Insight |

The 3 worst mistakes you’ll make choosing HR Software (and 3 tips to avoid ’em)

The 3 worst mistakes you’ll make choosing HR Software

The 3 worst mistakes you’ll make choosing HR Software (and 3 tips to avoid ’em)

Insight |

The 3 worst mistakes you’ll make choosing HR Software (and 3 tips to avoid ’em)

The 3 worst mistakes you’ll make choosing HR Software
So you’re thinking about getting new HR Software. You’ve googled up a few of the best ones, you’ve chatted to that colleague from that job who seems to be tech-y, and now you’ve got to actually… you know… choose one.

But how do you pick the right one? Or maybe more importantly, how do you ensure you don’t pick the wrong one?

I’m going to run through some of the three biggest mistakes HR Managers and businesses make when choosing core HR software. Then I’ll dish out my three biggest tips to choose the right software that will help you manage your employees and make your life easier, not harder.

Mistake #1: Only solving current problems

So much of HR is lag focused – we all spend a lot of time solving problems and chasing compliance, rather than planning and looking ahead. I get it. Someone needs to do the variance reporting and reconcile the timesheets for payroll. So much of the time we focus on the problems in front of us right now: problems arising from separated systems, out-dated interfaces, clunky reporting – you get what I’m saying.

It’s effortless to tunnel vision on the most obvious day to day problems you face when hunting for a new HR system. We tend to look at HR software that solves all of the problems we’ve had in the past – this rarely includes anticipating problems we might have.

It’s easy to focus on this, and forget to look past to what’s next, or what is our future state. And yeah, we do need to solve today’s problems. We should automate admin tasks, remove single points of failure. But what about when you’ve done that? What next? What will you want to do with all the spare time you created for yourself?

Example: a friend of mine works in HR consulting, and was helping out a high growth software company. Their administrative staff handled most payroll and HR functions. They asked my friend to help choose an HRIS software suite for their budget and needs – their only goal: eliminate double handling of paperwork and digitise onboarding.

Simple enough, right? So my friend helps them choose a low touch HRIS that does just that. Two months later, my friend gets a call from the administrative assistant. ‘Listen,’ she says, ‘the new system is great – onboarding runs itself. But what we’ve got our performance reviews coming up, can you help us out?’

RELATED: 7 Stats that will change how you look at performance reviews

My friend jumped on their platform and discovered their HRIS didn’t include performance. Okay, well, it did, but it was old and slow: worse than their existing process. Worse still, the platform didn’t report on attrition or employee engagement. So even though people were onboarding smoothly, they had no way to know how well they were keeping their staff. No idea when their staff needed more attention, more feedback. Nothing.

Worse still, the new platform made it hard to export their data in a meaningful way, so they just did their old performance process using powerpoint templates and excel spreadsheets. Yikes.

Mistake #2: Choosing a solution to fit legacy systems (that kinda suck)

Tatung einstein computer
Image source: Marcin Wichary, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve done this one before. You’ve got that payroll system from the stone age that your whole business is built on, that you can’t possibly move away from. So you choose an HR Software that kind of integrates with it (but you’ll still need to do monthly variance reporting and if you bump the computer too hard the integration might turn off).

Trying to find a cloud based solution that will map to old, clunky legacy systems means your shiny new software will come out of the gate anchored, slowed. Now, sometimes this is out of our control in HR. Maybe the payroll department has signed a ten year deal with that payroll system from back when Whitney Houston was topping the charts. Maybe you have to use a legacy system because you just… do.

The problem is you’re choosing a new system based on systems you already don’t like. Instead of a huge home run, you’ll end up with a place to store employee information that kind of does some cool things but still requires a lot of manual intervention and lag chasing, the very thing you were trying to avoid in getting a new HRIS in the first place.

When I was working for one of Australia’s big universities, a project management team was assembled to procure an HRIS. They did their due diligence. The team researched dozens of platforms that would support their 5,000 plus workforce. But they only considered five cloud based solutions. The only five on the list were the platforms that would integrate with their payroll system from 1993. Yeah. It’s as bad as it sounds. The project fell over mostly because a platform that connects to something older than our graduate staff is not going to have the modern features you need to take care of your people today. The interface felt old, outdated. The integration worked, but it wasn’t full-proof. The project died a slow, painful death as the project team lashed an outdated boulder to a sports car and expected to win the race.

Mistake #3: Choosing a cheap-until-it-ain’t system

Counting cash and notebook

You’re doing the research. You find a cheap, decent platform with middling reviews. It’s affordable but not suspiciously so, just better priced than other platforms that do something similar. So you investigate a bit more. Hop on a discovery call. So far, so good.

You sign on, get your data in. It’s looking good. Then you click over to set up the qualifications management tool, and it’s there but it’s switched off. You call the sales rep, and they explain that’s an additional module, of course. That’ll be another five dollars a head. Not the worst, and you have the budget for it. So no worries, you turn on the qualifications module.

Then you’re ready for annual pay reviews, and oh yep, that module will be another six dollars a head. You get where I’m going with this.

There’s nothing wrong with an HRIS that charges for individual modules, but if the pricing seems too good to be true out of the box, it probably is.

The tips

Alright, so that was all a little scary. Now that we’ve identified the pot-holes, let’s talk strategies to avoid them.

Tip #1: Choose software for the business you’re trying to be, not business you were

The first, most obvious tip is to look ahead. Rather than focusing on yesterday’s problems, think about the business you want to be.


Look at tech that solves your current problem but also explore your future state – what else can the tech do and does it allow you to grow into it? If you eliminate all the busy work, how do you want to spend your time? How do you want to contribute to the people function of the business?

Open a dialogue about where your business is heading, and understand your upcoming needs. Make a list of upcoming priorities and ensure the HR software you choose does them, and does them well.

Tip #2: Don’t let a legacy system decide for you

Even if it’s harder to have tough decisions internally, start the conversations. Why are we choosing HR software to fit our old payroll system, or our old LMS?


Ask hard questions. Begin a conversation with decision makers. Try to understand not just what the legacy systems are, but why we’re bending to them. Even if you have to double handle entering someone in payroll and your new HRIS, it might be worth it for the features of the HRIS.

RELATED: Why choose best-of-breed HR software over all-in-one?

Tip #3: Find out what their customers are saying

The easiest way to avoid paying for additional modules or being caught out is to find out what current customers say.


Head to review sites – Capterra, G2. Seek out case studies, testimonials. Go hunting for customer stories on review sites: is the software growing and changing to meet the needs of its customers? Ask your sales rep for a referral to some existing customers.

Capterra review intelliHR

Closing thoughts

The above is not exhaustive – myriad competing factors come together to influence your decision for a new HRIS. But you can avoid these frequent mistakes if you take your time, do your research, and consider the future of your business.

It’s not just enough to pick a ‘good enough system’ because your people deserve the best possible HRIS.

Are you currently choosing HR software for your organization? intelliHR is a next-generation cloud-based people management and data analytics platform for HR professionals who want to make a difference. Get in touch for a demo of the platform today.


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