How to Transition Your HRMS into a System of Engagement

Interlocked PuzzleThis past week I had the chance to talk with many HR practitioners from across North America about some of their biggest pain points when it comes to HR technology. What I heard was consistent: HR is on a mission to reform their HRMS to drive innovative and strategic direction in their organizations.

Some of the most common challenges I heard were:

–       “Our HRMS no longer (or never really did) fit our processes and culture”

–       “Our HR systems are fragmented – nothing is in one place, and we have to dig for information and functionality across many different platforms which is confusing”

–       “We are facing an upgrade of our core HRMS yet we really don’t feel confident that large spend will result in net new efficiencies or that employees will even use it”

I had 3 experts from different domains (HR leader/practitioner, HR solution provider, HR integration consultant) weigh in on this topic to get their unique insights on how companies can augment their HR technology strategy to help overcome these challenges. Here’s what I found out in these conversations:

Bonnie Clark:

Jeff, you have seen some significant transformation in the Zions HRMS environment over the past few years. As an HR leader, can you share what the Zions HR environment was like (technology, structure, processes, etc.), how you underwent unifying it and ultimately how it has impacted HR at Zions?


Jeff Hansen

Senior Vice President Corporate HRIS Director
Zions Bancorporation

Zions grew through multiple acquisitions from about four thousand to over eleven thousand employees.  The company structure for business is de-centralized.  Human Capital represents almost 75% of company expense.  Managing human capital was very difficult since the acquisitions came with disparate HR and Payroll systems.  Gathering data to manage resources was more like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.  Additionally, all HR/Payroll processes were manual, inconsistent, and paper intense.  By centralizing our core HRIS and Payroll system the foundation was put in place for streamlining work flows going forward.  While it was a huge undertaking to combine four HR systems and five Payroll centers, doing so paid off with a very effective and efficient business model. Centralized employee data radically improved reporting and data gathering.  Consistent manual transaction processes were implemented with the core system, as well as a reporting hierarchy and dynamic org. chart.

Once the foundation was in place, a few of our key goals were to reduce or even eliminate the amount of data entry in HR/Payroll transactions, enable employees with efficient easy to use tools on the front-end, and provide engagement points for employees that would really round out the experience – such as providing pay statements online, and improving the onboarding experience.

Our strategy was to incrementally implement quick win scenarios – creating efficiencies and building adoption along the way. Initially, we were able to standardize automated business processes, significantly reduce paper flow and cut data entry by 5 positions. We provided online pay statements which not only created an engaging reason for employees to visit the site, but also saved us up to $40K annually. Automating onboarding capabilities and ensuring new hires are appropriately set-up for day 1 has resulted in new employees being productive from the moment they arrive.

Our most recent statistics show that about 650K reports and 66K transactions were generated in the system last year. Moreover, 92% of regular employees logged in during the most recent 6 month period. With those kinds of statistics, you can really begin to understand how widespread adoption has created an engaging HR system that delivers on our top strategic goals. We are continuing to evolve the system further through enhanced ability for workforce insight reporting and leveraging online total rewards statements.

I think the continued pursuit of improvement is key for practitioners. Transformation doesn’t have to be painful or costly when done strategically over time.

Bonnie Clark:

Cary, the idea of an HR System of Engagement introduces new ways to deploy technology that traditional HRMS environments have not capitalized on in the past. Can you provide an overview of some of the latest technology has to offer – and how HR leaders can introduce them into their environment?


Cary Schuler
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer
cfactor Works Inc.

First, I would like to define what we believe to be a System of Engagement. It’s not just a pretty user interface or graphics, it’s not just introducing the latest tools (such as social tools) for the sake of adding them. It all needs to boil down to business impact.

To transition your HRMS into a true System of Engagement, you need to provide a unified (systems and people) environment that is intuitive, highly personalized, and feels like a familiar web tool that employees might use in their everyday life outside of work. It needs to be integrated, and leverage embedded social tools in relevant ways. When all of this comes together you have a system that delivers on the promise of HR efficiencies as well as user adoption. Adoption is a key underpinning for a System of Engagement, because when adoption is high, so is the compounding ROI.

For HR leaders who want to introduce engagement into their HRMS, it doesn’t have to be that difficult and sometimes they may even have the tools they need, they just need to think about leveraging them in a new way. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Provide a unified and holistic environment. If employees have too many logins or IDs to remember, or if they need to remember which place to go to do what, they simply will choose not to engage with the system. And that means lost efficiencies. Create one destination that provides access to all of the tools and information they need. Where information may be stored in a variety of different locations, provide seamless access via single sign-on to those, or create integrations that pull the relevant information right into the front end so it is easy to find without having to hunt around.
  1. Leverage integrated workflows and organizational structure throughout HR processes to drive end-to-end personalized and engaging employee experiences. By creating business rules in the system, processes can flow from initiation to completion completely online – including any review and approval steps to the correct individuals along the way. Embedded collaboration tools can enable employees to get answers to any questions they may have on a process at the exact point in time when they need it. And there will also be a comprehensive audit trail detailing each point in the transaction.
  1. Focus on delivering personalized content and branding that is relevant to an individual based on their role, department, job function, etc. This level of personalization represents real value for an employee because it eliminates extraneous information, it signals that you are paying attention to what is most important to them, and makes it easy for them to easily connect with what they need in their day-to-day jobs.
  1. Foster communications throughout the system. HR is more than just transactions and processes, so your HRMS should reflect this. You can leverage many types of communications tools – whether you are broadcasting information to specific groups of employees – or whether you are providing a collaborative space where everyone can contribute to the content via social tools, share insights on best practices, etc. Communications capabilities can set the tone and provide context for everything inside the HRMS, proving incredibly valuable in creating a System of Engagement.

Bonnie Clark:

Nov, what are some important things for HR to consider when architecting an HR System of Engagement from an existing HRMS?



Nov Omana

Founder and Principal
Collective HR Solutions

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking to augment existing HRMS and HR technology to deliver on System of Engagement qualities. Most importantly, companies need to know they have options. They should never be rail-roaded into upgrades or settling for the status quo because of potential challenges in augmenting their HR technology architecture. With technological advancements today, there are many options that are available to fit a variety of budgets and needs.

To understand where they can and should augment their architecture, HR leaders should evaluate and understand what level their existing systems are working at so they can elect to retain those that are effectively functioning while finding solutions to fill the gaps where they need help. When evaluating an HR technology vendor, focus on what package or solution is going to make it as easy and efficient as possible to implement the strategy based on a business-process review and the business information needs.

In theory, you will not change the business to match the system but, rather, to map system solution to your strategy, even though many of the vendors deliver “best practices” processes.  As we know though, one size does not fit all and even with configuration, it is sometimes problematic to deliver what the business really needs.  Look to see how other clients have been able to adapt the vendor’s solutions to meet their business.  A vendor relationship is extremely important as well, so choose carefully. You are buying the vendor, their culture, their strategic roadmap in servicing the HR industry and not just the application. You need to make sure the vendor’s culture and the way they do business are compatible. Your vendor selection checklist should include:

–       Reference checks of at least 3 to 5 in your industry

–       Contacting your network for recommendations

–       Explicit contract terms including renewal options and future “modules”

–       Review what sales presented and confirm

–       Balance lowest cost versus highest value

Most importantly, HR should be vigilant in its mission to be a strategic driver in the organization. Creating a true HR System of Engagement can play a very important role in achieving that mission.


This panel will be diving deeper into the topic in the upcoming webinar entitled Practical Solutions for Leveraging & Extending Your HR Systems: The Zions Bancorporation Story. I hope you will join them to uncover more insights into how HR can create a System of Engagement.

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