I’m often asked what areas other companies have struggled with and what pitfalls they should avoid when implementing a talent acquisition system. Answering these questions, I realize, with some annoyance, the bevy of clichés coming out of my mouth. While I’m not a big fan of buzzwords and catch phrases, there are many that come to mind for things that can make or break a project.
1. Begin with the end in mind. By the time your implementation project kicks off, your team should have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the project. What you are expecting to accomplish by deploying your selected system? Invest the time identifying what a successful implementation will look like for your organization.
2. Do your homework. Review any implementation guides and product details you can get your hands on. If you don’t have this, ask for it. Be proactive and learn as much as you can. By educating yourself, you will be better prepared for what to expect, understand system capabilities, and zero in on functionality that will have the most impact for your organization.
3. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Work with your implementation partner to ensure your project plan is realistic. If you are trying to reduce the duration without removing things from scope, it begs the question: do you want to do it fast or do you want to do it right? Ideally, you land somewhere in the middle. Most plans assume you have the right resources who can make solid decisions and hit every deliverable on time. Let’s be honest, that’s usually not the way it works in the real world. Build in some wiggle room for when difficult decisions, surprises, emergencies, or conflicts arise because they will.
4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Consider competing projects that may take place during the course of your implementation. This is especially important with shared resources. While it is tempting to deploy several things at once, recognize the burden this can place on your teams and adjust the timeline accordingly. Also keep in mind that unless you have the luxury of dedicated project resources, these folks still have other responsibilities. Clear some things from their plates if possible.
5. Find the right person for the job. The answer to how many and which people are needed on your implementation team is: It depends. An approach that works best is to establish sub-teams for the functional and technical work, with a lead or point person for each team and an overall project manager.
- The functional team is responsible for decisions around requisitions, workflows, candidate experience, communications, etc. Your target end users must be represented here. You may also need help from your Legal and Marketing teams. The number of people needed depends on their workload, your internal structure, and company size.
- The technical team focuses on things like integrations, single sign-on, and data migration that may be in scope. Depending on your company’s internal systems and complexity, this may mean one or more resources for each technical area.
6. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Have regular discussions with your stakeholders, leadership, project team, and implementation partner. Confirm decisions and address concerns or risks along the way. It is a basic concept but you’d be surprised how often (and quickly) a project comes unhinged due to poor communication. Don’t risk getting half-way through only to find your stakeholders, legal, IT, or other decision owners are not on board with the direction you are going.
7. You have to know what you need to be sure that you get it. Know your requirements. By this I mean the key functionality the system must support for your deployment to be successful. For example:
- If you conduct third party background screens, know which type of candidates this applies to and at what stage the screening should take place. Have you confirmed whether integration is possible with your new system along with what that entails?
- If you will have an integration to bring data back into your HRIS to hire someone, know what data is required to create the new employee record (or to transfer or rehire them).
- What are your reporting needs? Don’t neglect this area only to go live and be asked by your leadership for data that is not being captured. In other words, if you need to report on open requisitions by cost center, having a place to record the cost center for each req should be a requirement.
The list of goes on, but you get the idea. Take the time up front to identify these requirements and ensure everyone agrees with them. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t know your requirements, they will creep up later and can completely derail your timeline.
8. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. Don’t simply replicate your existing processes in the new system. Take this opportunity to eliminate bottlenecks and gain efficiencies. What are you doing today that works well? What doesn’t? Are there unnecessary steps in your current process? Now’s your chance to make things better. Make sure you do.
9. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Your consultant can provide insight on ways to streamline your processes and offer creative solutions to meet your needs. It also helps to understand what other companies are doing, but keep in mind that a “best practice” doesn’t always mean it’s best for your organization. Ultimately, you must make those decisions.
10. You can’t see the forest for the trees. Today’s applicant tracking systems have hundreds of nuances and options and are constantly evolving. With endless possibilities, it is doubtful you will touch on all of them during the course of your project. It is not unheard of for a client to later say, “You never told us we could do that!” To which your consultant may reply, “You never told us you needed to.” While you should certainly take advantage of a few that make the most sense for your organization, try not to get too distracted by all the bells and whistles.
11. Crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Avoid creating an over-complicated system with complex workflows simply because you can. Start with the basics and work your way up. If you design your system with your core requirements as the backbone, it will be easier to build upon in the future. The feedback your users provide once they are working in the system will guide you in prioritizing future enhancements.
12. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Far too often, user acceptance testing does not get the attention it deserves. This is your dress rehearsal for the big show. Utilize it to its fullest. Work with your implementation partner to develop a detailed test plan based on your configurations to ensure the system is tested fully before you move into production. The majority of issues clients encounter during deployment are things they did not test well (or at all!).
13. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Sure you can. You just need to provide the proper methods and motivation. Change management should be a big part of your project, but it is another often overlooked area that teams throw together as an after-thought. The most successful implementations include a strategy for managing change. In addition to training and education, be prepared to answer the age-old question, “what’s in it for me?”
14. The devil is in the details. Don’t forget about other areas that may be impacted by the move to your new talent acquisition system. Are there legacy systems that need to be shut down? Do you have links on your company webpages, career sites, or job boards that need to be updated? What kind of support model will you need? Start a checklist of things that will need to happen when you deploy your new system. Figure out who you need to work with to accomplish them and how much lead time will be required.
15. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. It’s amazing how much more productive and focused your team will be when their efforts are recognized and rewarded. Celebrate completions of key tasks and milestones. Congratulate each other and have some fun every now and then. Bring in lunch for the team. Go to happy hour. Just do something…in the most delightful way.
So there you have it. Some pitfalls to avoid like the plague, ideas to knock your implementation out of the park, and more clichés than you can shake a stick at.
Senior Implementation Consultant at HRchitect