In the 21st century, digital is the rule, not the exception. Gaming, self-driving vehicles, and the Internet of Things – all of which were once novelties – are all becoming more mainstream. On that note, intuitive, easy-to-use interfaces are expected, regardless of the platform or industry. But how does that translate when it comes to human resources? Organizations are realizing that they need to apply technology to people management. Companies need to be more modern, and they are examining how they can better blend software, employee experience, and organizational strategy. But when companies are large and span many countries, adopting new technologies can be complicated. In the long run, though, adopting better technologies can ultimately help the company be more efficient and better manage data. The Evolution of Tech in HR A study, Future Proofing HR: Bridging the Gap Between Employers and Employees, focused on technology that supports what is referred to as “Core HR” — the software application that manages the employee statement of record. Given an HRIS may address only employment compliance issues, many companies have expanded their systems to manage talent as well. For example, it may support applications for hiring, performance management, and training. Technology has evolved in all areas of employee management, prompting HR departments to adopt new applications. In fact, despite the enormity of the task, Mercer’s recent Global Talent Trends research showed that over half (63%) of participants surveyed are planning new investments in HR technology. Mercer, partnered with Human Capital Media, the research arm of Workforce magazine. They conducted a global survey, the Human Resources Information System Survey, in which close to 500 HR executives in 19 countries were asked about their current or planned HRIS transformation. Out of the 500 participants in the Human Capital Media study, 45% had implemented a new HRIS system within the last five years. Of those, the majority had deployed that system in the cloud, using the increasingly popular Software-as-a- Service (SaaS) delivery model. Thirty-four percent of respondents indicated that they intend to purchase a new HRIS system within the next three years. Drivers for Change No companies are exactly the same, obviously, and their reasons for changing their HR practices or technologies will vary. In most cases, there are several catalysts for this change. Mercer research has found that the predominant driver for change of the HRIS system was the desire for a single system of record for all data globally. Often companies add new applications that are not integrated or have multiple HRIS systems in place — a common occurrence after corporate mergers or acquisitions. Disparate systems across an organization can create data islands, which can lead to employee information existing in different places. This can make accurate reporting and analysis elusive. Aging applications was another driver. On-premise or legacy systems, often heavily customized, can no longer meet today’s needs. With high maintenance costs, and often few updated features, these systems are prime targets for replacement. At a time when an improved user experience is viewed as critical, the unintuitive interfaces in these older systems further speeded their replacement. Whatever the primary driver for deploying a new HRIS, clarity of purpose is a requirement. Technology in and of itself is never the answer, but it can be a catalyst for change. Deploying a new system is an opportunity to simplify existing processes. Keeping things simple is key. If a system needs too much explanation, it is probably over-engineered. To keep things efficient, it’s important to ask, “What is the minimum we can do to get this right?” To make sure it’s intuitive, ask, “How can I do it right without having to be trained?” Roadblocks When implementing a new HRIS, three difficulties typically arise for HR professionals: 1. Transforming or realigning the business processes 2. Deploying the new technology that supports those processes 3. Managing the change Implementation efforts often create surprises. Over 25% of respondents in the Human Resources Information System Survey indicated that the deployment of their technology took significantly more time than anticipated. Some things are predictably difficult in any technology implementation. For example, getting the system to perform as planned and integrating technology is always challenging. Planning can help prepare, but rogue integrations in the previous system are common. Despite hiccups, it took the majority of organizations studied less than 12 months from signing the initial contract to fully implementing their new HRIS system, and half of the organizations took less than nine months, unlike the multi-year implementations of yesteryear. Use of Outside Experts Companies have often relied on outside expertise to design and implement their HR processes. Research found that organizations with more than 5,000 employees tended to use a consultant or implementation partner more frequently than smaller companies. The reasons for engaging an external partner varied: a large majority (76%) used experts for the HRIS implementation, 39% used outside services to redesign HR processes, and 31% for HR service model design and transformation. The Path Forward Organizations that are updating their HRIS systems recognize the need for change. As companies grow and face changing regulations, traditional methods of keeping employee records are no longer sufficient. Moving to a single system allows organizations to leverage technology and improve the employee experience. Without standardized technology, it is complex (if not impossible) for HR leaders to deliver much-needed analytics and global insights. As the future becomes less about talent management and more about talent flow, getting fit for implementation and managing the change journey will have a great effect on the reach and impact of your digital HR strategy. A CASE STUDY Consider this case: A multinational organization with about 130,000 employees and multiple lines of business decided to implement a new Human Resource Information System (HRIS) across the more than 100 countries where they operated. A key driver in this decision was the ability to have an enterprise-wide view of talent. Given how large the company was, these 130,000 employees had 50,000 distinct job titles. Any data analytics would be meaningless without a cleanup. Therefore, the organization redesigned its job architecture and job library with an eye toward the new framework. The company built a job library of about 800 jobs for its new HRIS. The new job library has become integral to the organization, making implementation of the HRIS easier, and helping the organization achieve its talent goals. Today, the library is being used as the underpinning structure for a career architecture that will add value for employees seeking to build their skill portfolio within the company. This will help employees navigate their careers.