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How to Select a Communications Technology Platform HR Will Use (+ Bonus Checklist)

Holly Gaspari October. 27, 2021

Choosing the right communications technology platform to help manage the HR business function is the backbone of any HR department. The right HR technology stack increases productivity, is less labor intensive, and automates tedious manual workflows, leaving more room for human tasks.

Technical advances in recent years have also led to a rise in digital point solutions, ranging from recruitment and onboarding systems and engagement tools to payroll management programs to regulatory compliance software.

But how do HR decision-makers choose the right technology to resolve existing pain points like message personalization or benefits recommendation and utilization?

Following Suit

Often, we are caught up with jumping on the new technology bandwagon and latest HR trends without fully understanding all the platforms’ functions and capabilities, costs, and analytics, or how customer support operates. Rapidly advancing technology offers an excellent opportunity for you to take your HR department to the next level and infuse your company’s culture and activities, but just because the solution is new and shiny does not mean it’s the right fit for your organization.

Here are a few key factors to consider when choosing the right communication technology platform for your HR department and workforce.

Determine your Needs

The most important step to selecting the right communications platform is to understand your HR needs.

Start by identifying the areas in which your team is performing well and determine the areas that need improvement. Second, make a list of your technical and non-technical pain points that a new communications platform must solve. And, third, ask yourself questions such as:

  • What do you hope to achieve by investing in this new communications platform?
  • How will the communications platform align with your HR goals, business objectives, further engage employees, and resolve inefficiencies?
  • Does the new approach add value to existing HR processes?

In addition to looking at your current state of play, consider the long-term impact of the solution on business growth to ensure it can scale accordingly.

Set Your Criteria and Ask the Right Questions

A new communications technology platform should tap into your department’s full potential and engage employees through every stage of the employee journey. While point solutions are great, spinning up multiple solutions can be costly, timely, and lack integration that gives you a holistic view of your landscape. To ensure the platform accomplishes these goals, set criteria ahead of time, so you’re not just selecting the platform to best meet your needs, but the right partner.

Consider such measures and questions as:

Features – What features do you currently have? What new features will help you achieve your goals? Remember quality vs. quantity. Do not get too enticed by the number of features, instead focus on the quality of features and how they align to your needs. If the platform does not have several of the features you need, it may not be the right platform for your organization. However, if only a handful of features are missing, ask your IT team if they can fill these gaps through custom configurations.

Interoperability – Interoperability enables different information technology systems to communicate and exchange organizational data. As a result, employees across departments can access authorized data between systems such as career training materials, analytics, benefits information, treatment options, HR forms, etc. Interoperability not only saves time and enhances communications, but breaks down department silos and reduces data entry errors.

Innovation – As HR vendors implement new ideas, methods, and technologies, or advance their data ingestion, analytics, and reporting, you will want a communications platform that meets your ever-evolving workforce requirements. Don’t be afraid to ask how much investment and effort goes into improving the technology, adding new capabilities, how many releases the communications platform has per year, and what new features are planned over the next year.

Ecosystem – Your HR ecosystem not only includes your resources for every employee and their employee journey from onboarding to offboarding, but compliance and auditing, benefits, payroll, training, performance management, and more. Add to this any external integrations with users and partners. Make sure a new communications platform can integrate with your other systems and software, and that customer support can handle your needs quickly and efficiently if you need to troubleshoot a problem.

Communications – In addition to customer support, what type of communication options can HR utilize to communicate and personalize messages to their workforce or segments of employees? For instance, can HR communicate based on employees’ preferred modes of communication, such as text, email, or push notification? When employees have an issue obtaining their personal information, such as their benefits plan or 401k allocation, how can they support themselves without going directly to HR? Does the communications platform offer an omnichannel experience, app, chat, website, and/or social media support? What guides and how-to resources are available online? And, does the team provide support on holidays and weekends? Finally, is the support team available globally or only in the United States? After all, people are in different time zones.

Setup Costs, Training, and Maintenance – Implementing a new communications platform may have upfront and ongoing costs. Make sure to find out how much it will cost–directly and indirectly–to purchase the platform, hire a consultant to set up the new system, if needed, and handle custom configurations. Don’t forget to consider training costs for rolling out the tool, ongoing maintenance, and management fees.

License Costs – Like any technology, platforms have different payment models. Some charge a lump sum, while others use an annual license fee, per-user fee, or even a subscription plan. Some tools even provide a ‘freemium’ model with limited capabilities. However, most technology worth using is licensed.

Vet your Vendors

Once you have your criteria, develop a list of HR communications platform vendors. Research their websites, read their reviews, download their reports and white papers, and review testimonials from clients. Also, look for recommendations from trade associations like SHRM, professional recommendations from other vendors and associates, and visit virtual and in-person trade shows. Based on your needs and criteria, interview and meet with 3 to 5 potential partners, and ask them to create a demo to see how the platform works. From there, narrow it down to 2 or 3 vendors to receive final pricing quotes based on your requirements, time frame, and functionality. Don’t forget to ask about any discounts or incentives too.

Creating a plan, developing the right criteria, and vetting potential partners and platforms that offer the best products, services, and value, can help ensure you select a communications platform that provides the solutions your HR team needs. With this approach, HR can find the right personalization strategy and use the correct data to improve your company culture, enhance communications, facilitate faster decision making, offer personalized benefits guidance, and customize the employee experience.

Do you need more guidance on selecting the right communications platform for your organization? Check out this comprehensive checklist that highlights ten additional features your communications platform needs to be effective.