Top 5 Reasons HR System Implementations Fail

hr system implementation fail

When you have the right team to implement your new HR technologies, it may seem like it’s easy. It’s not. HRIS and other HR system implementations are difficult to pull off successfully, and most either fail entirely, or fail to deliver on the promises made by aggressive product sales folk and marketing materials.

How Not to Select HR Systems

Sometimes, people perceive that it’s an easy decision or that they can get by without doing much research. This is a mistake! According to McKinsey and Gartner in separate studies, more than two thirds of all IT implementations (and make no mistake, HR system implementation is an IT implementation) Here are some ways the decision is made which we’ve seen leads to poor outcomes:

“We used this at my last company. It would work for us here.”

“The accountant selected this system because it works for what they need in that department.”

“If we go with this company now, we can get a discount.”

“This is the highest rated system, so naturally this is what we should go with.”

“Why waste money buying a system for this when we have capable software developers who can make it in-house.”

“The benefits broker said they are a partner. We’re going to choose this company since we already work with the broker.”

Why do these lead to poor HRIS implementation outcomes? Let’s distill it into five main reasons.

1. Lack of Clear Objectives and Planning

When HR system implementations fail, it’s often because the end goals weren’t clear from the start. This allows people with influence but without an objective case to elbow their way in and choose your software based on any of the aforementioned excuses to avoid a competitive procurement process, which would gather and eliminate vendors based on clearly stated requirements and goals. Businesses need to define what they want to achieve with the new system, be it improved recruitment processes, more efficient payroll management, or better employee engagement, and it must be able to be measured.

For instance, if a company aims to streamline recruitment, the chosen HR system should be evaluated against how well it can track applicants, manage interviews, and onboard new hires. In addition, a project is more likely to fail when reducing complexity is not a key objective.

2. Lack of Technical Expertise in the Selection and Implementation

When it comes to rolling out new HR systems, technical expertise isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a requirement. Without it, even the most promising tech projects can fizzle out. Here’s why:

Navigating the Software Selection: The HR systems market is booming with options, and without deep technical knowledge, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You’d be relying on poorly thought out options and recommendations. You need expertise to assess the technical capabilities of HR systems, understand integration complexities, and ensure the new tech matches your existing infrastructure and organizational goals.

Customization and Configuration Woes: Off-the-shelf solutions rarely fit your needs straight out of the box. Technical expertise is crucial when you’re tweaking the system to work for your employees. For instance, you might need to set up custom workflows or add custom fields for data that your business tracks, and that requires a solid understanding of how these systems operate.

Technical Troubleshooting: Even with the best setup, you’ll run into hiccups. Without a tech-savvy team or pro to troubleshoot issues, minor glitches can escalate into major roadblocks, especially for commonly used features, such as payroll and job site integration. Whether it’s a login issue with single sign-on or an integration problem with the general ledger, having someone who can swiftly navigate these challenges is key to keeping the implementation on track.

Security and Compliance: With HR systems housing sensitive data, technical expertise is essential to ensure the system is secure and compliant with regulations, such as SOX 404 security role requirements and data protection laws. This means setting up roles in the system that align with compliance standards, managing data transfer securely, and setting up enterprise-wide authentication rules.

In a nutshell, without the right technical chops, selecting and implementing new HR systems can feel like sailing without a compass. It pays to either develop this expertise in-house or partner with tech experts who can guide you through the rough seas of HR system implementation.

3. Data Quality and Transfer Issues

Implementing a new HR system often means transferring vast amounts of sensitive data. Much of this data must be re-mapped, transferred manually, or put into a specific format for a mass import/data migration. If this data is not accurate, up-to-date, or formatted correctly for the new system, it can lead to major issues down the line. Here are a few examples for how this can go terribly wrong.

  • Inaccurate employee information could lead to payroll errors.
  • Employee confidentiality is broken when employees log in and find another employee’s data or documents.
  • An implementation specialist may mishandle sensitive data by downloading W-2s, I-9, and other other to their local drives
  • Loss of historical data caused by default data used in place of data that was not properly formatted at the time of import.
  • Time is lost in cleaning up data that was imported incorrectly.
  • Decision making is even more difficult with inaccuracies in past data.
  • When data is incorrect on system go-live, employees log in the first time and find a lot of missing/inaccurate data, and lose confidence in the new system.
  • Audit trail is blurred by constant corrections to data in the new system, by administrators and implementers.

The old “garbage in, garbage out” phrase applies to HR system implementations. Make sure that you have planned out your data migration well, are able to correct errors in data before, during, and after the project (with a key focus on the “before”).

4. Lack of Focus on User Acceptance

While the primary focus here is with training users, there is also a focus on making sure that not only are users trained, but are logging in to use the system and are able to find and execute functions they need for their work effortlessly. For that, we must have user acceptance goals built into the project.

What is user acceptance in the context of employees using a new HR system?

It is about whether your team actually uses the new tools as intended. It’s one thing to roll out a shiny new system, and quite another to see employees logging in and solving their own problems, checking the help system before asking questions, engaging with the employee self service (ESS) app, and integrating it into their daily work.

Setting a 100% user acceptance goal means properly defining all the users, and engaging each group to use the system in the best way that solves their problems and gets their work done with minimal effort. Over time, this leads to user adoption, which is a longer term view of user acceptance in which employees’ “use case” for the system continue to increase after “go-live,” and they are well versed in independently choosing to work with this software. This may involve user group-based customizations, workflows, and user interface (UI) adjustments. Getting everyone on board with tools that streamline operations and empower your team is key.

So, it’s not just about “Hey, we’ve got this new system.” It’s about making sure that system becomes as familiar to the team as their morning coffee, because the novelty eventually wears off, and what’s left is “how does this make my job easier?”

5. Ineffective Change Management and Continuous Improvement

We humans are creatures of habit, and employees often resist changes to their routines. When a new HR tech is introduced without effective change management strategies put into action, it’s met with everything from mild skepticism and eyerolls to outright rebellion. And if it’s not managed properly, the new tech will be a drag on the organization. A solid Change Management program should morph into a Continuous Improvement program after the implementation to prevent value loss, and include communication, training, and feedback to be effective.

Effective change requires effective communication. If the ‘why’, ‘how’, and ‘what’s in it for me?’ aren’t communicated well, the result can be confusion or disinterest. Employees at Poprouser need to be clear about how the new system will make their work-life better, not just different.

A new HR system is only as good as the people using it. If the team doesn’t receive proper training, or if the tech support cannot solve problems fast enough, frustration builds up. Continuous learning opportunities need to be part of the package – think short how-to videos, regular Q&A sessions, and cheat sheets that make navigation and running processes a no-brainer. It’s not just about the launch; it’s about getting more out of the software over time. Often, once an HR system is in place, companies tick it off their checklist and move on. Big mistake.

Continuous improvement is about regularly seeking feedback, analyzing system usage, and making tweaks. It’s like keeping a high-performance engine finely tuned rather than waiting for it to sputter out. If there’s no mechanism to capture feedback – both the cheers and the jeers – from users, you are essentially just hoping for the best. Are people finding the UI intuitive? Are automations and integration making life easier? What categories would you like to see? You need the good, the bad, and the ugly to make smart adjustments.

Don’t Go At It Alone

These are the top ways in which an HR system Implementation can be doomed before it really gets off the ground. But when these areas are handled with care by trained professionals, it paves the way for a smooth transition and long-term success. If you have this capability internally in the organization, fantastic; you are part of the way there. If not, talk to us.

HR Tech is hard to do alone. Partner with Poprouser’s HR Systems experts for a smooth and effective HR system transition.

Cody Bess