When it comes to HR systems, the buying decision is seldom made by the HR department alone. In addition to the information technology department, the controller or CFO may be involved and approvals are often required from the president or CEO.
This means, in many cases, that it falls to HR to develop and make a formal presentation to the management group. In developing a proposal, the HR manager has to be aware she is selling an idea that will require the expenditure of a scarce commodity — money.
A key rule in selling is to make it easy for the buyer to make a positive decision, so the proposal has to be well-designed and easily understandable. HR has to be aware of the criteria that relate to business proposal design.
A simple and commonly used structure includes three major areas:
•Where is the organization today?
•Where does it want to be?
•How is it going to get there?
To do this, HR must first identify the current situation. The organization might be using a legacy human resource management system (HRMS) that can’t be expanded to satisfy the growth of the organization. Or it may have no HRMS at all — only multiple, different spreadsheets. The proposal can address the lack of timeliness of reports and data inconsistencies because of the lack of a single HR database or the forest of paper needed to process routine HR functions such as time-off requests, staff transfers and training.
It’s important to tell management in a concise manner the status of the HR department and the problems that exist because of the lack of the proposed technology system.
Changes to workflow
Then HR should address the changes the new system will introduce. These are not limited to system functionality, but must include new business processes and workflows that will improve the operation of not only HR but the overall organization. HR should group changes in process to be introduced by the new system by the length of time it will take to implement them.
A short-range change could be the integration of other systems with HR to provide for single-source data entry. These could include payroll, time entry data collection applications and even manufacturing systems that require employee identifications.
A medium-range change would be putting the HR system on managers’ or supervisors’ desktops so they could answer employee questions directly rather than having employees contact HR. Another medium-range change could be the introduction of employee self service that allows all or some employees to access their own records directly, submit time-off requests to their managers and update various data, such as addresses or phone numbers.
A long-range change could be the distribution of the system from the head office to remote branches of the organization.
Finally, HR must define costs and benefits. Assuming the organization already has the necessary computers, database licences and telecommunications networks, the major cost components are the HR software licence, ongoing support and user training. Where the organization has remote locations, consideration must be given to costs associated with the training of users.
Although HR staff will be involved in implementing the new system, their compensation and benefits costs are fixed and should not be included. However, the costs of any needed part-time staff should be included.
The benefits to the organization in terms of potential savings are generally much more difficult to calculate than the costs. Any head count reductions should be included, along with the potential savings of not having to hire additional staff for year-end activities or International Standards Organization (ISO) audits.
Another yardstick that could be used to measure the value of the new system is improvements in time and data content of reports needed by management or government reports. For example, the new system might produce head count analysis for management, on a location-specific or company-wide basis, or on the day following each month end rather than a week or more later. The data will be accurate since it comes from a single database rather than from multiple spreadsheets maintained in each location.
Better tracking of records
Similarly, the new system might be able to produce accurate and timely employee training records to satisfy ISO or similar audits, ensuring a smooth continuation of certification without excessive HR and training staff effort. Health and safety data could be easily available so injury-free programs can be monitored and steps quickly taken to focus on problem areas. The proposed system might be able to show how many injury days off can be saved and at what expected cost savings.
Each of these points should be examined in terms of cost reductions, workflow improvements, increased data accuracy and improved speed of reporting. Each point made must be quantified in terms of dollars, days, head count or whatever metric is appropriate.
It’s also a good idea to find out if there is an approved general format that includes language and idioms used by the organization for management proposals. If so, fit the approach into the format so that the audience feels comfortable with the document. Keeping the proposal easy to understand will help the decision-makers focus on the content rather than the format.
And lastly, HR might want to preface its proposal with a brief management summary and end it with a brief review of what was demonstrated. In short, “Tell them what you’re going to say, say it and then tell them what you said.”
Gerson Safran provides marketing and sales support for the INFO:HR Human Resources Management System. He can be reached at (519) 672-5984 or at email@example.com.