is and where you want the proposed change to take you. Do people have the skills, desire and capacity to make the change successful?
  • Designate a mediator who will have the final word when differences arise (and they will).
  • Assemble implementation teams wisely. Don’t choose people who may have the most free time; instead, select those best suited to collaborate on a strategic project with long-term consequences.
  • Develop an enterprisewide communication strategy that goes beyond initial project launch.

Meghan M. Biro is the founder of TalentCulture and the creator and host of the weekly #WorkTrends Twitter chat and podcast. 

Illustration by Stephan Schmitz for HR Magazine.

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