A Buyer’s Guide to HR Tech

Posted in Research Thoughts & Culture

The foundation of a great people experience is your HR tech stack. However, there’s now so much choice out there that navigating the HR tech landscape can seem overwhelming.

If you’re facing HR tech buying decisions or you’ve been tasked with improving an element of your employee experience and you believe HR tech can play a pivotal role in the solution, then here are my four top tips for being a savvy purchaser of HR tech.

1) Know your user and their needs before you buy anything.

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What’s the problem you’re trying to solve and who are you solving it for?

For example, you may want to help new employees feel like they belong and to quickly connect with their colleagues.

What’s currently getting in the way of this or preventing this from happening more readily? Is it about existing employees having the time to welcome new hires? Is it an information or knowledge gap – i.e., existing employees not being aware of who new starters are or when they’re joining; or new hires not knowing who’s who in the company or appropriate ways of introducing themselves to colleagues.

In this scenario, your users are both new and existing employees. They have different needs and motivations. While a new hire may want to feel an early sense of belonging and connection to their team, existing employees may be more motivated by having a new hire quickly able to contribute and deliver value. Both sets of users are likely to want the first few weeks to run smoothly, for time consuming admin tasks to be minimal, and to be able to focus on developing a positive working relationship.

The more you understand about your users and what they want to achieve, the better you’ll be able to identify the appropriate technology that can help.

2) Know the market: We have more flexibility than ever before in the HR tech landscape.

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There’s been an explosion in HR tech available to companies. Where companies used to be constrained to a few big players who would build expensive custom HR platforms with clunky user experiences, today consumer-grade technology is available at prices even bootstrapped start-ups can afford.

So my second piece of advice is to be wary of getting tied in to a single big provider that restricts your flexibility. Consider how you need your different systems to interact and how your HR tech may need to evolve over time. To begin with, you may just need a platform to store employee data and ensure payroll runs smoothly, but in time you may want the ability for employees to request holidays or book desks in a flexible workspace; you may want an internal communication tool that can send all hands updates or personalised messages to particular groups of employees; you may want a way of rewarding and recognizing employees digitally or supporting people’s learning and development.

There’s brilliant technology out there that can do each of these things, but no one piece of HR tech that can do all of them brilliantly. Early on you may be looking at Workable for recruitment, Slack for communication, Notion or Confluence for asynchronous collaboration and documenting and any one of the numerous HRIS providers for start-ups. However, as your needs evolve, so should your technology. So go into any new tech purchase well informed and with future development possibilities in mind.

3) Consider user experience. It doesn’t matter how good the functionality of the tech is; if the user experience is terrible, no one is going to use it.

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People expect their experience of tech at work to be as good as their consumer experiences – easy to use, engaging, slick, and simple. If you invest in tech that does something very clever – maybe it gives you great business insights reports – but the user experience is painful, then people will quickly find alternative ways of solving their problem (and bang goes those useful insights you thought you were going to get).

HR tech that’s easy to set up and adopt is essential. When you implement a new piece of tech, one of the first pieces of data you’ll want to look at is adoption/usage rates. You know the user experience is really great when people are suggesting new use cases for the tech, or business units are clamouring for access or implementation in their part of the business.

The super user friendly and engaging workflows is something I really admire about Enboarder. I’m never surprised when I meet one of their customers who says they were initially given Enboarder to implement as a three month project in their business and then 18 months later they’ve become the Enboarder guru supporting more and more parts of the business to design and build new workflows and maximize the benefit the whole business is getting from the tool.

4) Make sure you have a single source of truth on your people data.

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One of the challenges of there being a proliferation in specialised HR tech is that there’s a tool available for every use case. You can easily end up with 20 different platforms all performing different, useful functions and each with data telling you something different about your employees and their behavior. Tallying the data from one platform with another can become a real headache.

When an employee changes their name, can you easily update their record so it’s reflected correctly across the entire system? Are you able to run experiments to see whether providing access to new learning content in one system has an effect on employee engagement (measured in another system)?

If you want to be smart about the way you develop your employee experience then you need to think like a scientist. Create a hypothesis about what you think will happen/you’d like to happen, build a feedback loop to give you some data on the actual impact, and then use this data to inform what you do next.

To do this well, before buying any new HR tech, you need to think through your system integration and data insight needs. Look at platforms like Personio and Youda to help you with this. Good people scientists need a single source of truth on their people data.

The Pioneers provide people products and support to startups, scale-ups and small businesses who want to create a culture they can be proud of.