How to get the most out of your HR Technology

When I speak to HR professionals about their HR technology a few years on from implementation, a common theme emerges. “We bought this great system but we have never really embedded it or realised the full potential of what it can do for us”.

So why, after implementing a new system, do we as HR professionals find ourselves only using a fraction of what we have bought?

Well, in my experience, there are a few typical reasons:

• Other priorities getting in the way

For HR professionals, dealing with day to day work in HR is the main obstacle. They simply can’t find the time to work on embedding, developing and improving the system.

• Project fatigue 

Once the initial implementation is done, the appetite and budget to continue with further system enhancements often dries up as we move on to other priorities.

• Limitations of some technology platforms to adapt to your needs

Older generation systems typically require additional investment in time and money for system enhancements. Inevitably this means asking for more budget for software consultants which, after an expensive system implementation, is often difficult to obtain.

Legacy platforms just don’t have the same flexibility as modern cloud based, SaaS platforms, where non-technical specialists can progress system design without the need for costly consultancy support – providing of course they have the time.

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• An absence of Vision and Innovation

A lack of innovative thinking or a strategic vision for the HR system will limit its value. Cloud HR software is so versatile and powerful that the only constraint is our ability to imagine and embrace its capabilities.

We HR professionals are not necessarily the most innovative folk when it comes to tech. We tend to be more procedure and process driven, and less able to think creatively about how technology can support what we do and how to adapt ways of working.

Innovation needs a starting point; a vision of where we want to be, to channel it in the right direction. The vision should start as an HR platform that connects all HR activities, not just for recording and reporting data. The vison is that the HR digital platform becomes a virtual team of HR assistants – totally integrated with your HR function activities and your people, from line managers to employees across your organisation.

This Vision and Innovation constraint is a crucial one, so below are some practical tips on how to get much more out of your HR tech.

• Tip one – challenge traditional HR process thinking

Technology brings us the opportunity to reengineer HR processes and procedures and challenge the way we have always done things. Let me give you an example. Most absence procedures start with an instruction like “you must ring your manager before 9am to report your absence”. This kind of approach is borne out of two things.

Firstly, it’s a practice that goes back way in time, before mobile phones and email. It made sense then but with today’s communication methods, is it still the best way? In reality, text, WhatsApp and email are often the norm for employees reporting absence to managers. So our procedures are not necessarily being followed.

The second reason is the belief that if we make it too easy for people to report sickness, absence will go through the roof. Suspend your judgement for a moment and think about this. Why can’t an employee report their sickness through an app to their manager?

Think of the benefits…

Firstly, as a line manager, taking a call first thing with everything else going on can be a headache. Secondly, that phone call, text, WhatsApp message or email can easily get forgotten and data capture lost. Inputting into a mobile app captures the absence straight away.

Thirdly, why gear our thinking to the minority who we think will abuse it? We have the tools to address absence issues – many of which start with the HR technology we have introduced.

And finally, an app-reported absence can be sent through workflow to multiple recipients instantly. In some organisations, like schools, where rapid timetable rescheduling for an absent teacher is critical – fast communication is a significant win.

This is just one example of how we can challenge our traditional HR ways of working and capitalise on the benefits of modern HR software, both to managers and HR professionals.

• Tip two – let go of the comfort blanket of paper!

We all know it’s right. It’s good for the environment, it’s more efficient, it reduces costs. Yet many of us still have cabinets full of personnel files and paper forms on our intranets that feed those files. Even where we now scan documents into document management systems we still cling on to the paper files, “just in case”. Why?

We shouldn’t worry about data loss with modern back-up systems. Scanned documents are far more secure than papers in a filing cabinet. Nor should we assume that digital documents will go missing – password protection makes it more difficult to remove documents digitally than from a paper file.

Sure, getting files scanned is initially time consuming but the value is immense. Remote access is a huge benefit too. There are many benefits of holding documents digitally – I’ll come back to this later.

• Tip three – leverage the benefits of modern communication technology

When I started my career in HR I worked in a large business with five HR administrators. They wrote letters on typewriters and manually posted them to the candidate.

These days mobile phones and apps are the most convenient ways of communicating, so capitalising on this is key. If our employees interact with us this way then our records and data will be so much more accurate. We should therefore put the mobile phone at the heart of our systems design and provide not just an intuitive system, but a powerful, engaging user interface.

Some HR systems now have letter-templating capability built into them and the really good ones can auto-email such letters with e-signature and tracking capability too. This gives a huge efficiency benefit as well as postage and print savings. Plus, the ability to track unreturned documents and to demonstrate improvements in HR compliance and credibility are obvious.

For us, the use of this functionality to maintain furlough records and obtain signatures in case of HMRC audits has made the whole task a whole lot simpler and compliant.

• Tip four – make self service mandatory!

How many times have we had conversations about the islands of people data across our organisations, held by managers and others outside of HR? GDPR raised the management of data to a new level.

A single people database has to be the strategic approach. Collaboration with managers to access the things they need will only enhance HR’s reputation in the business. It eliminates the need for duplicate filing systems and minimises the risk of a data breach. The additional benefits of remote access anywhere, anytime speak for themselves – as we’ve learned while working remotely due to Coronavirus.

Self-service should not be constrained just to managers, though. There are significant gains from employee self-service too. Systems with electronic form capability mean we can eradicate every paper form and input data at source.  E form technology improves accuracy, eliminates double keying and, using data field validation, addresses errors at source.

Self-service should not be feared. Opening up access to your data improves accuracy (we all know how hard it is to achieve accurate data when employees don’t tell you about their change in circumstances). For those who fear data access by unauthorised individuals, well, reflect on the risk of documents left on photocopiers versus the risk of data securely contained in an HR system that logs out after a few minutes of inactivity.

• Tip five – use technology to manage your HR compliance

The boring stuff is often also the important stuff. An overwhelming advantage of digital employee files is the ability to undertake compliance checks with ease. For example, how do I know that 1,000 paper files in a cabinet all have proof of right to work? Intelligent technology gives us real-time monitoring and legal confidence.

HR compliance demands increase every year – as do the financial penalties. To a name a few …

  • Immigration ID checks
  • Driving licence checks for company drivers and insurance checks for private car users driving on company business
  • Every employee to have a written statement of the main terms of their employment
  • Disclosure and Barring checks for certain occupations

And then the requirements to be able to show that you have shared information with employees on “mandatory issue” company policies. For example…

  • Your GDPR compliant privacy notice
  • The Bribery Act
  • Safeguarding – in certain sectors

A good cloud-based HR system makes light work of these checks through its compliance monitoring capabilities, helping you reduce paper use too.

• Tip six – utilise technology to engage new hires before they have even started!

We have all experienced the ‘no show’ new hire, or the candidate who, after offer, resigns before they have even started. It’s become a common problem as work values change, yet we still engage with this “most at risk” population very little before they start. We spend much time chasing the candidate to offer stage, then cut contact while they work out their notice. Potentially other job applications they have been pursuing are still closing out, so it’s vital we keep the new hire relationship alive.

Onboarding technology can play a major part in building that engagement. Videos, information and frequent news updates straight to the employee’s phone can be set up with ease.

I hope this has given you a flavour of the benefits that HR technology will bring, and that having a clear vision and strategic plan is much more likely to get you there. The key is to have real clarity up front about what you want to achieve, so that you follow through until it’s delivered.

About Vero HR

Vero HR specialises in providing a highly personalised approach to HR outsourcing.  Supporting clients with less than 50 employees right up to businesses with over 1000 employees, Vero are experienced in the issues that small businesses with “informal” approaches to HR face; that fast growing start-ups encounter and the HR problems larger international corporates face too. Vero provides the full range of HR support needs under their branded services, including Vero Technology. With an experienced team of HR technology professionals who implement and develop cloud-based HR technology solutions to support businesses of all sizes, Vero are able to implement technology solutions quickly, cost effectively and to help you get the most out of your HR tech in the future. Their true added value comes from having a team of dedicated technology professionals all of whom have worked in generalist HR roles first.

If you would like further advice on any of the issues discussed in this article, then email us at enquiries@verohr.co.uk and we will be in touch.

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