The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

Please Don’t Do It

Please Don’t Do It

Mar 2, 2011

I have to admit that I spend more time in airports than I would like to admit.  This means that I spend some time in airport bathrooms where a very disturbing event happens with unbelievable frequency.  I’d say that about every other trip to the bathroom, someone is in there talking on the phone.  I don’t mean listening to a conference call while on mute.  I mean ON THE PHONE TALKING!  I’ve heard people talking on the phone while in a stall!  (seriously guys, GROSS!!)  Perhaps it’s rather mean of me, but whenever I see this, my immediate reaction is to flush the closest toilet three times in immediate succession. 1

Here’s my “please don’t” list based on preventable stuff I’ve seen in the past year:

  • Don’t outsource and think that everything will be handled.  Retain some key people.  You outsourced transactions, not strategy, so keep a retained strategic organization at the very least.
  • Don’t implement without doing some high level process design first.  If you feel like being a taker of any and all process flows your vendor is going to give you, then so be it.  But chances are you do have a legitimate business requirement that will drive better adoption if you implement it, and chances are also that your vendor can handle it.  If you wait to look at processes until implementation, it’s probably too late.
  • Don’t think that automation and self service is the same as usability.  They are not.  We are often so pleased with ourselves that we moved another transaction to the web that we have completely forgotten that the overall organizational impact is negative.  If we didn’t craft the transaction the right way, we may have decreased data quality, and we probably increased the overall organizational burden to complete the transaction.
  • Don’t think you’re special.  Every organization thinks they are unique.  Let me tell you, you really are not.  If all of you were unique, Software as a Service would not exist.  ERP would be king and every organization in the world would be driving major customization to make things work.
  • Don’t give up on the culture.  I remember an agricultural company that employed migrant farmworkers and needed to automate benefits enrollments to the web (about 8 years ago).  HR was determined that these workers could not possibly have computers let alone internet connections.  In the end, they got a 60% on-line enrollment rate, seriously modifying their expectations.  Remember, these are migrant farm workers.  When we think culture or politics is too much of an obstacle, realize that it is not.
  • Don’t forget that the technology is the smallest part of the implementation.  It takes all our time and costs a whole lot of money, but the end of the story is not about the technology, but the processes you built around it and how you deployed it.  The technology does not solve anything – it allows HR to solve whatever issues are out there with new tools.

I could probably go on and on, but this plane is about to land.  If I’m ever on the phone with you and I hear 3 flushes in quick succession, I’m hanging up on you.


  1. I’m also the guy who walks down the aisle on the plane and feels perfectly comfortable exclaiming, “whoever that is, you gotta stop farting!” [back]

One comment

  1. Just so it’s clear, I find you to be brilliant with a nice sprinkling of hilarious and your blogs are helping me process a lot of the things I have on my plate at the SaaS startup I am working for, so thank you! I especially like what you are saying about technology being the smallest part of implementation when it comes to HR solutions. I completely agree and I’m hungry for your thoughts about a SaaS company themselves actively supporting HR via consulting and the creation of implementation plans that go beyond the technical to focus on seamless process integration and culture shift?

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