HR Technology Q & A with Jennifer Payne

The 2016 HR Technology Conference is October 4-7. Over the next month The SHRM Blog will feature a Q & A series with several HR technology experts who will offer their perspective on how technology is impacting the HR profession today -- and their predictions for the future.

The following is a Q & A with Jennifer Payne, Manager, Talent Management & Engagement at Tops Markets and presenter at the 2016 HR Technology Conference & Exposition.

Q.  What are the advantages of combining both HR professionals and technology process experts to design software that will address HR’s future challenges?
You obviously need the technology process experts, because they are the ones that know what’s possible from a technical perspective…what type of functionalities can be developed.  But by involving HR professionals in the process, you’re going to get the perspective of your end users and what they need a technology solution to accomplish.  You can offer all sorts of fancy technical design and bells and whistles, but they won’t mean anything if all of those features and functionality don’t do what HR pros need them to do.  I think you get real life, valuable business perspective by involving those who will have to use (or at least select and implement) the solution.
Q.  What do you want HR professionals to understand about the process of selecting HR software?  What are the key considerations? 
You need to have a full understanding of what your needs are before you even start the process.  If you’re selecting a brand new solution, know exactly what you need it to do and which business issues/needs it will address.  If you are replacing a current system, have a full understanding of exactly what your current system does, what you still need the new system to do, and where your current system is lacking and how you’d like the new system to address those gaps. What are your “need to haves” vs. your “nice to haves?”  Once you begin the demo process, you can never ask too many questions.  It can be easy to get caught in making assumptions or just hearing what you want to hear during the initial demo and selection process.  And it’s probably wise to involve a few end users in the process to not only get their perspective (they may bring up questions or issues you don’t think of) and get their buy-in.  They may end up being your advocates for the system once you start the roll-out.
Q. What advice do you have for HR professionals that will help to ensure a more successful technology implementation?  Where are most mistakes made? 
Sort of echoing what I said in my previous response, making assumptions and not asking enough questions are definite pitfalls, and involving end users is important.  Beyond that, I would say not allowing for a realistic timeframe (i.e. trying to rush the project) and not allowing ample time for testing are big mistakes.  Your implementation team will give provide a project plan and associated timelines and deadlines – make sure you listen to them!  They’ve done this before and know what you’re likely to encounter along the way.  And make sure you have plans for both thorough end-user training and support post go-live.  Know what kind of support your vendor partner is going to provide and what you’re going to be expected to provide internally….again, don’t make any assumptions! 
Q. What are the biggest challenges to employee adoption of new HR technology and what advice would you give to HR professionals to ensure that employee adoption of new HR technology is successful?  
I think in general many people tend to be afraid of change; if not afraid, then at least a little wary.  It may be because they just don’t like change, they may see themselves as not tech savvy, or they may just feel like they are too busy to learn something new.  Of course you have those “early adopter” types who jump at the chance to embrace new technology, but especially in larger, more traditional organizations, you may encounter some resistance.  This is why it’s important to involve end users in implementation and roll-out.  Getting their buy-in early creates those advocates who can then articulate the benefits to their peers.  Then a thorough communication and training plan is key.  This plan should explain the reason for the change, explain how it’s going to benefit the organization – and, even more importantly, the end users themselves, and provide detailed support materials on how to use the system.  And finally , an ongoing support plan to continue to help and guide end users as they start to utilize the technology is just as important as all of the steps leading up to roll-out. 
Q.  As technology evolves, what do you think the future of HR will look like?  
I don’t think this is anything that hasn’t been said before, but the more technology we have at our disposal, the more we can automate processes and put information and functionality into the hands of our employees, the more we will move away from administrative and transactional-based jobs to strategic and advisory type roles.  I think HR will have the opportunity to facilitate more business decisions by teaching people how to use the tools available to access data and make better decisions; and we ourselves will be able to access more data to make better business recommendations and decisions too.  It’s exciting because there’s an opportunity to keep elevating our profession and become known as departments of strategic advisors rather than just “doers.” 
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