How to… build a shortlist for HR software

Searching for the best HR software for your business can be a confusing business.  Vendors will be falling over themselves to convince you of the merits of their products – and with a myriad of human resources management systems to choose from, it can be a challenge to find the one that is right for your needs – and your budget.

So what’s the best way to go about finding potential suppliers and what are the pitfalls you need to avoid?  The following tips should help you build a shortlist of credible companies with products that suit your business.

Widen your search

So you’ve Googled ‘HR software’ and a list of suppliers is in front of you on the screen.  Don’t automatically assume, however, that the companies that come top of the list are there because they are the best.  Those companies that come up first are there because they have paid for the privilege – or because they are very good at Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  Make sure you scroll down a bit further and don’t overlook a promising supplier just because you have to click through to the next page of results to find them.

Compare with caution

Comparison sites can be useful, but be aware that they are often making money from the vendors whose details they list.  Some sites, such as HRcomparison.com, can save you time by helping you narrow down your choices based on what vendors have told them about features or market specialisation.  But don’t just blindly accept what the comparison site tells you.  Get in touch with the companies themselves to find out what they have to offer and how their features and fees compare with competitors.

Dig deep with your research

It’s worth having a proper look at any HR software reviews, articles or blogs that you may come across in the course of your research.  It will be blindingly obvious that some are ‘advertorial’ rather than independently written pieces.  Others may appear to be even-handed and non-commercial, but if you take the time to click through any links in the article, you may find they point you back to a particular business.  Once again, any that come up high in search results will almost certainly have been written with SEO in mind.  Even commercially-oriented articles can, however, give you really useful information and guidance – so scour them for helpful advice, but treat any wild claims about products with caution.

Ask for recommendations

One of the best ways to find out how good a company’s products and services are is to speak to people who are already using them.  Any reputable HR software supplier should be more than happy to give you the names and phone numbers of a few existing clients so you can have a chat about how they are using the products and what the upsides and downsides have been.  Asking for recommendations via social media can also be useful – although be aware that if you see a glowing reference on LinkedIn, for example, it may not be entirely independent.  Postings on social media sites are not validated – so just like a hotel review on TripAdvisor or a book review on Amazon, the review could well have been written by friends and family!

Don’t be taken in by flashy websites

An all-singing, all dancing website isn’t a guarantee that you are dealing with a reputable business.  These days, pretty much anyone can set up a flashy website at minimal cost, so make sure you get beyond the hype and look for company news, press releases and any useful resources that help to demonstrate the company is a serious contender.

Get to grips with the technology

Whatever the size of your organisation – or your budget – it’s important that you make an informed decision about the technology platform that you select. With so much changing at the moment, it’s important to know the implications of choosing Cloud over hosted or in house HR systems. A number of HR analysts – like Naomi Bloom – have written useful articles that can help inform your decisions.

The tips above should help you build a credible shortlist, but of course it doesn’t stop there.  Once you’ve got some names in the frame, you need to speak to the suppliers themselves, book product demos and ask questions about important issues like flexibility, scaleability, data security and customer support.  Getting a sense of the people behind the product is also important.  You want a product that suits your needs, but you also want people who are helpful, supportive and generally nice to do business with.

Good luck with your search – and do share any other useful tips you may have.