Best Practice

When to Invest in Employee Comms Training and Technology in the HR department

My wise and saintly grandmother used to tell me when I was procrastinating about something “There’s no time like the present”.

So, when I think about the right time for employee communications training, or the rollout of technology, I think her advice still stands.  The time is NOW!

In order to stay relevant, HR must quickly get up to speed, and stay in the loop, on the vital role employee communications plays as a key objective in the organization.  

We live in a rapidly changing world, and HR’s main role is to support the workforce to quickly identify and resolve problems to meet key goals.  HR must also be accountable for keeping their own house in order.

That involves making a strong business case for the need to invest in training and technology that will help meet the needs of the company, HR and individual employees.

During my years as head of Human Resources, my Learning & Development team and I offered many types of training opportunities for our employees and managers.

These included Leadership training, diversity/inclusion training, assimilation, project management and speaking skills, and safety and compliance training, but I don’t recall our communications team (which was separate from HR) ever offering training on this critical subject to the workforce.  

If your organization is structured as mine was where employee communications is not part of HR’s responsibility, move ahead proactively to determine which aspects of employee communications are most critical for HR and your team and institute your own training.

Internal training doesn’t have to be expenses or encompass several days.  Whichever path you choose, internal, off-the-shelf or customized programs, there is not a lot of extra time for research and planning.

How can HR quickly but thoroughly determine the components of an employee communications training program?  Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Audit a training session with a vendor is a great way to see if their type of instruction and approach would work with your company.  
  • Get recommendations from HR contacts.  Talk with employees about effective programs they may have attended at other companies.
  • Research popular and effective programs to ensure all the components are included in whichever direction you choose to go.  
  • Also, work within your available budget.
  • Consider logistics of training including half or full-day, in-person or virtual, level of attendees, etc.
  • Clarify HR’s role vs. an outside vendor’s role.  Make sure you are clear on how that will work.  Do they provide workbooks or takeaway documents?  Are they available to answer follow-up questions?

Assessing HR’s technology needs begins with a similar conversation; what technology is currently in place in your organization?  Have there been recent discussions about whether the capabilities and functionality of the platform(s) meet past, current and future needs?  Does the workforce complain about HR’s technology?

What issues have you and your team encountered?  If HR’s response time is slow or the data is not accurate, a technology review is a priority; now, not later.  Some considerations:

  1. Budgets – the capital expenditures can be quite large to move to a new system; building a budget to encompass not only the anticipated costs, but to address concerns and gauge ROI on moving to a new system is critical.
  2. Fit to needs – a task force or group of knowledgeable employees must gather and review the needs of the actual stakeholders which can take a good amount of time and review.  It’s crucial to evolve your technology, fit the cultural needs of your company and lessen administration and errors.
  3. Conversion/Auditing – on top of the business needs and daily responsibilities each employee has, is there ever a good time to switch to a new system?  Not only does HR find it inconvenient, but how will the employees react to a massive change? Anything that may negatively impact their pay or benefits should be approached carefully.  What fail safes should you include? Running dual payroll feeds or double and triple checking random reports to verify accuracy at the conversion are time-intensive but necessary to build trust in the new technology.  
  4. Realistic and Appropriate Timeline – key to our initial “When to Invest” question is: do we wait until we have a significant issue (during an audit for example), or do we proactively test new systems and capabilities and build needs into a strategic plan?  Sales wouldn’t want to move to a different pay platform that affects commissions during their active selling season, so it makes sense to be very clear with the chosen vendor on the window to implement the conversion.
  5. Training – this doesn’t only happen for HR, but many times ancillary teams (Operations, Finance and the like) must go through training on the new system.  On top of that, if it is a self-service program, employees must also be proficient in how to navigate to find what they need. Taking time out for the actual training and tracking concerns is also a headache (although a necessary one).
  6. Synergies and Retention of Old Data– what about other platforms and programs that are connected through an “old” technology?  How will such a major technology change affect those systems and stakeholders? Does the vendor have the capability to retain old records and data for future reference?
  7. Additional Resources – are there HR leads that could work with the other teams and with HR’s interests to keep the RFP process, review of needs and desired outcomes, through to implementation and beyond moving?

If you and the C-Suite decide you do need to upgrade technology, having a full understanding of current state, along with future needs must happen.  Besides the considerations listed earlier, here are others.

  • Confirming whether or not a vendor or platform is scalable for future growth; for example, if the company acquires another one, would the technology be able to support several hundred (or thousand) new employees?  
  • Confirming whether a technology vendor is able to activate a few modules the first year, and then more in subsequent years to manage the budget more effectively.  In this scenario, you would also want to confirm how you will continue to oversee those portions not rolled out the first year.
  • Determining whether follow-up training is provided through the vendor, and if so, for which levels, and for how long?  If you don’t have a large training department, this could become a serious issue. Be realistic about the self-service model and whether it will be embraced by your employees.

Staying on top of the needs of both HR and the workforce is part of what effective HR strategists must do.  Constantly reviewing feedback and looking objectively at the communications and technology infrastructures should be conducted on a regular basis.

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