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Micah Fairchild 5 HR Best Practices for Working with an HRMS Consultant

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 By Micah Fairchild

How HR Best Practices Can Help Choose an HRMS Consultant

Regardless of the software route (hosted, SaaS, cloud, etc.) your organization chooses, selecting an HR Management System is inarguably one of the most important decisions that a company will make—and as such will likely generate a great deal of questions and concern. For example, how much is the system going to cost? What software features will be needed? What will the business impact of deploying a HRMS be? How will employees feel about adapting to a new automated process? What vendor should we choose? The lists of questions that revolve around an HRM system are almost limitless. No matter what the concern though, an inevitable truism for many companies is that they can't take on the process on their own. An HRMS consultant is needed.

Once the need for a HR system consultant is established, it might be tempting to think that all questions have been answered. Unfortunately, endeavoring to partner with an HR consultant for an information system selection or implementation has its own set of questions attached. For example, what services do you want the consultant to perform? How will the consultant's progress be measured? Looking over these questions, it may seem like a daunting task to start down the path of working with a consultant. However, if you simply use these 5 HR best practices, a successful HRMS selection and implementation are well within your grasp.

HRIS Consultant & Organization "Fit"

Scholars within the fields of Psychology, Management, and HR have espoused theories since the early 1900s about the importance of how an employee "fits" with an organization. Largely, this fit has to do with the nexus of the employee's working style and the organization's culture; and has been referred to by many as the single-best predictor of employee success. This same principle applies with HRMS consultants. "Fit" has to be there throughout the relationship; and for the most part can be verified by simply being honest. Let the consultant in on all the dirt you can about the culture and ask them to display the same level of honesty with you about their work preferences.

A similar sub-set of "fit" is the functional best practice of knowing what you need out of an employee. Within the field of HR, numerous models exist (e.g. the generalist, the specialist, the strategic business partner, etc.) that require varying levels of have expertise in any given area. Think about the role of an HRMS consultant—what is it that you need? Depth into each affected HR area? Depth in IT? Facilitation skills? Before talks even begin with prospective consultants, organizations should seriously consider what model is needed for their specific software implementation.

Managing the HR Consulting Expectations

Few employment relationship blunders are as foreseeable as failing to explain to an employee what is expected of them. Managers want to be able hold employees accountable for achieving certain performance goals. Likewise, employees want to be able to know how they will be evaluated. Without clear expectations, neither party gets what they're after. So it also goes for working with a consultant for your HRM system—make sure to define expectations for the relationship and define them early.

When in doubt about where to start with these expectations, simply follow the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound) acronym. For example, if in initial talks about HRMS investment, decreasing the "time-to-fill" metric by 30% was used as a justifying factor, be sure to discuss (and agree) with your consultant the specific, measurable, and time-bound elements he/she will be responsible for regarding that metric. Without expectations such as this, you won't know what success looks like and neither will your consultant.

Effectively Manage Consultant Compensation

Savvy compensation managers understand that utilizing the pay-for-performance (P4P) model in the right circumstance is a best practice that can pay dividends. For some positions (like Sales), P4P is a time-tested and effective model for compensation. However, other positions (like software engineers) tend to react negatively to P4P—and the money becomes an expectation rather than a motivator. The same applies to HRM system consultants. Some scenarios and system implementations work well for variable price models (i.e. fees based on a time/materials), whereas others tend to work best with a fixed price model (i.e. fees based on completion of project entirety or project elements). In determining which pricing scenarios will work best, be sure to consider: your overall project budget; your overall project timeline; whether the consultant charges by hour/task/project; whether the consultant will negotiate pricing structure; and whether financial incentives will be inadvertently given to the consultant for underestimating time/materials.

Justify the Need for Your Software Consultant

If there is one thing in particular that the current economic environment has taught us, it's that every position needs to be justified. While it should have always been a best practice for organizations to know their workforce well enough to be able to defend position expenditures, unfortunately many companies got lazy and have just now gotten to "trimming the fat". Seeing as how just about all organizations are now on this diet, you don't want to bring on more fat in the form of a consultant if he/she isn't needed. Indeed, the allocation of funds for a consultant need to be justified, so all organizations should consider these questions before bringing said consultant onto the company payroll. Specifically:

  • Are you in need of specialized HRMS technical expertise?
  • Are you in need of someone to just help with the process of selecting a vendor?
  • Are your current employees incapable of handling specific elements of selection and/or implementation?
  • Are you simply looking for an educated second opinion?
  • Are you stretched-thin to the point of simply needing contingent labor for selection and/or implementation?
  • Are you in need of an expert who is a known commodity to cut through the internal/external politics?
  • Are you simply in need of someone to help manage HR change?

The answers to these questions will lead you to that best practice of justifying why you need a consultant. Be forewarned though, these questions can also be used to prove that you don't need to expend funds on an HRM system consultant.

Consulting Conclusion

This decision to deploy an HR software solution is incredibly important and should not be taken lightly. Neither should selecting and working with a consultant for the process. Follow these best practices from HR and you're much more likely to have a jump on making both decisions into fruitful ones. End

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Fit has to do with the nexus of the employee's working style and the organization's culture; and has been referred to by many as the single-best predictor of project success."


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