Do you operate Chicken and Egg HR Management?

The shiny new HR system is yours, the consultants have implemented it and the money has long since left the bank account… so why are the team in HR still not happy?!

The amazing people who look after employees rely on sophisticated HR systems specially designed to handle the time-consuming parts of HR work. If the transactions, calculations, alerts, approvals and reporting are all sorted then that leaves enough time to do all of the other HR work that they enjoy.

In theory that all sounds idyllic, now go to your HR team and ask them one question: “Do you have enough time to carry out the workload you have been tasked with?”

Let me guess…is the answer “No”? Have you had dirty looks, colourful language and flying stationary? If so, you are not alone!

So what went wrong? How can you fix it?

When you and your colleagues went through the procurement process, you carefully assessed the capabilities of HR systems and selected the solution that was most aligned to your current and future business requirements.

Clever HR systems are a reality, they do exist, and they are capable of taking the pain out of your job. However, by the time you get to week one of your implementation your product knowledge is usually out of date. These clever systems are clever because they are in continuous development.

When you go through an implementation of a new HR system, you design the build with everything you need to get to go live.

All those additional benefits you are going to gain, all those new features you saw in demonstrations, you get to apply them, click your fingers and make your life easier. Well it’s not quite that easy.

It is a long and challenging process. Think back to the end of your last implementation - how many other things had you planned to adopt after go live? How many of those did you actually achieve?

The fact is life gets in the way; we are all very busy people. After an exhausting implementation, when you get to go live you deserve a period of back to normal. Quickly you are reminded that the organisational demands for day-to-day HR and Payroll do not disappear. Instead of training, your team is back to the grind.

The HR team will have to discover the new functionality, they will also have to embed the new processes and support with organisation wide change. In addition, your system supplier will also release new feature functionality, often several times a year.

All those changes could be more beneficial, if there is the time to properly understand and share the information.

Some organisations will employ a system administrator who is dedicated to continuing configuring and rolling out new system features. Others will create super users within HR and Payroll who are upskilled to be able to configure new features.

So why aren’t you fully benefiting from your HR system?

Well there are three common causes:

  1. Since the last recession, we have seen a decline in system administrator roles. This may have fixed a short-term budget problem but consequently is costing organisations money because they are not maximising their return on investment.
  2. Super users are brilliant but already in a full time role and have implemented many changes over recent years (e.g. legislation reform, pension changes, talent management, employee engagement and handling data etc. etc.) When do these super users get the time to review new system features and implement them? The honest answer is they don’t.
  3. People naturally leave organisations for all sorts of reasons. It is an unfortunate reality that you lose system expertise through attrition. That knowledge is often lost, either through inability or through organisational unwillingness.

Do organisations stop evolving because they have lost HR system knowledge or because super users have a busy workload? Of course not! They cannot. They must change to sustain revenue targets and growth.

What happens when changes affect your workforce?

Changes come thick and fast; terms and conditions, new ways of calculating pay, new pension rules etc. they are not optional and they all require implementing by strict deadlines.

If you do not have system expertise to configure the changes in your HR system, the HR team will end up manually processing the changes outside of your system.

Now you are in the dreaded Chicken and Egg HR Management situation. Your job is even busier because you are managing the employee related changes manually; reducing the time available to configure your clever HR system to automate the processing for you.

As you are processing manually, you also need to add further checks into the process to eliminate any risk of human error. This ends up becoming a vicious circle.

When you selected your HR system, how many feature functional requirements did you identify? 50, 100, 200, more?

How many supporting services requirements did you identify? 10, 15, 20?

So how do you get the best from your HR system?

Well the glaringly obvious answer is to have a dedicated system administrator or super user with ring-fenced system admin time; however, this is not always commercially viable for organisations.

Therefore, here are the two things you can do today to solve your problem:

  1. Invest in an internal upgrade process. Bring together representatives from HR, Recruitment, Learning & Development, Payroll and People Managers. Give them time to review the release documentation then meet up and agree a combined approach. Secure resources and build your implementation plan, make sure you allocate realistic time to configuration. Importantly. Do not forget to test first before rolling out to the business. You may need internal communications support to reach all colleagues, make sure everyone knows what is happening, when, why and how this affects them.
  2. Talk to your software supplier. They can provide HR and Payroll industry experts who will help you to get the most out of your system and work directly with you to introduce best practice, building operationally efficient processing, saving you time and improving accuracy.

The Chicken and Egg HR Management situation can be resolved but it takes self-reflection, determination and clarity of purpose from organisations. If you would like to discuss this further, just connect and drop me a message. I’d like to read about your thoughts, experiences and the solutions you’ve developed. Julie Lock, Service Development Director, MHR