Five Easy Steps to Choosing the Right HR
Most HR managers agree that purchasing a feature-rich,
easy-to-use HR automation program is a smart investment. Automation
can eliminate hours of time spent each month tracking performance
reviews, vacation accruals, benefits, compensation, applications,
and other items. In addition, automated reporting cuts staff
hours even further; provides management with timely, accurate
reports it needs to operate efficiently; and makes HR a vital,
visible part of the organization.
Finding the right software package, and the right
company to help you through the conversion process, is a critical
step in easing into automation. Laying out a systematic game
plan that leads you through the process should include:
1. Determine the needs, requirements, and
desires of your company ¾ including budget parameters.
2. Research the available software packages within the
price range and request demo software on each likely package.
3. Test the software against your company’s requirements.
4. Ask questions about the package, support, implementation,
5. Make a decision .
Determine company needs
The rule here is "know your company." The more you
understand about the company’s current needs, its growth rate,
and its strategic plan, the better able you will be to match
a software program to those needs. The first things to consider
are company size, growth, and turnover rates. Most important,
find out what other software your company is using for payroll
and other internal functions to ensure anything you purchase
will interface easily with existing programs. Also, know your
company’s database and multi-user requirements.
By talking with others in the human resource department
and company management, you can put together a comprehensive
list of needs by priority. The category of "nonnegotiables"
may include budget concerns, compatibility with existing software,
and certain critical functions. When you begin your search, you
should immediately disregard those programs that do not meet
those basic criteria.
Research available software
The second step is to find out what’s available. Laila Allen,
an HR professional who has helped companies automate their human
resource function, prefers using a three-pronged approach. "I
start by looking at recent HR publications to determine what
issues are being discussed and who is advertising products that
seem to meet my needs. I also ask other colleagues and search
the Internet for other product offerings. When I have compiled
a list of potential products, I begin contacting all the prospective
companies to request software demos."
This is a time when you should weed out any products
that do not meet your nonnegotiable requirements for price, function,
Test driving the software
Generally, you should test for six things: actual ability to
integrate with current software, ease of learning, simplicity
of data entry, function performance, flexibility, year 2000 compliance,
and reporting capabilities. If you have a critical need, be
sure to test that section of the software most thoroughly. In
addition, you should spend some time trying to create custom
reports and personalize the system to make sure it will conform
easily to your real-world needs.
Another area to look at is flexibility. If your
company is growing, it is critical to assess how easily and how
far a program can expand. The last thing you want to do is upgrade
to a larger, more powerful system shortly after having completed
the conversion process.
Last, it’s very smart to test the software company’s
support to see how well the products are supported. According
to Allen, "Sometimes I was able to call them directly, other
times I had to go through the sales person. Talking to the help
desk is very valuable, since that’s the group you’ll be dealing
with after the sale."
As you test each product, make a checklist of the key plus and
minus points for every program ¾ and always look for the
best price/performance ratio.
Verify your findings by talking with each of the references supplied
by the companies. Where possible, speak with the person responsible
for actually implementing the program. That will quickly reveal
a depth of information about the program that you might otherwise
find out the hard way.
When talking with the software salesperson, look
for areas of potential concern. For example, Allen found that
when she asked about future enhancements to the program, sales
people often told her what was missing from the current package.
In addition, ask questions of the technical support staff such
as "What is the most common problem people run into during
implementation?" or "What functions of the program
do people most often ask you about?"
Pricing is another area that may require probing.
Software companies typically meet the varying needs of companies
by creating software modules. Also, technical support is sometimes
included with the package and sometimes offered at an extra charge
after a certain amount of time. Avoid pricing tiers based on
employee counts as rapid growth will force you to upgrade prematurely.
Finally, there’s the question of implementation.
Some companies provide onsite support, others offer training
classes, and still others provide only a phone number to call.
Of course, the more attention available, the easier it will
be to make the transition. On the other hand, each level of
implementation support will likely reflect on the real price
Though often presented as a tedious and difficult
process, implementation is frequently very simple. Remember,
you are simply automating something that already exists, not
recreating the department. As a rule, the better organized a
department is, the easier and faster it is to automate.
Make a decision
While this five-step process may seem lengthy, making the decision
follows naturally from the steps. By the time you reach this
point, the winner is usually clear. And by following the steps
you may save considerable time during the conversion process
because you gain familiarity with the products and the process
of automating. You will also have an established relationship
with a company before you begin the conversion and can make training
arrangements to get started right away.
Jim Witschger is the founder and CEO of Technical
Difference, creators of PEOPLE-TRAK™
software, a human resource software program designed to offer
companies a feature-rich, affordable alternative to high-priced
programs. Witschger has 10 years’ experience working in the human
resource software field and 19 in software research development.
Reprinted from December, 1998 Workforce Extra