Three HR software implementation best practices

Finding the right HRMS for your business can be a complicated and sometimes lengthy process. But even when you’ve signed on the dotted line for your ideal, state-of-the-art HR technology, you’re still a long way from that tech successfully transforming your organization’s approach to human resources management.

The next challenge is implementing the new system so that your people can use it. However, your approach to HRMS implementation will determine how enthusiastically (or not) your workforce responds to their new automated HR services. In fact, user adoption is a key metric of the system’s success; arguably, it’s the key metric, given that if no one uses it, your HRMS might as well be a digital ornament.

To help you plan an exemplary HRMS implementation, we offer the following HR software implementation best practices, focusing on all aspects of the process, from who to involve, to the project management approach, to practical quality measures.

HR software implementation best practice #1 – Having an implementation team

HRMS implementation is most definitely not a solo effort. Even if a single person could handle the workload and could bring all the necessary skills and knowledge to bear, they’d still have to engage with key stakeholders from the rest of the organization. Better still, putting together a small team of people shares the responsibilities, makes it easier to access the right skills and experience, and – if you pick the right (representative) people – can be a stakeholder engagement strategy in its own right.

So, who to choose? It’s helpful to have representatives from key affected parts of the organization. Your list may vary but to start with: HR, IT, finance & procurement, payroll (if separate to HR), and a member of the C-suite (or other senior sponsor/champion). On top of that, the ideal is to have people with some experience of similar technology projects and the skills required, including handling communications, user engagement activities, training programs, system testing, data migration and the go-live day.

Another option is to consider external assistance in the shape of an HRMS consultant, either direct from the system vendor or an independent freelancer or agency. This is especially useful if you’re faced with a lack of in-house knowledge or skill or simply a lack of time and resources. 

Finally, once you have your chosen HRMS implementation team, think about onboarding. They may all have the organizational context (except possibly your external consultant) but treat membership of the project team like any other new role: what do they need to know in order to perform? In this case, the answer will include clarity on project goals, agreed success criteria, the project plan and strategy and, naturally, their own individual roles, objectives, and resources; as a minimum.

HR software implementation best practice #2 – Have a detailed implementation plan

As the cliché says, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Every project needs a plan and HRMS implementation is no different. Your plan should be clear on the project’s scope, lay out a clear timeline toward system go-live and beyond, and incorporate all the myriad tasks and activities necessary to a successful implementation. How do you know what to put in the plan? Talk to your stakeholders and find out their wants and needs; as a starting point:

  • The C-suite are expecting a clear return on their investment in the shape of strategic HR functionality.
  • The HR team is looking for a system that streamlines their function, freeing up time for higher level, more ‘human-necessary’ tasks, and projects.
  • Users often just want something that makes their working lives easier (preferably without the need to learn unnecessary new processes or procedures.

Involve each of these three main stakeholder groups in your planning, and in the ongoing monitoring and governance of that plan.

Use our step-by-step HRMS implementation plan to make your HR software implementation a success


HR software implementation best practice #3 – Data cleansing and migration

An HRMS depends on information and data and to get the full benefit from your new HRMS,  that data must be as accurate and up to date as possible. Over time, between errors, repeated inputs and sometimes just Murphy’s Law, your employee database can become flawed. While you’re changing software, you have the perfect opportunity to verify the data, fill in any gaps, and correct any errors.

This exercise can be time-consuming and technical and as project manager, you may not have the required skills or experience. This is why you have an implementation team. So, delegate, step back and monitor the results. 

A good tactic for boosting data accuracy is to ask users to review their own information. This not only ensures that each piece of information is checked by the person best-placed to judge its validity, but it also serves as a stakeholder involvement activity that reaches everyone on the workforce. Another option includes incorporating the checking process in an exercise to test the system’s employee self-service functionality, asking users to check and update their own personnel record.

HR software implementation best practice #4 – Bespoke user training

Now, when we say “bespoke”, that’s not to say each individual user of the system gets their own private, tailored training package. Though that would be nice, it’s hardly cost-effective. However, the opposite strategy – the same training material for everyone – may be cheaper and easier but it’s also highly ineffective. The middle way is to develop several training options that address the needs of different groups of users. The different stakeholder groups: employees, managers, senior managers & C-suite, and specialists, such as HR or finance, are a good place to start.

The basic stages of putting together a package of training are:

  • Needs analysis – what do different groups need to know and be able to do with the new system?
  • Training design – develop materials and content to address the identified training needs; this might be available in different formats (e.g. e-learning, instructor-led sessions, online ‘just-in-time’ modules and references, and even setting up learning communities and forums to enable users to help and support each other) to suit different needs and/or learning preferences.
  • Delivery – group by group, running the course, coaching the key users, administering online tests… whatever the agreed strategy consists of.
  • Evaluation – you need to know whether or how well your training has worked; what was the impact? This exercise primarily focuses on what people have learnt and how well they could use that learning in their daily roles; however, it can also be used to validate your training strategy and choice of training options.

Once again, user training is effectively a stakeholder engagement effort. By delivering the training they need, you show that you’ve listened and understood the various stakeholder issues and are able to support through the change.

HR software implementation best practice #5 – People-focused change management

Everybody is different. But broad responses to change – any change – can be categorized and planned for. The most common models for managing change in the workplace are variations on the denial-resistance-exploration-acceptance curve, derived originally from the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

This ‘people element’ requires that your implementation plan needs strong change management thread detailing how you will take employees from an initial lack of knowledge about the system to being accomplished users. Such a plan will include activities designed to inform users of the reasons for the new system, its potential benefits (to the organization and to them), and equips them with the skills and knowledge to use the system successfully.

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall

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