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Unrealistic Expectations & Bad HR Technology

I love Star Wars and raised my kids with a love for it as well.   As soon as my youngest could walk, I took them to Star Wars days at Disney World – my son when through Jedi Academy, my daughter climbed on Chewbacca, I was “the best mom ever” for a moment.  June in Florida is not ideal time to visit, but I knew what we were getting into, had expectations low and even with the crowds and breathtaking humidity, it was amazing.

Reality lived up to expectations.

Since that trip, many more Star Wars movies have come out and each time we are at the theater on opening night, the lines are abuzz with anticipation – each episode going to be “the best one yet”.    It never fails after the movie, some, so pumped up before, are disappointed because they had hyped it up so much in their minds that it could never meet the expectations.

Sometimes our expectations are not realistic.

I have the chance over the years, to work with dozens of companies on evaluation, selection or implementation of software.  Few were replacing just to replace, most were unhappy and thought that another vendor would solve all the issues they faced.

In more recent years, I’ve been working with HR Tech vendors who were looking to improve client satisfaction and retention rates to address some of these issues.

At the surface, it is easy to blame the products.  As you dive in, both sides have accountability in the issue.

Most unhappy clients are due to bad implementations, not product.

Give me any software vendor – on premise, cloud, enterprise, mid-market, full suite, point solution, large, start-up, etc – and I can show you corporate human resource teams that both hated and loved the product.   In fact, I’ve seen a company fall in love with a whitelabeled version of what they had and claim it was “so much better” than the non-whitelabeled solutions purely because of the implementation and set up.

There are a lot of problems with all of the products out there.  A perfect product isn’t a reality and believing the marketing hype that one exists will only set your vendor, company and project up for failure.

It is hard for us to not place blame, it is human nature – especially when we are talking about the investment of something as large as software – but if we take the step back and look at our expectations and find realistic solutions to fix the problem vs blame, we will have much higher product satisfaction.

5 Steps if you are Unhappy with Your HR System

  1. Talk to the company – The majority of people who call me and want to look at new products, haven’t even talked to their own system about their concerns.   Some companies are pretty responsive to this and the issue can be solved through an update, custom fix or even something as simple as turning a module on (or off). Ask what is coming as far as releases in the near (less than 6 months) future.  If your contact isn’t as responsive, push a little.
  2. If you have been happy with the service & support – simply ask for a new full demo – It sounds silly, but every demo is different and sometimes an account manager has a note in their CRM that you aren’t interested in X so they just don’t bring it up.  If you haven’t done a demo in the last 2 years,  a lot has likely changed with the product offerings.  A relatively short time frame can change the look and feel of a software – especially point solutions like ATS, Recruiting CRM, Performance Management & Learning.  For full suite offerings, the addition of new features or modules may solve your issues.   With roughly 80% of corporate HR teams that I have worked with, this was the initial step in determining if they evaluated new software.  More than half of those clients were surprised to find the vendor offers what they are looking for and end up not doing a full evaluation and selection of new software – saving the company huge amounts of money.
  3.  Re-asses your process & implementation.  It isn’t uncommon for technology to be implemented without strategy, thoughtful planning or clear alignment of their process.  Sometimes the technology would be what set the process.  Other times, your process and strategy simply changed since you bought your technology.  In short, it may be your companies fault for not having the product implementation done correctly.  Before looking at new technology or fixing your system, make sure your strategy and process is worked out.   There are a number of consultants in the space that can work with you on that from employment branding to talent acquisition to talent management to learning.  Remember that Software will amplify, not hide any shortcomings in your talent strategy or process.  If your process is clear, defined and you have a number of other products to integrate effectively – you may find value in using an implementation firm (companies like Talent Function, OneSource Virtual, Appiro do this for the Enterprise level).   Small to mid-market (under 7,500 employees) can often do this with the support of a strategy & process expert to walk them through the process and act as a liason or support for a dedicated person on your team.
  4. Be Creative.  If you can’t change systems look at how can you make your system work for your needs.  Talk through your issues with your account manager or reach out to an expert for help.  These days, I don’t do selection and implementation but I do help companies use products better.   A lot of analysts, consultants, etc can do the same for you – we have seen a lot of different installs and unique work arounds that you may not have thought of.     Even during the selection process this can be valuable – a sales person or demo consultant may not have seen as many post-implementation ways the product has been used creatively. Before or after, you can use your expertise and a little out of the box thinking with the product to find ways to make your current solution work better with little to no investment at all.  Many systems can do a lot more than even the vendors think they can do – just because it isn’t in the talking points or specifically laid out in the demo, doesn’t mean it can’t be done….For instance, MANY applicant tracking systems can function as a crm too with a few minor tweaks – but they can’t usually help you do it if you can’t explain to them what you exactly want.
  5. Evaluate other solutions. Sometimes, it is just time to be done. A product, service or support team just isn’t for you.  Or, you just aren’t sure if you are having a grass is always greener moment.  Seeing what other products can, or can’t, do helps you have a reality check.  It may make you realize there is a better product or help you locate point solutions that will solve your larger issues.

I have met with CHRO’s on their 3rd, 4th, even 5th systems that have “hated” all of them. The common issue (beyond the company) was the lack of planning, selecting products that didn’t fit their needs and implementation issues from the beginning.

If you are struggling with your solution or getting ready to evaluate – make sure you really step and think through the reasons you are looking, what the real challenges are with your current solution and make sure you have your process, strategy and expectations aligned before you start selection process or implementation with any vendor.

Your team, future vendor, budget and sanity will thank you.

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Sarah Brennan

Sarah Brennan is a recognized HCM industry analyst and advisor focused on improving the impact of technology on people, business and the future of work.  Sarah Brennan has been named a top global influencer in HR Technology by more than 50 publications and shared her insights at speaking engagements around the world. As Chief Advisor at Accelir, she partners with HR Technology vendors and investors as an advisor, interim CxO role and on engagements focused on growth strategies, product roadmap & market education/evangelism. She also works with corporate teams enhancing talent strategies.

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