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Dave Foxall How to Effectively On-board HCM Technology Consultants

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 By Dave Foxall

Supporting HCM Software Consultants Through On-Boarding

Oftentimes, given the dynamic and complex nature of HR software projects, consultants will be brought in to assist with the selection, implementation, and/or improvement of an organization's HR system. Yet achieving the ever-elusive return-on-investment (ROI) from this type of relationship can be much more difficult. While certainly an HCM technology consultant's input and guidance can make for a seamless process (and significantly reduce the time to value of the new system), ultimately the onus is on the organization to ensure that maximum value for money is achieved—a process that almost invariably can benefit from the principles of on-boarding.

In essence, the concept of on-boarding is the same for HCM software consultants as for introducing anyone to the organization. In fact, as an interview with Clarity Consultants reveals, "The themes are the same when on-boarding a consultant and on-boarding an FTE. It's about helping them build strong connections to the goals, values, history, people and language of the company." Put simply, HCM technology consultants need a structured introduction that will allow them to understand the context in which they are working and allow them to make their contribution as quickly as possible. Unlike a regular employee however, there is no "honeymoon period" for a consultant, and as such the organization must leverage a number of supportive aids (and HR software consultant best practices) to ensure that this quasi-staff member can deliver results as quickly as possible.

On-boarding the HCM Software Consultant Aid #1: Access

When introducing any new HR software consultant, Yellow Giraffe recommends to, "[Proactively] request access to all computer systems, laptop/desktop equipment, ID badge, and other supplies needed." While specific requirements will depend on the agreed-upon scope of his/her role, the HCM technology consultant will likely need ID, a level of IT access, and a list of key contacts with email addresses and phone numbers. Because of the fact that there are basic arrangements to make (and a degree of enabling practical information to provide), these elements should all be ready prior to the HR software consultant's arrival if money is not to be wasted.

On-boarding the HCM Software Consultant Aid #2: Contacts

An early round of meetings (face-to-face when possible) with the most influential stakeholders allows the opportunity for expectation setting and relationship-building that can pay big dividends later in the project. Reaching out to an influential C-level sponsor or HR staff members is often easier and consequently better received if introductions have already been made.

On-boarding the HCM Software Consultant Aid #3: Expectations

Any HR software consultant's work will either interact with or impact upon a wide variety of people within the organization. Resistance can be minimized (and support maximized) by paving the way and explaining their presence, role and value as part of the project's communication and change management strategy, especially to HR colleagues. As Yellow Giraffe says, "Team members who are unsure of the consultant's role may: feel they need to compete with the consultant; may worry that their own jobs are in jeopardy; or may not understand how to best utilize the consultant's time and skills."

On-boarding the HCM Software Consultant Aid #4: Organizational Knowledge

The reasonable hope is that during the HR software consultant selection process, a good awareness of matters such as corporate structure, size, business priorities, strategic goals, etc. has been gathered. However, assumptions can be project-threatening and an initial frank exchange or objectives and views between the consultant and the internal project manager should create a common roadmap. Fieldstone Alliance's Carol Lukas warns, "Withholding of knowledge or opinions by either party will reduce the potential benefit to the organization." In addition, the briefing for your HR software consultant should cover more than just the publicly-stated positions, however awkward this might be. As Clarity Consultants acknowledge, "Something a lot of clients are often reluctant to do early on is to share the political landscape... knowing this information is an important aspect of getting things done [especially] on projects that involve multiple functions or levels in the organization." In order to successfully plan for contingencies, the HR software consultant needs to know potential organizational pitfalls which may lie beneath the stakeholder map.

On-boarding the HCM Software Consultant Aid #5: Support

The relationship between the consultant and the internal HR software project manager is of crucial importance. As Carol Lukas says, "Build a relationship with the consultant characterized by open, honest discourse and mutual influence." However, not only must the project manager be a colleague and business partner to the HCM software consultant, but he/she should also be something of a mentor and a line manager (i.e. there to provide support, but also to call them to account if necessary over project performance and milestones). Further, as is the case with other new employees, initially the consultant won't know where to find the HR software project documentation; how to navigate the architecture of the company website; or even where meeting spaces are. In particular in larger organizations, it may then be appropriate to assign a temporary personal assistant to the HCM software consultant. Even in smaller projects, the consultant may still need someone accessible to ask the inevitable small questions that nevertheless can derail and delay if they remain unanswered.

HCM Technology Consultants: An On-boarding Conclusion

Shortening the length of time it takes to get an HCM software consultant up to speed is paramount to keeping any HR technology project on budget and under control. Yet, few organizations see these consultants are members of their team and wind up inadvertently neglecting basic best practices like on-boarding because of it. The above measures are far from difficult if implemented correctly and can be a critical factor in both an HCM technology consultant's and the HR software project's success or failure. Those who neglect these strategies do so at their own risk. End

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As Clarity Consultants acknowledge, "Something a lot of clients are often reluctant to do early on is to share the political landscape... knowing this information is an important aspect of getting things done[--especially] on projects that involve multiple functions or levels in the organization."


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