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The Challenges of Implementing Federal HR Technology

Marc Legaspi | October 25, 2019


The growth of HR technology worldwide continues seemingly unabated, and the federal government is no exception. Federal agencies are looking to technology to assist with core HR, hiring, reference checking, onboarding, performance management, engagement, workforce planning, people analytics and more. Grand View Research recently reported that “the global HR-management market is anticipated to reach $30 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 11% over that time,” and the federal government is not exempted from that growth. HR technology carries the potential to help agencies save money, improve efficiencies, hire better and faster, and improve employee engagement.

But the journey that begins with a Request for Proposal (RFP) that has your agency’s required features and functionality, along with all the bells and whistles to make human capital leaders and HR practitioners happy, is a long and winding – and difficult – road. Human nature often tells us that change is not easily embraced, even when the purported benefits are clear.

While implementing new HR technology can take various approaches, it typically involves at least some of the following steps – and challenges:

  • Problem analysis

The process often begins with the recognition – perceived or real – that existing technology falls short of meeting the needs of the agency and the people it serves. Similarly, there may be no existing technology in place and HR realizes that technology exists to solve the problems and challenges. In either case, current problems and shortcomings should be identified.

  • Requirements definition

With the general needs recognized, requirements are laid out and defined clearly, and then solicitations made, resulting in a decision and selection being reached on the transforming technology. It’s important that the requirements align with helping you achieve your organization’s goals and, ultimately, your agency’s mission.

Even with requirements defined, there’s still a long way to go before your organization is ready to leap forward into a new era of service and mission-enabling work. More challenges still abound.

  • Communication and buy-in

For ultimate success, early and ongoing communication with key stakeholders is critical. You’ll need to not only identify the different stakeholders but be sure to engage with them throughout the process of technology adoption. Now is not the time for surprises.

Buy-in across the agency is critical – and the sooner the better. If all parts are not in sync and “all in,” the chances for failure – or a non-optimal implementation – are significantly increased.

  • Deployment

Now, there is the not-so-easy task of deployment and implementation. This will involve time, energy and interaction with HR, IT, security and agency leadership while requiring expertise or guidance across all these areas. Silos within the agency, even if unintentionally built, need to be broken so all entities are in the know, with a clear understanding of needs and goals. Expertise across these functions and a clear, detailed plan to deploy and implement the technology is an absolute necessity for any chance of success.

  • Change Management and awareness

New technology will rarely if ever be successful without a thorough change management program, where the focus is on people rather than the technology. If all the stakeholders – from leadership through every affected employee – are not involved, then chances are increased that you’ll fall short of reaping the technology’s benefit.

This typically includes early, often and ongoing communication to increase awareness, minimize anxiety and reduce the risk of problems. Training needs should also be identified for various stakeholders.

For federal agencies considering new HR technology, it’s imperative that they consider the many elements along the journey of HR tech adoption – most notably the many people and stakeholders involved. “The idea that, if you just buy it and roll it out, ‘they will come’ is not going to happen unless there’s an effective strategy in place,” says Chris Pinc, director of product management, data surveys and technology line of business at Willis Towers Watson.

If you’re considering new HR technology for your agency, let us help you navigate the journey to ensure success – contact us today.

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