Tech shopping therapy: How HR changes buying behavior to succeed

HR pro sitting at table on laptop looking out window thinking about HR software buying choices

Have you ever gotten frustrated with the technology you use?  In my experience, it really can strike at any time. Our phones, tablets, PCs — even an automated garage door opener can just send us over the edge sometimes (trust me, I'd know). So how do we address this frustration? If you’re like me, you go buy the latest device in hopes to find a better experience or solution to the surface level problems you experience with your existing devices. So why is it we're so quick to change direction in our personal lives, but when we go to work our solutions seem to stay forever the same, even when we change them? I typically stay away from going too deep in the buying process in these articles, but today I wanted to share some thoughts with you when it comes to your business, your people, and your technology to help address the anxiety of changing HR technology and bring into focus how what matters most has evolved.

Working with people around the globe, I’ve noticed a lot of the same buying trends at different organizations. Much like the scenario above, they hop from solution to solution trying to find a product that offers a quick fix to a problem — and often causing other issues elsewhere in the broader spectrum of systems. Three years later, as their business evolves, the technology can’t do what they need it to in another area, they go through another RFP, and the same old cycle starts again. It’s like the Greek story of Sisyphus who pushes the boulder uphill and almost gets there before it rolls back downhill right to where he started. I've seen this happen more times than I can count.

So that begs the question, how do we change our traditional buying methods and focus on areas that go beyond just the functions of the technology we're using? Here's what I've found out:

1. Consider customer experience and service

This is absolutely, without a doubt, the most important piece to partnering with any organization. Last week I was in a meeting talking about partnership and what that means. We discussed how it’s built on joint ownership, mutual trust, respect, and commitment. When you think about finding HR technology to fit your needs, think about how it will fit your employees' needs as well and who can help respond to their requests. Does the software meet your employees where they are at so they feel heard? Do you get access to experts not just for setup, but on an ongoing basis to support you and your people both in the moment and in helping craft your long-term strategy?

2. Address past mistakes and get more people involved

We have many needs to keep track of when it comes to buying technologies that affect our business, and they come from many different stakeholders. As you get ready to invest a significant amount of time and resources into the buying process, do some reflection on what the last system could or could not do and compare it to how many people it impacts. Where did you make mistakes and how can you address them?  We often get caught up in thinking “it’s the systems fault.”  Is it?  Or is it just not as easy as you think it should be?  

The other piece that prevents the kinds of mistakes that may have happened before is getting more people involved in the process. I worked with a company in California that had 20 people in the room for their buying discussions. Yes, 20. They ranged from frontline hourly workers to managers, directors, and senior leadership. It was the most productive meeting I’ve ever witnessed because they answered a critical question at as many levels of the organization as possible — “What tools and needs does your job require to function?” In the words of my dear friend, colleague, and podcast co-host Julie Develin, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”  Focus on the end goals so you can make a larger impact.

3. Listen to Peers

The first response I usually get when I bring this up is “well their business is completely different from ours.” Yes, that could be the case. However, one of my favorite things to do is review the threads of the APA and SHRM communities. It’s filled with countless “I’m struggling with this” and “how do you handle this?” types of inquiries. Don’t overcomplicate or discount these types of conversations. Share your tips, tricks, ideas, and strategies with one another. Experience isn’t just about tenure; it’s about gathering information from various sources and executing. Think about it, if you have 10 people who have all reviewed, bought, and implemented different vendors, there is a good chance you’ll find the partner for life you're looking for much quicker.

4. Evaluate total cost of ownership vs. control

It’s really easy to use a lofty term like total cost of ownership (TCO). What's often not thought of, though, is that when you review TCO, it can make people feel threatened because they feel they're giving up direct control of certain responsibilities to your HR solution. Advances like AI guidance built into HR technology are making work smarter and faster. It's important to remind yourself and your people that this doesn’t mean anyone will be replaced. But that means making the case for new technology with more than just the pure cost-benefit analysis that something like TCO represents.

Be transparent with people — don't be afraid to say yes, you will give up some control.  It might be uncomfortable, but stress that what you're giving up control over opens possibilities to learn something new or focus on more strategic actions. Remember that training or certification course you wanted to take? It'll be easier to make time for. By allowing your HR technology to take the administrative load of day-to-day manual processes off your plate, beyond saving money you give yourself and others the opportunity to help the organization succeed in new and exciting ways.

Conclusion: Buying HR software isn't just numbers

Buying anything, and I mean anything, is an emotional decision. We must identify what those emotions are so we can go beyond the software. Are we doing this for our own benefit, or will it help our organization thrive? Will it make us the hero and help our employees live a better life?

This is all part of the life-work journey UKG uses to inform how we build our software. If you'd like to get the bigger picture, check out our white paper on the subject and start reframing how you approach the technology you use every day.

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