Let me think about this one…-erm…-no, I don’t think there is. In fact, I don’t really believe there is a perfect anything but that’s a different story, let’s not get too deep here, it’s only a blog about HR/payroll technology. But back to the main point of this blog.

I wrote an article previously about there not being such a thing as a bad HR/ payroll system which I stand by. But there also isn’t such a thing as a perfect HR/ payroll system. I have never come across a piece of HR or payroll technology that is perfect. Yes, there are some that have more advanced features than others (AI, chatbots, mobile apps etc), there are some that are more aesthetically pleasing than others and there are some that simply perform better than others when carrying out day to day tasks.

I think one thing to consider is that the word “perfect” is very subjective and can mean something different to everyone. So let’s start out with a definition of perfect – One definition is that it has everything necessary, complete without faults or weaknesses.

All HR Systems have drawbacks

Having worked on a number of HR systems now, from Tier 1, large, global systems to Tier 2 systems aimed at the mid – smaller organisations. Never have I come across a system that doesn’t have any faults or have anything that I wouldn’t change, whether that be that it looks old fashioned, or it takes too many clicks to authorise a simple task like an overtime record.

Phase 3 recently held our week-long Festival of Knowledge in which we had a webinar about your annual HR/payroll system review. In this webinar, we asked the question, “Does your current system meet your business requirements?” We gave the attendees three options to choose from:

  • Not quite
  • Yes partially
  • Yes, fully

SEE ALSO: How to streamline HR software implementation

What would the perfect HR system look like?

13% of the attendees on this webinar chose the option ‘Yes, fully’ which is quite interesting. Of those 13% I would like to know if they thought their HR system was perfect. Whether it ticked absolutely every box that they defined out in their requirement gathering session before selecting the system. Whether they have had to change their processes to fit the system or even whether the service from the vendor was exemplary.

Now, perhaps I am being too rigid in my view of perfect, but in my opinion a perfect HR system is one that matches all of our requirements with no sacrifices, is implemented without hitting any stumbling blocks due to a seamless implementation procedure, has the buy in of all employees whether they be back end users or employees/ managers and finally whether that system has been able to grow with your organisation. Now if you ask me, this is verging on the impossible. I think it’s about the same odds as winning the lottery and some might say equally as rewarding.

I would imagine that most of you that are reading this will have a system where not all of the above situations are applicable. Some of you might have a system where you have had to compromise on your requirements, some of you might not have had a smooth implementation and others will have a system where the employees within the organisation (both back end users and managers/ employees) view the system as adding more effort/ work in to their already busy days or view the piece of technology as a threat.

Readjusting your HR systems expectations

Colleagues working in office

I think the way to get around this is to remove the idea/ notion of a perfect HR/ payroll system because they don’t exist. It is in our nature to always want better and to strive for “perfection” but sometimes what is in front of you is actually just fine. The grass isn’t always greener and it’s often better to water the grass you already have.

A lot of the time this is down to having too many requirements or expectations of a system. I recently spoke with a client who had a list of over 30 requirements that they wanted in their HR system and that the HR system must have all 30. I had to break it to them, that unfortunately, they weren’t going to get a system that matched all of their requirements some of which were quite demanding.

Whilst HR technology can be brilliant (and at times it really is), in my opinion, it is still a number of years behind the times in comparison to what our daily expectations are. I mean we’re in 2020 and there are some HR/payroll systems that don’t yet have a mobile app, or one that is even mobile browser compatible.

Think about it, you can do your online banking over an app, you can potentially find your future partner on an app, you can order food via an app but you can’t log on to your HR system whilst at home on your phone, and you can’t put in that holiday request to your manager because you’ve seen an amazing deal on a holiday.

This is where you really need to revaluate your requirements list. Take that client that had a list of over 30 requirements, break it down in to three key categories.

  • Must-have – ones that you see as being absolutely key to the success of the HR system.
  • Would like to have – ones that ideally you would like to have, but could have a work around or not have at all.
  • Can live without – these are the bottom of the totem pole and ones that dependent on functionality can be implemented at a later date.

This is where it gets a little bit more complicated. Take my previous example of having a mobile app/ mobile browser compatibility. I worked in an organisation where the majority of the workforce was warehouse based and didn’t always have permanent access to a computer. This left a large proportion of the workforce having to wait until their break/ lunch to use one of the communal computers in the canteen. Now given that we are constantly looking at the way we work, especially given the situation with COVID, is having communal computers the best way to work? Probably not, so in this case you would have a mobile app/ mobile browser compatible as being a must-have requirement.

This is where you have to compromise, but really evaluate what the compromise is going to be. Speak with the vendor, ask questions. Are they planning on implementing a mobile app, if so, when? If it’s in the near future then you could probably create another temporary way to book employees holidays for those that don’t have a permanent PC. What if they don’t plan on doing it for five years? Well, then you might need to consider another vendor, but knowing that you will have to sacrifice one of your other requirements.

Accepting that “perfect” isn’t an option

This is the point that I am trying to get at, I do not know one HR/ payroll system that offers absolutely everything that you could possibly imagine. The age old saying of “you can’t please everyone” comes to mind and as I’ve said before, the point of perfection is completely subjective and not even specific to an organisation. Everyone within the organisation will have their own view of perfection and what they want out of technology.

So even with the best laid out requirements, when you start getting in to your search this list of priorities can change in an instant. So how can you search for the perfect HR system when your requirements are changing? Well the answer is you can’t. Accept that there is no such thing as a perfect HR system and choose the one that meets MOST of your requirements but will also allow you to develop and one that will grow with you.

Back to my earlier point about the word perfect being subjective, the vendors are creating a system in the way that they see fit based on their experiences and opinions, but everyone’s requirements are different, their perceptions are different. No two organisations are the same. I think it is unfair to expect every vendor out there to produce a perfect system every time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, what works for a council of 5000 employees isn’t going to work for a private company of 100. Their requirements will differ greatly and so they should. Just because you are a local council doesn’t mean your requirements are the same as other councils.

This, in my opinion, is why you can never find the perfect HR system, there are too many variables. Yes, there are ones that will work for your organisation better than some. But none that are perfect.

My advice is purely to set yourself up in the best way, have your list of requirements, but accept that these might need to change in order for you to find the best system for your organisation.

Use the advice of consultants out there. There are organisations like Phase 3 who have a wealth of experience in this field that can offer impartial and unbiased advice so that you don’t fall and implement the wrong system. Do your due diligence and take your time, do not rush.

Take a look at our system selection tool to see which systems match your requirements.

If you want to discuss this or any of my other posts then drop me an email: matthew.ramm@phase3.co.uk

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