According to American astronomer Carl Sagan, “There is no such thing as a dumb question.” Whether you agree or disagree (because let’s be honest, we’ve all heard some pretty lame questions at one point or another), the underlying point is worth remembering. Especially when it comes to HRIS questions you should be asking when choosing HR software.
And that point is? You shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions in your pursuit of deeper understanding of HRIS.
People form the core of everything your business does. As such, it’s important to take care of them, and an effective human resources information system (HRIS) empowers you to do just that.
But before you drop payment on a specific system, there are some questions you need to ask. I’ve broken them up into three main categories:
Think of implementing a new HRIS like planning a surprise birthday party for your mom. You could wing it and hope everything works out (hint: bad idea). Or you could plan to make sure everything goes off without a hitch by asking things like, Who should you invite? What time should the party start?
After all, think of the potential chaos and crater-sized hole in your budget after rolling out a system that you need to replace.
With that in mind, let’s dive into what questions you need to ask before investing in an HRIS.
Questions About Your Company
This should be your starting point. HR stands for “human resources” after all. And with the advances in technology making it possible for everyone at your company to use the HRIS, it’s critical that you take your employees’ input into consideration.
You’re not getting a new HRIS just to throw money out the window. It’s an investment that will enable your HR department to operate more efficiently and make employees’ lives easier.
Just like construction workers build a house from the foundation up, you need to start on the ground floor with your HRIS questions.
What issues do employees face with the current system?
Chances are, if you’re on the hunt for a new HRIS, it means your current solution isn’t cutting it. And you need to know why.
Talk to employees, managers, the HR department — everyone involved who uses the system. Is there a pattern to complaints? Do employees agree on features they’d like to see in the new software?
Play Sherlock Holmes and gather all the details you can. It’ll ensure that instead of solving phantom problems that may sound good on paper but don’t have any bearing on reality, your new HRIS solves real problems people are having.
After all, that’s the point, right?
What do users like about your HRIS?
Not everything may be doom and gloom. Once you know what people dislike, get an idea of what functions and capabilities they want to see in your new solution.
Because while giving them a new HRIS that fails to address their problems is a bad idea, implementing a new system that doesn’t include the aspects they do like might be worse.
Does the HRIS need to integrate with or be a component of other systems?
Likely, the answer here is a resounding “yes.” HRIS solutions tackle the core management of your business — the people, policies and processes. As such, they won’t cover other areas, which means you’ll need to integrate to keep your information from living in a silo.
The other option is to consider whether the HRIS is part of a larger, fully unified suite that handles all aspects of your human resource management (HRM).
Will you need the system to accommodate people besides full-time employees?
We live in a gig economy world. From Lyft drivers to freelance writers, a segment of the workforce doesn’t exist in the typical job world. That can lead to endless HR headaches
If your company works with contractors, freelancers or anyone else who’s not full-time, you may need software that can support the diverse range of workers. While they won’t need access to benefits like health coverage, you’ll still need to pay them and take them through an onboarding process that differs from what full-time employees receive.
Will you need support for remote workers?
If you employ remote workers, or if your entire company is remote, this is an important consideration. Accessibility to the system will play a central role, and you’ll need a solution that can take into account local laws, such as state income tax. With a global workforce that carries a host of regulatory compliance considerations, this becomes even more vital.
How will the new system affect your teams?
Identify areas where the HRIS will impact your teams. Ideally, the new system will remove much of HR’s busy work, freeing your staff to be more efficient. It should also simplify tasks for employees so they can put more time and brain power into their jobs.
But depending on the needs of the software, an HRIS may cause burdens — particularly for your IT team. Vendors typically handle everything for a cloud solution, but if for some reason you go the on-premise route, it may tax your IT resources.
And if you don’t have any HRIS in place yet, congrats! Your operations are on their way to being much more effective. Just be sure you understand what adopting an HRIS will look like for everyone from managers to HR to IT.
No matter which situation you’re in, you don’t want to solve one problem only to replace it with another. So be mindful of the ripple effects before you jump.
Once you know your company’s needs down to the last detail, it will make the rest of your job easier. Answering the above questions will give you a roadmap for what to look for in a solution and vendor — and provide a framework for the types of HRM questions you’ll ask about each.
Questions About the HRIS Software
What’s the total cost of ownership (TCO)?
In other words, don’t focus solely on the sticker price. Check with the provider to clearly understand the full cost involved. This may include things like add-ons that may incur additional fees, ongoing maintenance charges and extra costs when the HRIS gets upgraded in the future.
Is the system designed for your industry and company size?
Many vendors focus on companies of specific sizes and tailor their solutions to address the needs most commonly found in their target market. Knowing the answer to this will prevent you from looking too far into a system that’s designed mainly for large enterprises if you’re a small business.
For example, certain vendors on our HR software Leaderboard cater to different companies. Kronos is best for medium and large enterprises while Oracle targets medium-sized companies.
Does the solution enable easy compliance?
A solution that doesn’t make your life easier isn’t worth the investment in time, energy and money. Be on the lookout for solutions that include features for streamlining compliance. An example of this would be accounting for pertinent laws and regulations when running payroll.
Are there features for managing contractors, freelancers, consultants and anyone else not a full-time employee?
If you outsource work, this is a good thing to know before you implement an HRIS. If a system checks a lot of your “must have” boxes but doesn’t include the capability to manage your 1099 workers, you may need to look elsewhere.
Such features could include mobile apps for contractors who don’t work on-site and onboarding documents that cover only what the contractors need to know rather than making them read the entire employee handbook.
How user-friendly is it?
Employees don’t want to waste time using a system that feels archaic and navigates as well as a yacht in the middle of the desert. Your HRIS needs to make it clear how to move around the system and in a way that makes sense.
Icons, links, even the naming conventions — all of these features, while seemingly small on their own, add up to either a seamless experience or one that feels like wandering around a labyrinth.
On practical application is that you should be able to identify different sections based on their associated icons. For example, if one menu item was a dollar symbol that led to the benefits section instead of payroll, that could easily confuse users. And that’s the last thing you want.
Does it require integrations with other HR solutions?
Understand what the system setup will look like. The HRIS product may be part of a single, seamless solution, or it may require integration with your other HR-specific systems. If that’s the case, you should check to see what technical support the vendor offers when it comes time to integrate.
Is the system cloud-based or on-premise?
You’ll likely find that vendors offer both deployment methods, but one may fit your company needs better.
One advantage of a cloud HRIS solution is the flexibility it gives employees. They can track their info while not at the office, using the device of their choice. For employees like sales reps that may travel a lot or for a remote workforce, the accessibility will make it much easier to manage their account info and stay updated on changes.
Can you customize the system?
Want to drive employees crazy? Implement a system that doesn’t mold to the needs of your business. If not, look for software that comes with customization or configuration capabilities.
No one knows your business like you do, and since every company has unique needs, goals and challenges, the ability to tailor a solution to fit your requirements is a factor you shouldn’t ignore.
How does the implementation work?
First, how long will it take? A number of factors affect this answer, the most common being whether you opt for a ready-to-go solution or want to deploy a customized version. The latter will extend the implementation period, but the tailored fit could be worth the extra time it takes.
Second, how much assistance can you expect on the vendor’s part? Vendors approach this differently, so know how much support you’ll receive going in — it’ll save you a lot of uncertainty and frustration during the implementation phase.
Some vendors, for example, offer services where experts will work alongside your company to ensure the process runs smoothly. This can be valuable if you’re integrating cloud and on-premise systems and frees up your IT team to focus on other tasks.
What happens during an upgrade?
The vendor rolls out a new version of the HRIS you’re using. Great. What happens on your end?
Don’t skip this question — it could save you a lot of headaches down the road. You need to know how an upgrade will impact your employees. Does it happen over the weekend or during the week (which could interfere with access)?
More importantly, is there training or support in place to keep your teams up to date when the system changes? A shiny new version with added features doesn’t do much good if suddenly everyone is fumbling about trying to reorient themselves.
Questions About the HRIS Vendor
What support does the vendor offer?
A vendor should be there to guide you, offering support and assistance as you implement your HRIS. In other words, they should be the Sam Gamgee to your Frodo. They don’t need to be your best friends, but you should know you’re not on your implementation journey alone.
Look for things like:
- A FAQ section where employees can get answers to common questions
- Consulting services, where experts advise on aspects of your business ranging from strategy to HR challenges and solutions
- An admin portal, where admins can manage users, handle incidents and more
- Training options that familiarize users with the functions, tools and use cases of the software
- Implementation and integration support from experts to help get your system up and running
- Professional services, where experts handle complex scenarios like mergers or acquisitions, provide technical support and even configure the solution modules and features to meet your needs
- Done-for-you options like payroll and benefits admin, tax filing and more to free your HR department up to focus on other responsibilities
But don’t stop there. Look beyond the obvious and find out how the vendor provides those services. For example, training may be self-directed or led by an instructor and some vendors personalize it to your specific needs.
What measures do they take to protect employee data?
Unless you’ve been living in a hobbit hole for the past several years, you know how important it is for companies to manage their sensitive data responsibly.
As mistrust circulates thanks to breaches at corporations like Yahoo and Equifax, you — and your employees — need to know the vendors you consider take data security seriously. It’s good to understand the specific procedures a vendor takes to protect your data, and don’t forget to ask about their policies for responding should a breach occur.
Are there recurring expenses?
Once your system is in place, is your credit card’s job done? Or will the system continue to accumulate costs over time? Knowing each vendor’s policy on updates, bug fixes, technical support for new releases and upgrades will keep you from getting blindsided by unexpected costs.
Does the vendor take your feedback into account?
When implementing a new solution, it’s critical that you end up with a system that fills in the gaps you previously had and addresses specific problems. In other words, you don’t want a square peg for a round hole.
This is where feedback comes in. Ask if and how the vendor will incorporate your feedback and use it to make improvements.
Fast Tip for Getting the Answers You Want
This may come as a surprise, but the type of questions you ask can go a long way in providing a helpful answer. Or not.
Back when I was in college, I took a course that stressed the value of open-ended questions. You’re probably familiar with that concept — not asking a question that someone can answer with a “yes” or “no.”
The reason they’re valuable? Open-ended questions don’t lock people into a specific response and can reveal more information than asking a “yes or no” question.
To illustrate, you could ask a close-ended question about data security: “Will your company protect our data?” The vendor says, “Yes, of course we will,” but that’s not much of a reassurance. Because who would admit that “No, of course we don’t protect your data”? You don’t need to know that they’ll keep your information safe but how they’ll do it.
Open-ended questions are a great way to dig down to that next layer so that you get a clear picture of what’s going on. So instead of the question above, use an open-ended variation, something like, “What are the specific ways you ensure our employee data stays secure?” Now they have to elaborate on their answer, which will reveal any potential weak spots or concerns that you can follow up on.
Closed-ended questions have their place — sometimes the answer is straightforward. But if you want to probe deeper to uncover facts and details a surface answer won’t give, remember that open-ended questions are your friend.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I hope it’s given you a framework for pinpointing your exact needs and helped you brainstorm other questions you need to consider before investing in an HRIS.
We’re here to support your journey, so be sure to look at our free HR comparison report for insights on the top HR solutions out there today.
As you search for the right solution to meet your HR needs, keep these HRIS questions in mind to help guide your process. By first asking internal questions, you’ll identify your central requirements, concerns and challenges, which can then inform the questions you ask as you look at specific products and vendors.
What questions are most important to you as you consider HRIS products? Let us know in the comments below!