Insights > HR

HR systems – How to avoid a chicken and egg situation - MHR

The housing sector is undergoing significant changes, having to develop new solutions for housing and homelessness issues, catering for the regulatory and welfare reforms, managing demand which is greater than supply and now emergency health and safety reviews. These challenges are having a direct impact on traditional operating procedures.

When solving these issues, the housing sector relies on a highly-talented workforce to identify the problems, assess their impacts, and design new operating practices, create solid project plans and deliver change.

HR plays a pivotal role in managing talent, engaging the workforce and running the talent supply. In order to carry out their day-to-day role, HR teams typically rely on sophisticated systems to handle much of the drudgery, such as transactions, calculations, alerts, approvals and reporting, so they’re free to focus on the areas that add real value.

But ask your HR team if they feel supported and have enough time to carry out the workload they have been tasked with, the answer is almost certain to be a resounding “No!”.

So what went wrong and how can you fix it?

When you and your colleagues went through the procurement process, you carefully assessed the capabilities of different HR systems and selected the solution that was most aligned to your current and future business requirements.

Clever HR systems are a reality, they do exist, and they are capable of taking the pain out of your job. However, by the time you get to week one of your implementation, your product knowledge is usually out of date. These systems are clever because they are in continuous development.

When you go through an implementation of a new HR system, you design the build with everything you need in order to go live.

All those additional benefits you are going to gain, all those new features you saw in demonstrations, you get to apply them, click your fingers and make your life easier. Well, it’s not quite that simple.

It’s a long and challenging process. Think back to the end of your last implementation; how many other things had you planned to adopt after go live, yet how many of those did you actually achieve?

The fact is that life gets in the way; we are all very busy people. After an exhausting implementation, when you get to go live, your HR team deserves a period of ‘back to normal’ but the demands of HR and payroll never disappear. Instead of training, your team is back to the grind.

The HR team will have to discover the new functionality, they will also have to embed the new processes and support organisation-wide changes. In addition, your system supplier will also release new functionalities, often several times a year.

Some organisations will employ a system administrator who is dedicated to continuing the configuration and roll-out of the system’s new features. Others will create ‘super users’ within HR and payroll who are upskilled to be able to configure new features.

So why aren’t you fully benefiting from your HR system? There are three common causes:

  1. Since the last recession, we have seen a decline in system administrator roles. This may have fixed a short-term budget problem but it’s consequently costing organisations money because they are not maximising their return on investment.

  2. Super users are brilliant but they’re already in a full-time role and have implemented many changes over recent years (such as legislation reform, pension changes, talent management, employee engagement and handling data). When do these super users get the time to review new system features and implement them? The answer is that they don’t.

  3. People leave organisations for all sorts of reasons. It’s an unfortunate reality that you lose system expertise through attrition. That knowledge is often lost, either through inability or through organisational unwillingness.

Do organisations stop evolving because they have lost HR system knowledge or because super users have busy workloads? Of course not; they can’t. They must change to sustain revenue targets and growth.

What happens when changes affect your workforce? Changes come thick and fast; terms and conditions, new ways of calculating pay, new pension rules and so on. They are not optional and they all require their implementation by strict deadlines.

If you don’t have the system expertise to configure the changes in your HR system, the HR team will end up manually processing the changes outside your system.

Now you are in the dreaded ‘chicken and egg’ HR management situation. Your job is even busier because you are managing the employee-related changes manually, reducing the time available to configure your clever HR system to automate the processing for you.

As you are processing manually, you also need to add further checks to eliminate any risk of human error. This becomes a vicious circle.

When you selected your HR system, how many functional requirements did you identify – 50, 100, 200, or more? And how many supporting services requirements did you identify – 10, 15, 20?

So how do you get the best from your HR system? If employing a dedicated system administrator or a super user with ring-fenced admin time isn’t commercially viable, here are two ways to solve your problem:

  1. Invest in an internal upgrade process. Bring together representatives from HR, recruitment, learning and development, payroll, and people managers. Give them time to review the release documentation then meet up and agree a combined approach. Secure resources and build your implementation plan while making sure you allocate a realistic amount of time to the configuration. You may need internal communications to reach all of your colleagues, make sure everyone knows what is happening, when, why and how this affects them.

  2. Talk to your software supplier. They can provide HR and payroll industry experts who will help you to get the most out of your system and work with you to introduce best practice, building operationally efficient processing, saving you time and improving accuracy.

The chicken and egg HR management situation can be resolved, but it takes self-reflection, determination and clarity of purpose.

Author: Julie Lock is the service development director at MHR.

https://www.mhr.co.uk/