HR - no longer the poor relation of the business

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Increasingly, the business expects HR to deliver tangible commercial results. So why then, has HR played the poor relation for so long when it comes to investment in new tools and technologies? Every other department – from marketing to finance – seems to win the case for specialist tech.

It’s time for a little queue barging from HR. This article will give you the ammunition you need to fight back and dispel some of those old, yet prevailing myths about investing in HR software – and become an HR enabler rather than an HR administrator.

Myth 1: HR can’t be trusted with technology

There’s a widely held view that HR people are sadly lacking when it comes to technology. While this may have been true a few years ago, the profession is quickly catching up with many practitioners acquiring data analytics know-how or, at the very least, improving their understanding of how the business can benefit from some of the latest Cloud-based solutions.

But companies who are worried their HR people won’t be able to deal with the nuances of single sign-on or data security are kind of missing the point.  It’s not about the technicalities of how systems work (the latest generation systems typically come ‘out of the box’ with no need for advanced tech knowledge) – it’s about the soft skills needed to support successful implementation of a new HR software system.

HR people typically have the necessary skills – selecting suppliers, change management, communication, employee engagement – in spades.  And, of course, they are used to delivering major projects, on everything from graduate recruitment to leadership development, on budget and on time.  So, if marketing can be trusted to invest in a CRM or marketing automation system, why can’t HR be trusted to do the same?

Making the shift to an automated system isn’t just about saving time – it’s also about increasing the value of the data the business holds.

Recommendation:  Stand your ground.  Remind the board of what you’ve achieved in the past and why your skill set is relevant.

Myth 2:  Spreadsheets are good enough for HR

Actually, spreadsheets are really not good enough. First of all, they require a huge amount of time and effort to keep up-to-date. Hours that HR people could be spending more productively on other things are wasted approving holiday requests, logging sickness and making sure employee data is accurate.

The spreadsheets get passed from pillar to post, no-one is ever sure who has the latest version and the organisation has no single source of ‘truth.’ But making the shift to an automated system isn’t just about saving time – it’s also about increasing the value of the data the business holds.

If information is held in one central, easily accessible place, it’s easier for the organisation to spot company-wide issues, such as high levels of absence or skills gaps, and for line managers to make better informed decisions about resourcing projects or where to best invest their training budget.  It allows the business to join the dots, streamline processes and become more agile.

Recommendation:  Demonstrate why spreadsheets are impractical and are letting the whole organisation down.

Myth 3: It’s way too expensive

Some organisations have been tainted by previous bad experiences of IT-related projects that have spiralled out of control and gone way over budget.

They will want to see a really convincing business case – and be reassured that the project will be tightly managed - before they are prepared to put the money for a new HR software system on the table.  The first thing to point out is that pricing models have changed massively in recent years, bringing the latest generation HR software within reach of even the smallest business.

Up-front fees are generally fixed and some vendors offer a pay-as-you-go model, meaning the business only pays for the number of active employees they have at any one time.  But, of course, it’s not just about what it costs – it’s also about what an automated system can save the organisation, in terms of both time and money.

Less IT resource is required (systems are hosted in the Cloud with upgrades and support managed by the vendor), leaving the IT team free to concentrate on other projects.

Ditto for HR, who are released from time-consuming admin so they can concentrate on the more strategic, value-adding aspects of their role. A centralised system can also help the business avoid potentially costly errors – for example, making sure information needed to support disciplinary or right to work procedures is readily available.

Recommendation:  Put together a business case that highlights savings and efficiencies and aligns with the organisation’s overall objectives.

Myth 4: Our data won’t be safe

Given recent horror stories about employee data leaks (not to mention the challenges posed by the incoming GDPR), it’s easy to understand why the business might be concerned about the security of its data.  But the truth is that the best HR systems are much safer than an Excel spreadsheet that gets emailed around the business and often isn’t even password protected.

If information is held in one central, easily accessible place, it’s easier for the organisation to spot company-wide issues.

As many have found to their cost, spreadsheets are also easily corrupted – it only takes one person to input information in the wrong place, delete something by mistake or transfer the spreadsheet to a laptop where it may be vulnerable to viruses.  Automated systems are pretty much water-tight.

They will typically have multiple layers of security, including encryption, robust security permissions based on roles and will comply with all the relevant IT security standards. Another worry organisations often have is that by hosting their employee data outside of the organisation, they are somehow losing control over it. This isn’t the case.

With the right software system, data will be just as accessible as if you were hosting it internally and any supplier worth their salt will have a process in place to give you back your data for free should you decide to cancel.

Recommendation:  Ask potential vendors for information about data security and involve IT so they can provide reassurance.

Myth 5: People won’t use it

Employee self-service is now commonplace – indeed most employees welcome the opportunity to be able to update their own data, log absence and access information about holiday entitlement without having to go through lengthy processes or wait for answers from HR.

It’s also worth noting that there is a recommendation in a side note to the GDPR that employees should be provided with self-service access to their own data so they can check and, if needed, update the information you hold about them.

You will, of course, always face resistance from people who don’t like change and feel they don’t have the time to learn a new system – although, in reality, most HR software systems are very straightforward and intuitive and no more challenging than an online shopping site. 

The key to getting everyone on board successfully is to communicate effectively and provide support and training.  Managers in particular are likely to become enthusiastic advocates once they see how much easier it is to access information and keep track of their team’s movements.

Recommendation:  Use the forthcoming GDPR to promote your case for an automated system

About Sue Lingard

Sue Lingard Cezanne HR Software

Sue works for Cezanne HR, the leading provider of flexible cost-effective Cloud-native HR software for mid-sized and growing UK and international businesses. Having studied Personnel Management at the London School of Economics, Sue started her career in the travel industry before moving into much more exciting, and constantly evolving, software sector.

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