HR technology—and talent management solutions (TMS) in particular—are now integral to managing the organization’s talent. The TMS market is predicted to reach a CAGR (combined annual growth rate) of 12.2% until 2028.
But there are definitely some growing pains along the way. While talent teams are increasing the investment in technology, they’re not always seeing a return on that investment. In fact, their chances of achieving success are not much better than 50-50.
In this article, we’ll look at the key reasons HR technology implementations fail to live up to their promise and what HR teams can do differently to ensure success.
Evolving tech creates new challenges
TMS has changed dramatically over the past decade. Venture capital investment in TMS reached an all-time high, while a wave of consolidations has absorbed many point solutions into larger enterprise platforms. Other trends include the steady migration to the cloud and a renewed focus on the employee experience.
These trends have changed the look, feel, and functionality of TMS software, as all HR professionals will be aware. But they have also changed the way software need to be implemented. By adapting their implementation processes to the new reality, HR teams can improve adoption and boost their chances of long-term success and ROI.
Given that 42% of HR technology projects either fail completely or are rated as not fully successful after two years, anything that HR can do to ease implementation and encourage adoption is well worth the effort.
A shift away from IT
Five or 10 years ago, the IT team would have played a central role in evaluating and implementing HR technology. Today, IT involvement in both activities is minimal. In some cases, their only function may be to set up SSO (single sign-on) capabilities for a new app.
This shift has given HR greater freedom and control. HR teams can now select software based entirely on its ability to support the talent lifecycle, HR priorities, and the organizational culture. They can also implement on their own schedule rather than wait for a slot in the IT calendar.
But this also means a far bigger role for HR in ensuring a successful implementation. And because it's a relatively new role, even HR professionals with many years of talent management experience, don’t always know what needs to be done.
If you’re planning to implement a new talent solution—especially if it’s employee-facing—these six tips from HRSG’s implementation experts can help you focus your energies where they’re most needed during the process.
1. Redefine the role
“IT used to be the project manager for implementing new HR technology. Now that IT’s technical expertise isn’t needed during implementation, that project management role falls to HR. HR needs to adopt some of those IT project management disciplines, including planning and stakeholder management. The technology may have changed, but the need for careful planning and management hasn't. It has simply shifted onto HR's shoulders.“ Suzanne Beaudoin, Director of Customer Success
HR implementation leads need to recognize that technical activities such as configuration and testing now play a relatively small part in the overall implementation process. However, more time and effort should be allocated to non-technical activities that IT used to perform, such as planning, coordinating, and stakeholder engagement.
2. Get the right people involved.
"You have to have the right people involved, the people who are actually going to be making decisions about how to configure the software, working in the software, and training others to work in the software." Jemellee Seletaria, Senior Talent Management Consultant
Take full advantage of the implementation training sessions that the software vendor provides by inviting as many people as necessary. Implementation leads often assume that attending sessions solo will help them get through training faster, but it slows down implementation by preventing key participants from gaining exposure to the software, understanding the value proposition, and getting answers to their questions.Depending on the size of the organization, implementation sessions should include as many as five to 10 participants. This also helps to create redundancies so that if the project champion or implementation lead moves on, other people can step in to guide implementation and support adoption.
3. Document the plan.
“HR technology projects often fail simply because a key resource is reassigned or leaves the company, and no one else knows how to pick up where they left off. But if you make a plan and document it, there’s a roadmap that the next person can follow. You want the plan to outline both the next steps and the bigger picture: What needs to be done next and why is it important that it get done?” Suzanne B
Too often, the important details of an HR technology implementation reside mostly inside the head of a single, dedicated project champion. If that person moves on before the technology becomes part of business as usual, the project runs the risk of being mismanaged or abandoned entirely. By documenting the implementation plan from start to finish, the organization can ensure continuity and protect its investment. Documentation can include project plans, recorded implementation sessions, Loom videos, communication templates—anything that provides a knowledge base and clear next steps.
4. Roll out in phases.
“To help the organization see ROI sooner, plan the implementation in phases. You don’t want to hit people with 100 things at once. What’s a small project that will help users get comfortable with the technology while completing the project? For CompetencyCore, we often suggest that the team start by choosing the organization’s core competencies or creating competency profiles for a specific department or business area.” Jemellee S
Planning a technology implementation in phases that are designed around specific outcomes is beneficial in several ways:
- It keeps things simple for both the implementation team and the technology users.
- It ensures that the organization sees a tangible return on the technology investment.
- It enables HR to work out any kinks in the technology or processes before a wider roll-out.
5. Identify the “WIIFM.”
“You have to be able to communicate the value that the software offers to everyone who uses it. Every software user needs to know, 'What's in it for me? Why should I learn to use this software? What am I going to get out of it?' As far as they're concerned, things may be working fine as they are." Jemellee S
The technology champion needs to be able to clearly articulate the benefits that the technology will bring and tailor that message to the needs and priorities of every stakeholder, including the executive, the HR department, talent managers, and employees. They also need to communicate the risks that these individuals and the whole organization face if they don't start using it.
6. Think like a marketer.
“Communication is such an important part of the implementation process. It’s a big focus for CompetencyCore implementations. We walk our clients through the process of creating an internal marketing campaign that includes email communications and other channels to engage and empower users. We also give them options to brand the technology with a new name, new logo, and new messaging that aligns with the company values. Some of our clients even have t-shirts and other swag made up to promote the technology and create a sense of pride and ownership.” Brian Crook, Director of Sales Enablement, International Implementation, and Training
The idea of treating employees like customers has taken hold in talent management. HR leaders are borrowing marketing tactics to boost employee recruitment and retention while strengthening the employer brand. These same tactics can also be used to boost technology adoption and utilization. HRSG’s implementation specialists recommend that the HR team map out a plan to communicate the right messages to the right people at the right time—before, during, and after implementation—with the goal of informing, persuading, and motivating them throughout the project.
Implementation is no longer technical
From a technical standpoint, HR technology is easier to implement than ever before. That has created new possibilities for the talent management team, but it has also created new responsibilities. Ensuring long-term success for a technology project requires the team to think differently about their roles and focus on engaging project participants and technology end-users.
Learn more about HR technology implementation best practices by reading 6 Best Practices for Launching a Competency Initiative.