One of the biggest challenges with HR systems is often getting employees to actually use them. People generally don’t like change, and will often complain that ‘the old way worked perfectly well’ or that they ‘don’t have time’ to get to grips with the new, automated approach.

The route of the problem is generally that employees feel a new HR system is being forced on them – with little or no regard for their own needs. A report from The Commission on Workers and Technology found that employees are generally feeling left out when it comes to discussions about digitisation at work, and believe they aren’t being given a sufficient say in how emerging tech is being used.

So if a new HR system is on the horizon in your business, what’s the best way to involve employees in the conversation and get them actively engaged in the success of your new system?

Start the conversation early

The people on the front line who will be using the system are often best placed to help you work out what’s needed, what will work well and what’s likely to cause issues. Getting end users involved at the earliest possible stage will save a lot of time and wasted energy. Ask line managers for their input about which people management processes are taking too much time and what they would find it useful to automate. Individual employees will also be able to provide guidance on what they find most frustrating about current processes and how digitisation might improve their experience. Setting up an employee forum at an early stage also means you have a ready-made pilot group who can help you test the system and iron out any wrinkles before it’s rolled out across the business.

Feedback on progress

There’s nothing more frustrating than being asked to give your thoughts and ideas on a new system – and then to never hear anything again. If you are going to consult people, you need to keep them up to date with the latest plans for the system and explain how their ideas have been integrated. If it hasn’t been possible to take forward suggestions people clearly felt strongly about, then you need to explain why – otherwise employees will feel you have only been paying lip service to getting them involved.

Identify early adopters and quick wins

Every team will have its digital enthusiasts, as well as its digital dinosaurs. Once the system is ready to roll, identify those people who are tech-friendly and turn them into internal champions for the new system. Get them trained and up and running first, so that they can trouble shoot in their own teams, help get reluctant users engaged and provide support and encouragement to those who may be struggling. Focusing on quick wins is another good way to build support at an early stage. One of the biggest bug-bears people have at work is not being able to get quick answers on how much holiday they have left and when they will be able to take it. If you can focus on getting people using the absence module first, they will see how straightforward – and how helpful – it is and will be more receptive to embracing the wider capabilities of the system.

Focus on WIFM (What’s in it for me)

While the benefits of a new, more joined up and automated approach may be obvious to HR, to employees, you need to make it explicit. Identify a couple of features that you know employees and their managers will appreciate – and shout about it. If you have an internal comms team, get them involved in helping to plan an ongoing communications campaign that will raise awareness of the system and encourage take up.

Build a bond

It’s hard to relate to a ‘system’, so why not pick a name that makes it feel more ‘human’ and an extension of your HR team? It’s an approach that has proved popular amongst Cezanne HR customers, with names often selected following an internal poll.

It’s also worth planning out the first interaction employees will have with your new system. Can you use it to send out a message that promotes employee engagement, like a welcome message or a reminder about an upcoming social activity? That way, employees recognise early on that the new system isn’t just about form filling and data admin.

Start simple

Try not to overwhelm employees during the first days or weeks using the new system. Perhaps set a few simple tasks, such as uploading their photo or creating a short bio, so they become familiar with the new software and start to take ownership of their own data. Provide a cheat sheet of where to go and what to do, so they don’t feel worried that they may not ‘get it’ – and always ask for feedback. That way, you’ll identify early on if something is getting in the way of their success – and yours.

Share success stories

If staff are still digging in their heels, identify departments where take up is high and encourage them to shout about their successes. Line managers can share stories, for example, about how much time the new system has saved them or how useful having a team calendar view has been when it comes to planning projects and allocating resources. Individual staff can be encouraged to talk about the benefits of being able to access and manage their personal data in one place, while on the move or working remotely. War stories like these are also ideal for global roll outs, or where you’re extending your use of the system to companies you may have acquired or merged with.

Be tough

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Line managers will come knocking on your door, begging you to provide information they can easily access themselves, because they are ‘too busy’. Individuals will claim they ‘haven’t been told’ how to use the system and need you to update their personal details for them. You need to take a tough stance and knock these requests back. Be supportive in showing people how to use the system themselves (even if you’ve already shown them) and don’t fall into the trap of doing it for them. If you are persistent, they will eventually get the message.