Investing in new HR software can be a daunting prospect during the best of times. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has disrupted normal operations of businesses across the world. HR is no exception to that. In some ways, during a pandemic is the worst time to buy new HR software, but in other ways, it could be the best time.

Dave Rietsema, founder and CEO of HR Payroll Systems, was interviewed by William Tincup of Recruiting Daily to discuss the topic of purchasing HR software during a pandemic. Dave was an HR practitioner before he founded HR Payroll Systems and wanted to share his experiences and mistakes with HR practitioners so they can learn from them. The key points of the interview are summarized below.

Deciding to Implement New HR Software

The first step is to determine that the current HR software solution isn’t working. If the company is already using a HRIS instead of manual processes, this may involve meeting with vendor representatives to determine if there’s a solution there first. If you’re still unhappy with the current vendor, for example, if there are customer service problems that can’t be fixed, the next step is to get the buy-in from key stakeholders in the project.

Compiling a List of Likes and Dislikes

Once you’ve decided that implementing a new HRIS is the best choice for your company, compile a list of likes and dislikes about your current solution. Many make the mistake of listing only what they dislike about their current system. However, even if the system as a whole no longer works for your company, there may be some features that you did like and would wish to see with a new system.

This list can help guide the search for a new HRIS system. Companies can avoid replicating what they disliked about the old system but also look to keep the things that did work well.

Switching from Manual Processes to a HRIS

Not every company already has a HRIS already in place. Many businesses, especially smaller companies, may be working from shared spreadsheets instead of using HR software. The cost of implementing a HRIS when one wasn’t already in place can be daunting. However, calculating how many work-hours the cost of a new system is worth can help show stakeholders the benefits of the investment. Generally, if the HRIS saves even an hour of staff time per day, it ends up being worth the cost.

The Impact of COVID-19 on HRIS Purchases

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the United States in mid-March, HRIS vendors saw a significant decline in sales. HR professionals were being pulled in a million different directions trying to put out the HR fires caused by the pandemic. There were CDC and government regulations to follow as well as ensuring that employees were able to work safely.

Now that the pandemic has been ongoing for several months, things are beginning to normalize. The pandemic may not be going away, but everyone has begun to adjust to the new normal. Changes that needed to happen before the pandemic began still need to occur. However, no one knows what the fallout will be from the pandemic. Vendors are still getting inquiries, but they’re fewer than before the pandemic began.

Positive Impacts of the Pandemic on HR

While overall, the pandemic has had more negative effects than positive, there are some benefits for HR software. The pandemic has exposed implementation issues that weren’t necessarily visible before. For example, if the employee self-service portal wasn’t properly implemented, it’s an opportunity to either correctly implement it or find a system that will be more intuitive for employees.

With more employees working remotely than ever before, it’s essential that HR use a HRIS that works for the company. Companies that either had no HRIS or that were continuing to use manual processes even with a HRIS will have to find an HR software solution that works in order to support remote employees. Manual time cards don’t work for employees working remotely.

New Technology from Software Vendors

The pandemic has also provided an opportunity for software vendors to develop new technologies that reduce contact between employees. These include thermal temperature readers, employee beacons, and touch-free time clocks. Vendors have been creating tools in response to the pandemic that HR can use to create a safe working environment.

Benefits of Purchasing a HRIS During the Pandemic

Because HR practitioners have been investing in new HR software at a slower rate during the pandemic, many software vendors are offering incentives. The pandemic may create uncertainty, but it also creates potentially more competition. This means that pricing may be very advantageous for HR practitioners in the market for a new HRIS.

The pandemic has also forced us to rethink what normal business practices are. Changes implemented now may last beyond the pandemic. More people will want to continue working remotely even after it’s safe to return to the office. Business travel may turn into Zoom calls. If your processes and systems can handle your HR needs properly during the pandemic, then they should be able to handle any changes that remain when the world returns to normal.

Preparing for Implementation

Whether a company is switching from one HRIS to another or adopting a HRIS for the first time, there is some preparation that should be made ahead of time. The first is to ensure that all paper files have been digitized. It’s also important to ensure that existing digital data is accurate. You’ll only want accurate data to be entered into the new system.

For historical data, talk to an attorney to determine exactly what the laws are regarding how long you need to keep old data. It can be a good idea to keep it, just in case another company calls for employment verification on a former employee, for example. However, much of the old data could be stored in Excel spreadsheets instead of entered into the new HRIS.

Researching Vendors After the Demo

Salespeople are good at giving great demos. But a demo of a system is completely different from actually implementing it. After a demo, you can find out more about how a system actually works in practice by finding others within your network who have used that software. You can request references from the vendor, but these may give only positive feedback, so you may not find out about any potential pitfalls.

Another valuable source of information is HR practitioners who almost purchased the software but didn’t end up signing the contract. Hearing their reasons for not signing on can help inform your own decision. While the vendor’s salespeople may initially be reluctant to provide this type of reference, they’re more likely to comply if it’s a condition of signing. HR practitioners never have more power with the vendor than before the contact is signed.