Viewpoint: 5 Ways to Buy the Right HR Technology

By Meghan M. Biro Mar 5, 2018

​Making a technology choice involves endless forks in the road—and sometimes the choice is not really the most cost-effective, or the most effective at all. You may wind up with a very fancy set of bells and whistles, but why, oh why can't you just simply do this one single thing with your new tool?

The answer: Blind spots. Dazzled by the power of cloud-based offerings, by "big data," by all that tech can do, we don't always see clearly. We chase shiny objects and buzzy, trendy terms. But we also must make good choices. There are so many options, but what do we really need?

When you're making HR tech decisions, watch out for these five blind spots.

Don't Succumb to Scope Creep

Just because a tech solution can do something doesn't mean you need it. Know your needs before you go shopping. Are you going for recruiting? Payroll? Performance management? Engagement? Recognition? Do you need help achieving better diversity and inclusion?

If you already have certain systems in place that you like, and people are comfortable using them, find out if you could integrate new tech with existing tools to avoid redundancy. Or if you're looking for one central provider for the entire employee journey, do they cover all the stations along the way?

Once you have a clear sense of boundaries, don't exceed them. HR technology is more customizable than ever. There's no reason to exceed the scope of your initiative or incur additional costs. In this case, you can get what you want.

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 should 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 just too irresistible.

Instead, focus inward. Do you really need enough data storage to rival a seed vault? Is blockchain a vital component of a software solution? If you're not sure, consult an outside, trusted expert before you sign on any dotted line.

Don't Marry for the Honeymoon

Customer service isn't just a concept. In HR tech, reliable service has to extend well past the courtship stage. After initial adoption and for as long as you both shall exist, do you have access to responsive support? Do you get the benefit of any updates, fixes or improvements the tech company makes?

It's critical to be able to get continuous help and support. You should also be able to measure the effectiveness of your HR tech in meeting your objectives. Your tech provider should set up some serious yardsticks for themselves—and then share them with you. If they're really in it for the long haul, they will be transparent about their performance.

Make Sure They Love You for You

If you're a small and lean organization or a scrappy startup, will your HR tech partners still pay attention to you once they sign you as a customer? You're not a big account with scaling spend. You may not even increase hiring for the duration of your contract, as you focus on other parts of the business, like people management. What's in it for them if you stay just the way you are?

If one of the provider's core values is making their customers happy, you're in luck.

Check their testimonials: Do smaller companies rave about them in case studies? Speaking of which, do they have evidence that shows their commitment to customers? Data is far more convincing than a polished brand story. Your CFO won't care about warm and fuzzy testimonials. They'll want clear analytics. Note: If you're reading this, and you're the CFO, I salute you.

Expect Easy-to-Use

We're seeing some amazing offerings as veteran HR tech companies trot out their 2.0's and new technology enters the fray. AI is in the mix and proving immensely capable of certain tasks. But no matter how sophisticated the tech or how customizable the user portals, will your team be able to work with it?

Your HR tech provider is responsible for making sure the plane stays in the air. But can less tech-savvy members of your HR department steer it and stay on course? If there is a problem, can the provider troubleshoot and help solve it in real time—as opposed to "we'll be back on Monday" time? Software glitch or human error or both, things happen. That's the Murphy's law of tech for civilians. Someone will decide to "get his hands dirty" and try running some reports for himself one Sunday afternoon when everyone else is away. Will your HR tech provider have someone on hand to talk him off the ledge and save your data?

We all have personal preferences. Mine involve not being stuck in chatbot limbo if I have a real problem, not facing a useless FAQ page when I have a question for customer service, and having a dedicated person who knows me, knows my team, knows our objectives, and is 100 percent behind us. I don't want to be second-guessed. I don't want someone talking down to my managers, and I want infinite patience if they don't entirely understand. We're in HR and leadership roles, not software engineering. But as far as people go, most of us in HR really do know what we're doing.

But I also want the best tech I can find, and I love innovative, front-of-the-pack ideas—who doesn't? And granted, some of the most innovative products out there may not be big on fancy wrapping or optimizing every customer experience. If they're really offering something worthy, they won't have to dress it up. It is what it is. 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, I won't be as likely to feel this way.

Meghan M. Biro is the founder of TalentCulture and the creator and host of the weekly #WorkTrends Twitter chat and podcast. She is a thought leader in HR technology, social strategy and the future of work. She lives in Cambridge, Mass. © 2018 TalentCulture. All rights reserved.

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