Maintaining Your Current HR Tech While Investing in the New

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Jason Ekstein
03/09/2021

HR systems update

There have been two massive shifts in the way HR data has been stored and managed in my lifetime.  The first was the migration from legacy systems that were designed primarily to get people paid towards ERP systems that were meant as a tool to integrate all aspects of the business.

The second is to cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) systems that are supposed to be more flexible, scalable, and less back-end maintenance for the organizations utilizing them. Although the technologies and drivers behind these two shifts are vastly different, the commonality between the two should be clear: the process and the people that are guiding and doing the work to make it happen.  

The Players

The same players are making this new migration occur:  the implementation professionals (consultants, project managers, trainers, software vendors) and the HR, benefits, and payroll team members that are doing the work in the existing ERPs. Each of these populations operate differently than they did 20 years ago. 

The consultants seem to be more focused on “checking the box”, getting the job done and moving on. And the HR generalists, benefits specialists, and payroll processors that are doing the actual work are 2 or 3 (work) generations down from the original implementation. They were “trained” by those that were trained by those that were trained by the original consultants. 

You know what happens when you make a copy of a copy of a copy… Some of them got so little training that they are self-taught on a system that is so complex that it cost millions of dollars to implement. There was very little original investment in training based on a “Train the trainer” model. They were put at a severe disadvantage by not receiving the support that they needed and deserved. Now, those same folks are being asked to assist in the implementation of an entirely new system while continuing to maintain the existing system. 

Keeping the Lights On

The people that have full time jobs maintaining an overly complex system in which they never received proper training are being asked to spend 30 – 40% of their time (or more) to ramp up a new system that they will then be asked to maintain. 

READ: The Need for a Diverse HR Technology Portfolio Grows 

HR departments are struggling with a capacity crunch right now. Departments are made up of people. People have a maximum capacity, a limit to the amount of work that can be done well in a specific period of time. How can we reasonably expect those that are already performing full time jobs to add another part time job on top of that? Is Senior management putting these people in the same position as those that implemented the ERPs a generation ago? How can they be expected to be fully engaged and do their best work when they are being pulled in so many directions? When an emergency occurs with the existing data or the existing system, won’t it always take priority? How does the new system get the attention that it deserves to be implemented in such a way as to provide the best possible outcome going forward?

Invest in the New, Not the Old

The answer is simple, but not necessarily intuitive. When senior management decides to improve technology via allocation of capital, what are they investing in? Is it the software/technology behind the service being provided, or is it the people that will be providing those services? Are you truly investing in your existing employees if they are being asked to work beyond their capacity?  Investing in backfill is not cheap, but the payoff is huge. 

Finding people to “Keep the Lights On” may sound like it’s investing in the existing/old system, but it allows those that are implementing the new system to do it properly. It is an investment in your people, giving them the time, training, and resources to learn and implement in a way that they didn’t have last time around. You may have to justify the cost now, but senior management cannot expect to make the same mistake as the last migration and expect a different result this time. 

Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets 

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