The multinational looking for the “ultimate solution”
At the end of last year, I was visiting a medium-sized Dutch multinational. The HR Director told me that they were finally implementing a global HR information system. After deliberating and studying for a year and a half, comparing the different providers, negotiating heavily through the Purchasing Department, and choosing a reliable implementation partner, the choice was made for the extremely modern HR System XYZ. For cost reasons, they started with the basic solution. In 2017, Phase 1, the Netherlands and some major foreign units would be connected. In 2018, the rest will follow. In 2019, additional modules (such as the Learning Management System and the Succession Management module) will be purchased. His expectations were high, but unfortunately, it would still be until the end of 2018 before the corporate HR department could run the monthly headcount reporting using the new system. Succession management is supported by the old Excel files.
The scale up in a hurry
At the end of March, I got a peek into the kitchen of a fast-growing organisation. No start-up anymore, but a scale up. With 350 employees today, and the ambitions to grow to 500 employees this year. Mostly in the Netherlands, but also the foreign branches are growing. Their recruitment team uses several new applications. Candidates interested in the scale-up opportunities can join their online community. Through the community, candidates get in touch with real employees of the organisation. A referral app is also used. Concrete jobs and assignments are distributed to all employees via the referral app, which they can then share through different social media with their friends and others in their network. If someone you introduced is appointed, you will be rewarded (not with money but with points, and if you have collected enough points you can have a dinner with your team). The selection of new employees is largely determined by the performance on some online games, tests and simulations.
Once accepted, you will be immediately connected to the company and your new team through the onboarding app. Even before you go to work, you already feel at home, and through the app you are also able to follow some introductory modules. A feedback culture is encouraged by providing everyone with a feedback app. This app allows you to request feedback on aspects that you consider important, and you will also receive feedback from others without asking. The app is also used to collect input for the review in a more structured manner, every quarter. An innovative people analytics solution collects data from different applications, recognises patterns, and allows analysis to help improve selection, development and deployment of employees. For payroll in the Netherlands, a cloud solution was found that is experienced by staff and HR as a relief, compared with the traditional system. The HR department (which is called People & Places) is constantly looking for smart new solutions that can help to improve employees and HR’s lives. Nothing is implemented without testing in a small group, and collaboration with the provider to see how the product can be improved.
How do you not get lost?
Seven recommendations, which can help you not get lost in the HR Tech forest.
1. The “Ultimate Solution” is an illusion
To aim for the solution that makes all other solutions unnecessary, is often an excuse for doing nothing at all, and a good excuse for the fact that the situation has not yet been improved. “If we had a system, with all the data of all employees in the world, then …”. “If everyone used the same data definitions, then …”. “Look at Shell, they have everything under control…”
Unfortunately, the “Ultimate Solution” does not exist. Even organisations that have loads of money, are often not satisfied. The experience of employees (the “employee experience”) is rarely fantastic. Organisations change rapidly, through acquisitions and divestments. Technological developments go so fast that even system designers cannot follow everything. If you want to address your problems today, and increase the impact of HR, it’s better to get started, learn to live with some disorder, and choose different “best of breed” solutions.
2. Make sure the basics are in order
“Make sure the basics are in order” remains important for HR. Employees want to be paid on time, and they want to get a good insight into their pay slip online. Applicants want to hear the status of their application, and new employees want to feel that they belong from day one, and that they can make a significant contribution. Employees who resigned want closure as fast as possible. HR operations is a very important, and still often undervalued part of HR. HR Tech that supports the operation should be an important priority.
3. Keep moving and experimenting
There are many “cool” solutions on the market. Often it is better to make a choice than to postpone the choice because you still do not know what is the best solution for you. Do not roll out solutions across the entire organisation, but start with a smaller group. See if it works, adjust and learn how to make your next implementations better and faster.
4. Work in partnership with the solution provider
SAAS solutions (fortunately) are never ready. It makes sense to start with the standard solution. First gain experience, then suggest adjustments. Providers like to learn from their customers, and they preferably implement innovations that are useful to multiple customers. Early birds often have an advantage. If you’re one of the “launching customers”, you can often influence design more than customer number 100.
5. Tackle the most urgent issues
If you walk through the app supermarket, it is difficult to see the forest for the trees. One solution is even more beautiful than the other. For each domain in the HR field, there are many intelligent and smart solutions. If they do not use artificial intelligence yet, they are planning this. It can help you limit yourself to looking for solutions that help you address your most urgent issues (in addition to solutions that help you run the operation, see point 2). For the multinational, for example, this can be connecting employees worldwide, for the scale-up recruitment and selection.
6. Do not build it yourself
This point seems to be obvious, but unfortunately there are still organisations that prefer to build their own solutions. A handy boy or girl builds something, and you are ready for a fraction of the price (it seems). The misery often comes quickly. If your hobbyist leaves the organisation, and he or she has not taken time to document the design properly. Or, if the organisation grows, and the solution that worked well for 35 people is not able to scale up.
7. Consider the employee expectations
The “Consumerisation of HR” is an important trend. Employees expect experiences at work like they have at home. Of course, they can use their smartphone for everything. They have 24/7 access to important data, and access to the network. The organisation knows them as well as Netflix, Facebook and Spotify know them. Bring-your-own-device is already the default, BYOA (bring your own app) might be the next step ….
Illustration: Studio Fee Overbeeke