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Inside HR Tech Column

No Summer Break for HR Tech

Whether your organization is searching for a new HR system or tool, in the middle of an implementation or just trying to improve the usage of an existing HR system, summer can be an especially good time to devote to HR-tech projects.

Friday, June 6, 2014
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Summer is an interesting time for organizations. Unless your operation is a highly seasonal one, most of us see summer as a time when many of our projects slow down, the days in the office seem to get a little shorter and lunch hours get longer. There are fewer people in the office. Traffic is lighter. We may even have "summer hours" with half -- or even entire -- Fridays off. And, of course, it is a time when most of us try to break away completely from work and take a vacation.

In fact, with the summer focus on slowing down, regrouping and getting some time away from the grind, it can be pretty easy to wake up at the office after Labor Day in a cold sweat wondering just what happened to the last three months. You're then faced with the start of the four-month sprint to the end of the year feeling a little overwhelmed, behind on important projects and wondering how you're going to manage to get it all done before the holidays.

So with that in mind, I'd like to try and help you keep your HR-tech projects on track this summer, whether your organization is currently engaged in the HR-solution research-and-discovery process, you're in the middle of an implementation, or you're just trying to improve the usage and user adoption rates of existing HR systems.

If you are currently assessing solutions, summer is a great time to do research and get more focused attention from solution-provider reps.

Just as the attitude and responsiveness of auto-sales staff can wax and wane depending on how close it is to a fiscal quarter's end, HR-software reps also can be more motivated to work with clients during slower periods on the calendar. When it seems like their entire pool of prospects has put up their "Out of Office" email auto-responders, you are much more likely to have their (mostly) undivided attention and, thereby, likely more leverage, if your business seems like the only one they have a chance to close all summer. Plus, finding out how quick to react a provider is to your inquiries in the slower summer months offers some insight into what level of support and attention you can expect during faster-paced times. If a prospective vendor hits you back with its own "Out of Office" message, it could be time to keep looking.

If your implementation is under way, then now is the time to take a really careful look at the tasks, milestones and overall timelines to assess how the project is progressing against plans and budgets.

The next significant enterprise-technology project that comes in complete, on time and on budget may very well be the first, so it is important to be very realistic and pragmatic when it comes to major project work, particularly when it spans the summer months.

If your project goals are going to be compromised due to vacationing project-team members, see if you can re-allocate and reschedule tasks to accommodate these challenges. You might be able to push some tasks, such as the creation of documentation or training content forward if other tasks need to be delayed. Be wary of establishing some kind of "no-vacations" blanket policy on your project team. It will kill current motivation and also dissuade others from wanting to work on your projects in the future. Just as you need some down time, your implementation team does too. You will all be better off if you can creatively manage around your team's need for summer fun, too.

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If you've already gone live, but are having issues with adoption, take advantage of people's less-busy calendars this summer to schedule some one-on-one time with as many end users from across user roles as you can.

Sit down with them and observe how they interact with the technology in the course of their normal tasks. Find out what their frustrations are. See what they might need some additional training on to become more proficient. Interestingly, you will probably find out ways in which the system is being used that you had not foreseen. Unfortunately, in many HR-tech implementations (post go-live), most interaction between project leaders and end users comes in the form of escalated help-desk tickets. Take time this summer to re-engage with your users, and be ready in September to make changes and refinements from what you have learned.

In the end, no matter what role you have in the organization, you're certainly going to perform better over the long term (and probably be happier too) if you take some time this summer to disengage from work, at least a little bit. But keep in mind that, while you're trying to make of the most of your own down time, if you plan carefully and act strategically this summer, not only will you return from vacation looking tanned and rested, you'll actually have some successes and progress to feel good about, too.

Enjoy your summer!

Steve Boese is a co-chair of HRE's HR Technology® Conference and a technology editor for LRP Publications. He also writes an HR blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast. He can be emailed at sboese@lrp.com.

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