What HR Pros Want to Know
The Inside HR Tech columnist answers three of the more pressing questions from HR practitioners attending SHRM's annual conference.
By Steve Boese
Recently, I had the opportunity to co-present, along with Trish McFarlane, vice president of HR practice and principal analyst at Brandon Hall Group, a session titled "What Did That HR Tech Salesperson Say? Demystifying HR Technology Selection and Implementation" at the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in Orlando. Despite the session being scheduled on the last day (and last possible time slot) of the event, we had a sizable and highly engaged audience. I think the combination of SHRM's tendency not to offer much content in the way of HR technology and the increasing importance of the subject to HR professionals everywhere contributed to the great turnout for our "conference ender."
In fact, there were so many great questions asked both during and after the session (Trish and I were both amazed by how many attendees approached us at the end wanting to continue the conversation), I have to think other HR professionals and leaders not able to attend the session might also have some of the very same questions.
So with that in mind, I'd like to share at least a few of the more common and pressing questions we were asked.
What are the best sources of information about HR technology solutions to help me when I'm conducting market and vendor research?
Trish shared some great information from her research about which sources of information HR professionals rely upon when researching HR-technology solutions. The most common sources used by HR professionals are external consultants (55 percent), talking with other HR colleagues (45 percent), and conducting online Internet searches (40 percent). While these are all valid and potentially valuable sources of information, HR pros should also be sure to take advantage of a plethora of additional -- and often freely available -- sources of HR technology information that exist in LinkedIn groups, (such as the HR Technology Conference group), in independent-analyst company reports and vendor profiles, as well as on social media. You'd be surprised how many responses you will get if you post a question about a particular HR-tech solution in a large and active LinkedIn group.
Of course, events such as the HR Technology® Conference offer a great opportunity to compare and contrast many vendors in a short time period.
As Trish and I advised the attendees of our session, be sure to examine and account for any inherent biases and hidden motivations for any source of information that you use in your evaluation process.
How many providers should I include in a Request-For-Proposal? How many should I invite in to give us demonstrations?
According to the research that we presented at SHRM, most HR-technology-selection processes start with between two and six solution providers being invited to respond to an RFP. While the "best" or "correct" number of providers is certainly variable depending on the specific nature of the solution and often the customer's company size, it is clear from both the data and experience that usually three to five providers at the outset of the process will result in a sufficient amount of diversity of solutions and capabilities that will allow HR professionals to make a more informed decision about which ones to move forward with in the decision process.
As for on-site demonstrations, again depending on the purpose and complexity of the solution, most HR-technology-solution comparisons should include at least two solutions -- and potentially three or four solutions for more complex environments. In addition, you should have a good, cross-functional team representing HR, finance, operations, as well as members of the executive team and end users, review the demonstrations.
What does it mean when vendors tell me they have a "partner" that provides additional capability not included in the core solution?
I have to admit, at first I was kind of surprised to get this question from one of the SHRM attendees, but after having thought about it some, it made perfect sense that having a "partner" might not be a familiar concept to some HR professionals. I know there are exceptions to this, but partnering means that, when one system, e.g. an applicant-tracking system, lacks a specific capability itself, e.g. video-interviewing functionality, the provider of the ATS will collaborate with a provider of video-interviewing technology to build a kind of deep integration.
The result is that the video-interviewing information can be presented and made accessible from within the ATS itself and the end user is (usually) shielded from the complexity of the integration. From its point of view, the end user is able to use one system to access the information and capability that is actually supplied by two different vendors.
The three questions above are just a small selection of the many Trish and I were asked. While we could not possibly thoroughly answer all of them in our session, I have to think the sheer number and scope of them bodes well for the future of the profession.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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