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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workspace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of “JoyPowered®: Intentionally Creating Inspired Workspaces,” and also the book “The JoyPowered® Family.” With me today is my good friend and colleague, Susan White, a national HR consultant.
Our topic today is HR technology. Susan and I both have experience with HR technology, but certainly don’t claim to be experts.
So we’ve invited our friend and expert Jessica Stephenson. I consider her to be a technology superuser in both HR and with social media. Jess, tell us about yourself and your personal life experiences with HR technology.
Thanks for your kind words and for inviting me to join you on the podcast. I’m excited to have this opportunity and definitely love talking about bringing HR and technology together. My background is in human resources and marketing, and I’ve always worked for smaller, fast growth organizations. I’m the Vice President of Marketing and Talent for the Indianapolis-based HR software firm ExactHire, as well as President-Elect for my local SHRM chapter, so I’m passionate about working at the intersection of HR technology, content marketing, and digital media. My involvement with SHRM has allowed me to get to know both JoDee and Susan. Additionally, I hold my SHRM-CP and PHR certifications.
Jess, so tell us a little bit more specifically now about your company ExactHire and what services and technology they provide.
Sure, JoDee. We develop software that automates and improves the hiring process. Specifically, that includes HireCentric applicant tracking software, OnboardCentric employee onboarding software, and RefCentric reference checking software. We also have relationships and some integrations with a handful of employee assessment providers. All of our applications follow the software as a service model, commonly known as SaaS.
You know, interesting, I…Jess, we’re so glad to have you, and I have been seeing more and more companies using ExactHire. So where did you start? In Indianapolis? And really, how large are you?
Yeah, we are headquartered in Indianapolis. We are a smaller organization, but that works well, because we largely work with smaller and medium sized employers, as well. And so we’ve been around since 2007.
Oh, that’s great.
Jess, one question I’d like to start with up front that I think is critical for many HR professionals and/or organizations. I hear many HR professionals claim that their organizations will never go for new or other upgraded technology, but they’re not even asking the question sometimes. So how do you make a business case for incorporating more or new HR technology in your organization?
That’s a good question. To start things off, JoDee, I think making a business case starts with a discussion on how change can make the company more profitable. One of the primary reasons making a business case to senior management remains a challenging task is because the language and analytics traditionally used by HR professionals may not be as compelling to others in leadership roles. For instance, while turnover percentage and time to fill are reliable indicators to many in the HR space, these HR metrics don’t necessarily translate well to CFOs, CEOs, or presidents. So, for example, when adding applicant tracking, or, let’s say, onboarding software, some HR leaders focus primarily on justifying these new applications by focusing on efficiencies gained and/or time saved for staff. While these points certainly have merit, they also fall outside of the common terminology of many finance and ops leaders, because efficiency and staff time saved in HR are difficult to quantify, and that is directly attributable to the bottom line. These savings may be discounted or dismissed entirely. However, focusing on what direct impact those efficiencies can have on the revenue growth or profitability of the organization changes the conversation completely, I think. Identify the KPIs that impact business outcomes, and then paint the picture of how those business outcomes can be positively changed as the result of new tech implementation. Don’t forget to record benchmark levels for your key performance indicators, and organize your findings for senior management. I like to consider a SWOT analysis in which you’re illustrating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and then spread the word to gather internal support from those who will be most heavily impacted by the software application chain.
Does ExactHire help companies put together those business cases or even go through the SWOT analysis?
It’s not something that we specifically market as offering, but we’re always happy to help have that conversation with senior management. If the person who’s responsible for software selection isn’t necessarily the decision maker, we have a lot of robust content resources and blogs and ebooks and white papers that specifically talk about how to make a business case to senior management. And we are always happy to talk through the questions that you’d want to consider as an organization before you make that case that will help you go down the right path.
Oh, boy, I think that’s helpful. I think that’s where a lot of HR departments, especially if they’re just a department of one, really struggles to figure out. How do I sell this? So I think those are terrific ideas.
Yeah, Susan, I think we just got some great information for another podcast today. Talking to CFOs and senior management and using metrics and data, all of that could be a whole ‘nother conversation, not just for HR technology, right, but about growing your department or any other resources you need in HR.
So very helpful. I think so too, I think how to build a business case and really help your leadership make data-driven decisions.
There you go. That’s our header, right there.
One other assumption that I believe many organizations in HR professionals fall into is that they are convinced, or persuaded maybe, that their HR technology must revolve around their payroll system. What are your thoughts on this, Susan and/or Jess?
I can start things off, Susan. Yeah, we certainly encounter employers pondering this question frequently, and what’s right for one organization won’t be ideal for another. Not surprisingly, there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, so I’d suggest asking five questions to help determine which approach might be best for your employer. First, what are the overall priorities of your organization and for your HR department? For example, how important is recruiting relative to other HR functions? What about employee onboarding or even performance management? If hiring is not a high volume activity, then that probably points you in one direction versus another. Second, how much hiring will your organization do over the next year or two? Your projected hiring volume is going to impact your choice. And it might also tie into the next question, which is what specific applicant and/or employee data do you want to be pushed into payroll? So once I’ve hired someone, what exactly from the applicant tracking or recruiting side should push into payroll? And once those items are pushed, will I still need to key in additional info, such as social security number, birthdate, etc.? Because an applicant tracking system wouldn’t necessarily how is that kind of sensitive information in the first place. Now, that’s a bigger question on the ATS side than the onboarding side. That is, if you’re pushing from an onboarding application into a payroll module, make sure you understand what that is and make sure you understand how important it is and how much of it there is when you’re considering integration with payroll. Looking at features, does your hiring volume necessitate you to consider a more robust system that has the bells and whistles you need with a better user experience? Or is end to end integration the most critical need? How will your needs look next year or in a few years compared to today? And finally, price. Is there a notable difference between the options? If there is, what is the opportunity cost of choosing one solution over another in terms of sacrificing a more robust feature set, or conversely, in time spent importing data in the absence of an integration option?
In the companies that I’ve worked with, sometimes it did make sense to make sure that payroll was a important component of helping us select what type of HR technology. I would say at a minimum, it makes sense, if payroll happens to be housed under finance or especially another area other than HR, that…to have somebody from that area at least on the team that helps think through the technology selection, because at some point in time, we would like for them to be able to at least play friendly with one another.
Right. And you’re right that many payroll systems are a wide variety of…of quality for other modules, but I always try and remind people that payroll companies are focused on payroll, and what might be really good…where they might be really good on payroll doesn’t mean they’re really good at applicant tracking systems. That’s not to say, though, again, that they don’t have a good one, but I find that many of those extra modules are pretty basic type modules. And, you know, going back to all of your questions, just the more…the more you need them, what…your numbers, your volume, all that should determine that and not feel forced to just look at technology as more modules to your payroll system. I did have one question now for you, Jess. What do you mean you mentioned the word end to end integration. Can you explain to our listeners a little bit more about what that means?
So I have a metaphor I’ll use for that, and it’s it’s kind of morbid, but I heard someone else recently say it on a customer research call I had and I thought, well, that is…it makes it obvious what it’s talking about, but the whole idea of like a birth to death employee lifecycle. So when they are recruited and they first come into your system as an applicant, all the way to they are maybe being offboarded because they’ve chosen another career somewhere else.
Thank you for not saying because they died.
Yeah, so I thought, well, it’s memorable, although not happy. But yeah, and integration would be like if you had a full HRIS – or human resources information system – that had all modules in one. In talking with a lot of people, it’s sort of the dream to have everything in one solution, but unfortunately, the reality is that it’s often difficult in a single sign on solution to have as robust feature set as a growing organization may need in certain areas of HR, like recruiting or performance management or learning management, so forth.
So Jess, what are some things companies should look for when they’re choosing an HR software application or an HR software partner?
Sure. So you can kind of look at this from a few different buckets. And I’d like to first start talking about support and training, because that’s obviously a critical component, especially on the front end of choosing a new partner. So, you know, my recommendation is to really be honest with yourself about your organization support needs, as well as how much implementation assistance will be required for your team. So, for example, will your ongoing support needs be satisfied with a three day wait for the support tickets you submit? Or do you really need same day assistance in most cases? And consider the tech savviness of your internal product champions or the people in your company who are going to be using the product most frequently, as well as your end users, and that will depend on whether it’s a recruiting module and it’s an applicant…or maybe if it’s onboarding or performance management, so forth, that would be existing employees, and then also find out what training includes in the beginning from your potential tech partner. So is that one training session for all administrative users? Are there sessions available for restricted users such as hiring managers, also? And what about when your department has turnover later on way beyond implementation? Do you have access to recordings of your initial training sessions? How often is the product’s online knowledge base updated? Are there other resources you can use to get help, like newsletters or Q&A sections, videos, animated gifs, and training tip sheets, and so forth. So it’s fairly easy to do a quick search and find out how in depth the knowledge available is for training when you’re considering a partner.
Interesting comment about the turnover, Jess. I think most of us…or at least…maybe I’ll just speak for myself. We get really focused on training and support when we’re implementing it the first time around, but great point to think…what do we do down the road when somebody else needs it?
Yeah, exactly. And it happens. I mean, in the course of time I’ve worked at ExactHire – and I used to be in the client facing side of things – there’s…there’s always turnover, you know, especially if you work with a client that has a large HR department and it’s not necessarily in everyone’s wheelhouse to train the trainer, if you will. And so it’s nice to be able to have recordings of those sessions and so forth to access.
And training can look like lots of different things, right? It might be a live person coming to your office, it might be a webinar, it might be phone support.
Exactly, exactly. And it will probably depend on how expensive your prices are.
Right. Right. Right. Right.
So as a HR manager in a company, what are some of the things that I need to really think about in my organization when I first start this journey, trying to find a software application?
Sure, that’s a great question, Susan. And, you know, it really starts with knowing your own organization to be able to find the best vendor or application for your needs. So, you know, your true needs versus what I like to call your “icing on the cake” ones when it comes to functionality. And so your priorities will likely be impacted by a variety of factors, such as your organization size. Of course, you know, what works for a manufacturer of 350 employees is going to be vastly different compared to a pharmaceutical company of 10,000 or more employees. Of course, the industry in which you work, for example, some industries have very specific hiring requirements, such as trucking or security. Your compliance needs. Are you subject to affirmative action plan reporting? Do you work with e-verify? Do you utilize the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, WOTC? You know, what are your average number of hires per year? You might be a small organization, but if you just got a bunch of venture capital funding and you’re going to be hiring 150 employees in the next two years, then your organization is going to look a lot different. Whether or not you have a decentralized or centralized organization structure. Of course, the budget allocated to HR tech spending. Your need to integrate with any existing applications and consideration given for whether those other applications are hosted on internal servers or if they’re cloud based following the SaaS model. Your organizational growth plans, so what are your future scalability needs, and then your potential need to move data from one system to another in the case that you are leaving another provider for a new one, for example. And in evaluating these factors, remember to consider the needs of stakeholders such as HR administrators, hiring managers, supervisors, employees, and payroll and finance partners.
Great responses, Jess. I know with our clients I just see so many times that a small organization has a software that’s designed for a very large organization and they’re way overpaying for features that they’re not even using. But on the same token, I see the opposite side, too, where people are trying to do so much manual work and a very simple software system could do the trick for them at a really fairly minimal price. So it’s good to go through this. People, I think, sometimes get referrals from other companies about software that works or about training and support, but they’re not thinking about, how big is that organization, or what does that organization do, or what’s their turnover rate, etc. So we mentioned earlier about making a business case to sell technology to senior management. So I’m still kind of stuck on this. I wonder if you have thoughts about how can we get technology vendors to help us develop this case or what…what questions might we be asking them to help us support that?
So with evaluating tech providers’ support resources, as we talked about earlier, I would also ask your tech vendor if they have any case studies, blogs, ebooks, or other content that help provide tips on how to make a business case, as well as specific ideas on which key performance indicators might be the most well-received by senior management. To elaborate on what Susan and I discussed earlier, for example, talk in the language of profit per employee or revenue per employee rather than turnover. Additionally, if it’s important for your tech vendor to partner with you in discussions with your senior management team, go ahead and ask for that. At ExactHire, we know that the product itself is not the only key to success for our clients. We strive to provide timely content that will help our users make the most of not just their product usage, but also how to tackle thorny HR topics they encounter on the job that might loosely relate to an aspect of our product. For example, tips on I-9 audits, the latest on Work Opportunity Tax Credits, which states have adopted Ban the Box legislation, or even that now restrict salary history questions, for example.
The one thing I would add to any business case is making sure that whatever you lay out really aligns to the the mission, the vision, the values, or the current objectives of that company. And it seems like most companies today are asking for employee engagement, more of it. They’re asking for career development, career pathing. And it’s just, like, a no brainer that bringing in HR technology can help an organization get better at some of the things that probably that company is striving to do.
So Jess, what do you do when an HR technology solution really works well for the HR team, it helps them keep compliant, helps them meet their goals, but it’s not always what works best, perhaps, for the other users in the organization or even the candidates?
Thanks for that question, Susan. And your approach will probably depend on whether you’re implementing a brand new HR application, or perhaps if there’s been turnover and you’re the new person coming into an existing application, as well, and trying to meet the needs of all users. So considering the user experience, both internal administrators and hiring manager level users, as well as applicants or existing employee end users. Considering all those users’ needs is critical to successful technology adoption. So if you are in a position to select a new software application, there are some questions you can ask to assess whether you’re on the right track. Consider to what extent other specific groups in your organization will use the application. It may be more important to meet some groups’ needs than others. So first off, how easy will it be to encourage others to consistently use the application? Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it? But it is a an important starting point. Next, will you need to do some due diligence to train people on how to use it or does your partner do all that? In either case, which will be the most well-received by your employees? Will it be pulling teeth to get others to the software? Kind of a reiteration of what we asked earlier, but a more graphic, easy to answer question. And if it is like pulling teeth, consider the reasons why it may be. Is it because you’re pursuing the wrong software or are employees overloaded with work and are not as tech savvy in some areas, as well? Where will others use your software? Will they be mostly on their desktop or will it be via phone while they’re on the go? This answer will vary widely depending on whether you are looking at tech companies, healthcare, and/or manufacturing clients. For example, if it’s while on the go, then make sure the interface of that software is mobile friendly. And finally, does the software have an employee self service orientation that will ensure your data remains accurate into the future? That is, employees can make their own changes as their circumstances change.
I love self service, you know, for a lot of reasons.
Yeah, me too. And interesting point, too, Jess, on the mobile technology. I know…I forget what the statistic is, but I saw somewhere recently about the number of applicants applying for jobs on applicant tracking systems is some crazy number like 75 to 80% are actually done on their phone versus a computer. So it’s…it might not be exactly that, but it was a number significantly higher than I would have ever dreamed…
Yeah, and more…
…it would be.
You know, more and more organizations are moving to such short applications to encourage mobile applicants to convert. Some of them only take a minute.
Now, you have to very carefully consider what type of jobs you’re seeking applicants for, as well as what your talent pool looks like. And, you know, are you getting the right kind of quality when you think about making that drastic move?
Given how tight the labor market is, it’s…I think the companies are gonna win that have the easiest to use and most readily available application processes.
Right, right. I mentioned earlier about some of our clients who I think overbought on technology or are not buying enough, but I know when I buy technology, I’m always afraid of that, too, afraid of buying more than I need, but also of not getting enough for me. It’s like getting a new iPhone. I…the 6 or 7 probably suits my needs, but if I do get the 10, I’m afraid the 11 will come out soon, and then I’ll be way behind, so I get this technology need. And I know one of the things you said to look for was projecting your system needs a year from now or five years from now to know what your system might need, to decide if it’s customizable or, or scalable. But what other questions should we be asking just to help us with that, to determine how much do we need?
Yeah, if we all just had a crystal ball…
We’d know exactly where we’d be in five years, right? It’s definitely more of an art than a science, for sure. So, like so many things, the answer for what is right for your organization will boil down to how well you know your organization. Like I mentioned earlier, be in tune with senior leaders’ plans for growth, what market conditions or legislative changes may impact your industry’s hiring curve, and whether you’re looking for any other functionality as a result of changing compliance needs. For example, in the next few years, will you likely become a federal contractor of a certain threshold and subject to affirmative action plan reporting for the first time? That’s a really specific example, but that’s a pretty common use case we see for people who are new adopters of applicant tracking technology, for example, right? So questions to bear in mind include: Are the software application’s user logins unlimited, or do you pay per user, or per job posting, in the case of recruiting software? Because, obviously, your costs could quickly inflate in coming years if you grow quite a bit if they are on that mo…that model, that is. Are there other HR modules you may wish to add in down the road? For example, learning management, performance management, etc. If you’re using a single sign on application available with a full HRIS, are the individual HR modules robust enough for your needs today and tomorrow? Again, if we had a crystal ball these would be easier questions to answer, but hopefully they get you started down the right path and thinking about, you know, what is the best use case for you?
You know, as hard as it is to predict the future, one of the things I really like about the whole concept of having a really good HR technology partner that’s a vendor is that they’re working with lots of other companies that are…probably have HR people smarter than me. So I love having that relationship so I can hear what are other companies doing given the change in, like, Ban the Box legislation in areas where they do business, etc. So I think just another benefit of making a really good selection on your partnership.
So Jess, it seems as though the clients that I work with, they are all now pretty comfortable with their applicant tracking system. Some have gone on to add training modules, some even succession planning modules. One module which I’m really having a hard time finding out there are employee relations modules. HR technology where businesses, HR people in…specifically, can track, for example, corrective action on employees or any other type of issue that comes up in someone’s career. Do you have any idea where you would go to look for this? Are there any standalone type of technology in the space?
That’s a great question, and I am probably not the best person to answer that, because I, off the top of my head, can’t think of anything very specific to employee relations. My guess is that some of the performance management applications out there may have an element of that, or depending how the organization sets expectations around how they would use that system and enter data. I mean, I would think that you could do things like PIPs and so forth in a performance management type of application. That is not one of the modules that we focus on yet at ExactHire, although it may come down the road.
Good. I do…I do think there’s a need. I had worked for a very large company who built their own, and then we were able to really start to see, across the U.S., anyway, where we would have a an uptick in, for example, complaints about different managers. It also helped us understand if we were having involuntary terminations happening somewhere, we would go back and look at our training. It really helped us get ahead of some…hopefully, some trends that we were starting to see.
Yeah. So, you know, that does bring to mind, not exactly what you were asking about, but something that might help unearth some of those trends, that would help you take action, is the whole idea of employee pulse surveys, whether you use a provider like maybe TINYpulse, I think there’s also Officevibe is another one, there’s a handful of them on the market. I did a trial of TINYpulse myself, and the whole idea is to every week or maybe every couple of weeks, depending on what frequency is right for your organization, to launch a mini-survey of one or two questions to probably your entire population, or maybe for focusing in different divisions, you could do it that way. But just a question to gather insights about what’s the pulse of your workforce, how is culture, how’s engagement, and so forth. And then you would anonymously gather all of that feedback. But then some of the tools allow you to then, without knowing who made the comment, respond to that person for additional clarification, but still retain the anonymity of the person.
Wow, I’d love to see that.
So that it does open up new possibilities to, like, pinpoint a potential issue, maybe even within just, like, a department, if the department’s big enough, or something like that. Another thing that some of those tools will allow you to do is, essentially, leave happy notes from one employee to the other. Like, anonymously praise someone. And, you know, I think most of them probably have a moderation feature where, you know, an administrator can make sure that indeed it is a happy note.
And not harassment. Yeah.
Exactly, exactly. But, you know, a tool like that, you know, could be either a replacement for or a supplement to, like, an annual employee survey, because it’s so hard to get some people to want to fill that out, because it’s so long and then you only get feedback once a year. So the idea of the pulse survey’s to get it throughout the year so you can make actionable change happen more regularly, you know, and just to give people an outlet. It’s like the virtual suggestion box.
I like it. I was reading recently about GE, who’s gone to PD at GE, so Performance Development at General Electric. And they were really the ones who had started the whole, you know, rank and yank process back in the 70s, and that really persisted for a long time.
Exactly. Right. And now, employees and managers can send mobile suggestions to each other. They can either be consider insights, like maybe you should consider doing this differently, or continue insights, you’re doing really well at this, keep it up. So I think that’s a great example. I also love…I’m gonna look into TINYpulse, because I think one of the things that was really difficult in employee surveys or any type of survey of employees is that people are afraid sometimes to tell the truth for fear that people are going to realize it was them. And so companies promise anonymity, and then they can do nothing about when someone says something horrible. Well, this is new technology that enables the employer to go back, at least anonymously back, just to…they don’t know who it is, maybe to explain what a harassment complaint process is or whatever. So thank you so much for that tip.
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So just one of the other big benefits, I think, of having really good HR technology is being able to pull data as you need it so that our leadership can make data-driven decisions. How do we know how easy it’s going to be to really get data insights out of the HR technology we might purchase?
You hit the nail on the head, Susan, and so much lately, I’ve been hearing in these research calls I’m doing with different organizations how painful it is to get data out of some kinds of applications and really pulling the insights that they need. So when you’re thinking about selecting a vendor, you know, be upfront with what types of reports you run today, as well as what you wish would be easier to get insights on, you know, with your current situation. So then as your new tech partner answers those, they’ll tell you if they have those available canned reports and if those reports are sufficient to meet your needs, and also find out if there’s a report building tool available to get insights on demand. If not, then what does it look like in terms of time and cost to get reports created by your vendor? Is it super time consuming and/or expensive for those one-off requests?
Jess, is it okay to ask technology vendors for references and for a list of their clients that are using the software we might go to to get some insight? I know I feel like it’s a little bit about checking references for new applicants, which I’m a fan of, and I believe companies should do more of that. But I also think some companies think, well, of course, they’re only going to give me good references, so maybe I shouldn’t even take the time. And maybe that’s the same with technology vendors. But honestly, sometimes when I have called for references on technology, I feel like I don’t know what I don’t know to ask. Any thoughts on that?
Yeah, that’s a great point. And I can see both sides, like, you’re only going to get good references from the references they provide you, but from that standpoint, it’s helpful to talk through how did they customize things and maybe they help you think of those questions you wouldn’t have thought to ask just by sharing what their experience is, so I would say absolutely ask your potential vendors for client references. First, I recommend doing your homework in asking your own HR contacts for their feedback on different systems, then when you are late in the process with one or two final potential vendor partners, do ask them for references. Additionally, vendors may have content in the form of blogs, white papers, etc. that highlights customer use cases and illustrates how they’ve used products to solve specific customization and/or reporting requests that might be relevant for your organization.
Recently, I’ve seen more use of social media to get feedback on technology, too, where people just go into a Facebook site with common users or, you know, an HR site and ask the question, hey, I’m looking at this software, any input on that. I guess that might be a way to get some unsolicited feedback, as well.
Yeah, absolutely. I certainly troll those social media sites to help out with that feedback sometimes, too. And you know, there are a number of software directories these days, too, like Capterra, Software Advice, GetApp are all popular software directories where you can find a ton of content about what other users of those software systems have said specifically. But again, take those with a grain of salt, because those organizations do a lot to get providers to get people to do references, as well. They are helpful for specific comments, but I would also, like I said, rely on your own contacts and your own social media networks, too.
I think that makes great sense. Sometimes I’ll do training programs with HR people in the room, and if we’re talking about behavioral interviewing or we’re talking about talent acquisition strategy, at some point during the two days, people say, so what HR technology are you using, and I’ll tell you, word of mouth really is important. People who have got good experience that are happy to share and people who have bad experiences are happy to share.
So let’s move to talk about customer support, because I think once you’ve signed the dotted line and you’re on a contract with someone, some of the things that maybe you were promised isn’t always reality. Technology vendors always seem to think their customer support is terrific and available. What are some questions that we should ask before we sign on the dotted line?
Well, Susan, I don’t disagree with that statement about what tech providers say about their own support, so asking questions to get to the actual data is important. Here’s some suggestions. How robust are the training materials available to learn the system? Better yet, don’t just ask this question. See how easy it is for you to find the training materials from the corporate website or within the support knowledge base. If it’s pretty easy to find materials when you’re not even a customer yet, it will only get better once you are. How is customer support structured and what is the average response time? I like this question, because some providers will have tiered support services that provide more support for more money. Others will have the same level for every customer. If there is a tiered structure, then find out the difference in response time for each tier, as well as whether certain tiers only provide email support without phone assistance. How long will product implementation take? This is the doozy question. I’m sure we’ve all heard horror stories about systems that have taken more than a year to implement. Know that the answer to this question will depend, of course, on what type of system you’re implementing. An ATS or recruiting system should take less time than a full HRIS, of course, and some systems with multiple modules will not be implemented all at one time, but rather in phases. So clarify whether implementation is likely to take only weeks or months and months, and then do your homework to validate whether the expectation set was the reality for other customers who previously implemented. Finally, know that you play a huge role in the length of your own product implementation. Many times implementations are delayed because the customer isn’t responsive even when the vendor is, not because they’re trying not to be, but just because, as we know, in the world of HR, lots of fires end up on your plate when you don’t expect them, and that sometimes makes those things drag on.
What are some of the internal obstacles you see that companies have about making a change to HR technology? That’s…so, assuming they already have technology on hand, but they want to go to a different vendor. I think there’s always a fear of…with technology that you’re going to lose all of your information, or I know sometimes, even with payroll systems, I’ve heard companies say, oh, you can only change payroll at the end of the year to…before going in, and I had a payroll vendor tell me one time that that was actually the worst time to change your payroll because year end was such a busy time for them, and that implementations really went much smoother if people would change in the middle of the year, but some of those fears are real, too. What other fears do you see with making a change?
Well, your comment just gave me another idea. Thanks JoDee. So I’ll start with that one. So, I mean, in my experience, they all fall into these buckets, and that first new one being…what does the contract look like for your existing vendor versus a new vendor? Is it an annual contract that locks you in for a whole year or is it month to month with, like, a 30 day opt out? Which, by the way, that’s what ExactHire’s is. And so that’s not too uncommon with a SaaS model, when you’re doing things in a cloud based format. So other internal obstacles would of course be budget. If you’re needing to move to a more robust application that has a higher price point, it could take some time to…to make the business case, if you will, for senior management to approve that. The staff bandwidth of your HR department is a huge factor, and one I hear about frequently from prospects and from customers. So, you know, whenever you make…especially if you’re changing from one system to another, rather than going from no system to a new system, I think changing from one to another might sometimes be more difficult, depending on how…how much help your new vendor gives you, but your old vendor isn’t always super helpful.
They’re not feeling really good about this. Right.
Exactly. So there’s that nuance to navigate. But yeah, how many people you have available to kind of be heads down and working on this. Getting employee and/or hiring manager buy-in to change. Of course, like we talked about earlier with the business case, perhaps a lack of desired integration options in a new system. So if you have a number of other existing applications and you absolutely want that end to end or seamless integration between those and a new product, then you may be limited on certain products having that integration already built. A lack of awareness about new features available in the market. The technology space is always changing. There’s always new things becoming available. And if, again, you have a bunch of HR fires on your plate, you may not have the time to do the research to know what you don’t know yet, right? And then I think this is a huge one with any kind of technology – inertia, right? The pain of making a move from an existing system just because you maybe sometimes inflate how bad it would be, but perhaps it is certainly disruptive to what your normal work life is.
Sure. Well, you know, Jess, of all the HR technology that’s available now for HR professionals, when I work with a small business, I usually suggest the one I would start with is applicant tracking. That can actually change your life and also probably make you a much better operation, not only from compliance standpoint, but also with your employment brand and bringing new talent in. So, specific to an applicant tracking system, how might we really integrate the concept of the candidate perspective? What is the most important elements to consider to make sure it’s a positive candidate experience, and what issues have you had engaging applicants or employees in the past?
Thanks, Susan. And you’re right, applicant tracking software is often the gateway software application for the small but growing organization. So when considering the applicant experience, it really comes down to interface and time, particularly in the last few years, as we see more and more people applying on mobile. So you have these considerations. What is the employment application length and is it easy to navigate? Like we touched on earlier, is there a mobile friendly interface so that we don’t have to do finger gymnastics to squeeze and expand things to be able to read them? Can candidates find your job postings where they would expect them? For example, does your software integrate with popular external job boards? Do you have the ability to easily post listings to social media networks and so forth? And I know we were talking about the applicant experience, but if we also expanded that to include employee onboarding and just HR software in general, think about the time it takes your end users, whether they be applicants or your existing employees, to complete items. So on onboarding side, that might be paperwork or updating employee data and a self service model. And ultimately, is it a joy for your workforce to interact with your HR software applications?
Susan, I think you made a good comment there, too, about employer branding. You know, I’ve heard applicants say before that they went to a particular site to apply for a position and it was too cumbersome, it was too long, it was frustrating, and so they just didn’t even apply. And that, I think, can say a lot about your company. Is that…is your company too cumbersome, too buried in old technology? Is that not an easy place to work once you get there? So I think that the HR technology you use, specifically applicant tracking system, can really be representative of your company…or it might not be representative, but candidates might think it’s representative, and…
You might lose them.
Right. Right. Be really careful with what that branding means. So.
That’s a great point, JoDee, about making sure that what you’re putting forth is going to make people feel good about wanting to work for your company. I mean, whether it’s your coolness factor… or your…you know, how easy it is for people to feel counted and welcomed, you know, whatever you call it. That’s critical, especially in a job seeker’s market, and so it kind of brings to light one of our existing clients, Marla Galasso, who’s the manager of recruiting support services for our client, BSM Consulting. And I…I’ll share a comment that she made about how moving to an HR software application, and in her case specifically applicant tracking system, has made her life easier and the candidate experience better and the business stronger.
Oh, good, please.
And so Marla writes, “Our business model is assisting healthcare clients finding leaders and providing for their practices. Prior to 2016, we were tracking applicants the old fashioned way – stacks of resumes with post-it notes and Excel spreadsheets with all of the tracking information by client. We were investing between six and eight hours per day just updating the tracking spreadsheet, because we knew that there was the possibility we would have to be prepared for an EEOC audit of any of our clients,” because they are a consulting firm.
“Quite frankly, we didn’t know any other way to keep track of who’s on first in this process. We researched a number of platforms, and found that ExactHire was not only an affordable solution, it elevated our ability to post the jobs on our own proprietary career center, as well as create customized job application questions to help us narrow the time it was taking to vet applicants. Moreover, gone are the days of stacks of file folders, paper, resumes, post-it notes, and Excel files. We record everything in ExactHire…” “…in ExactHire notes,” excuse me, “so that our consultants all across the country can see the status of any applicant for any client real time. Today we have two separate career center portals – one for leaders and one for providers. We currently have 28 positions posted, and I cannot begin to imagine how we would have ever done this in Excel without having to hire three or four full time data entry techs.”
“We did have a client go through an EEOC audit, and they passed with flying colors due to our reporting capabilities. Our company’s primary book of business is related to customer support for health care practices, so our expectations for quality customer service are very high. Nancy and Chantel, our ExactHire support team, constantly exceed our expectations at every corner. They are friendly, available and responsive. This is the best investment our department has ever made.”
Shout out to Marla!
Yeah, and shout out to ExactHire, as well. So. That…Jess, where can our listeners find out more about ExactHire?
Thank you for the opportunity to share that, JoDee, and certainly they’re always welcome to come to our website. It’s exacthire.com. You can follow us on social media. We’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. But specifically, I’d love for your listeners to sign up for our ExactHire tech news e-newsletter. It’s short and sweet, every three weeks, with the latest content on HR management, hiring trends, and workforce development. You can subscribe at www2.exacthire.com/joypowered. We want to make sure you make note of the two after the www. And so that’s www2.exacthire.com/joypowered. And JoyPowered® is all one word.
Oh, that’s great.
JoDee, you know, normally at this point we do a listener question. I’d love Jess to stay for this one, because it actually is right in her sweet spot.
Exactly. Susan from Evansville, Indiana posted a question on our JoyPowered® Facebook page. She said, “We are planning to implement a new HR technology that allows users a more self service model. What are some ways I can get the users to embrace the new technology?” I thought that was a great question for today. And I thought it was interesting that Susan used the word “allows” a more self service model, even though the three of us mentioned earlier that we like self service, there…you know, that can be some…detrimental sometimes to the success of a technology if employees aren’t using it. I think one of my answers to Susan, and you guys can share your own, is to help them understand what’s in it for them. Why can a self service model be better for them? I think sometimes HR people are guilty of thinking about how a self service model will be much better for them because employees can enter their own changes and their own data and HR doesn’t have to do it. But what are some things we can share with them to allow the users to know that it’s better for them as well?
Well, I like to, when I’ve gone through this type of a change in an organization is talk about, we want to give you the control. You know, we want you to be able to access the forms you need when you need them. We want you to get your W-2, if you’re one of those people who does their taxes January 2, we want you to get able to get your W-2 on January 2. So we’re trying to here share the control.
How about you, Jess?
Yeah, I agree with that, Susan. I would also say, you know, we’re talking about how we can get them to embrace the technology, so we’re wanting them to buy into the process, so maybe it’s a matter of asking them what would be best when we’re telling them about this technology. So it…with my marketing background, I understand and appreciate that different types of media resonate with different people, and so someone might enjoy reading it, another person might enjoy a video, another person might want an in-person workshop. And so if they have a part in helping to determine how they learn, they will maybe more likely buy into the fact that they’re going to hopefully learn the new technology. So, you know, I’m a huge advocate myself of informal videos and animated GIF images to help people pick up on things easily, but I can appreciate that someone else might prefer listening to a podcast.
We hope they do.
Yeah, exactly. Which I enjoy, as well.
All right. Well, thanks to Susan for her question and writing in to us today.
On another topic, in the news. The EEOC received 30,000 claims of workplace harassment last year. We’ve talked about harassment several times on this podcast, and so I thought this was an interesting statistic. But SHRM research reports, though, that 75% of people who experience harassment in the workplace don’t even report it, so the 30,000 is nothing compared to what might actually be happening out there. They may fear retaliation or damage to their career or think no one will even believe them. Workplace sexual harassment, of course, has been a serious issue long before the recent national dialogue, but the spotlight on the issue has caused many organizations to take a fresh look at their anti-harassment training, policies, and practices. So a few things we wanted to recommend that you consider for your training and ensure your training includes the following – focus on prevention, not just about what happens after the fact or what do you do when it happens, but how can you prevent it in the first place?
And, you know, JoDee, I think that’s such a much better spend of your budget dollars. Let’s make sure that it doesn’t arise here. You’ll…you’ll…and in the end run you’re gonna spend a lot less money and you’re hopefully going to be creating a, really, better culture.
Exactly. Leadership must take it seriously and be on board, but all employees should be trained. Frontline supervisors need to know how to handle it and stop it, and all employees should be encouraged to report it. I know many times, we’ve had clients call us about training, and they just want to hold it for their leadership and/or their supervisors, and I always recommend that all employees be a part of it whenever possible.
And I would just add if you’re doing your leadership team, make sure your CEO, the very top leaders are there, because they lead by example, that how important the topic is.
Right. And thirdly, make it clear that all harassment is unacceptable, not just the hot topic of sexual harassment.
So please tune in next time. Thank you for listening today. If you have missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all episodes for free at iTunes, Google Play, or Podbean by searching on the word “JoyPowered.” If you have questions on any HR topic, you can call us at 317-688-1613 or give feedback on our podcast via our JoyPowered® Facebook account or on Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listener questions and comments.
Jess, thanks so much for coming today. We really enjoyed having you.
Thanks so much for having me. It was great.