The Way Buying Should Be: Evaluating HR Technology

It’s confusing to me how we go through more than thirteen years of education without hrt1learning things we’ll need for the rest of our life – how to do our taxes, budgeting, how to get a loan, etc. We learn calculus and biology before we’re taught what we really need to get by and do well for ourselves. There are a lot of things we have to do in this world of adulting that we never get trained on if we don’t have parents who can teach us how to do them.

Buying technology, like a new car, is one of the many practical things we’re never taught in school. We go through life with check lists and blogs, scattered information comparing one thing to the next and trying to make the best decisions possible based on reviews. That’s why reviews are so popular in the first place, because we aren’t taught what to look for or how to be a better buyer.

It’s a lot like recruiting. In our job, there’s no specific education pipeline to teach us what to buy or why as compared to a more technical path where they’re taught every step of the job before ever leaving college. Unlike an engineer, we’re often left aimlessly wandering to decide priorities and how-to’s  in the school of the hard knocks. We don’t know everything we need to know before we start on this recruiting career path. One area we struggle the most to make good decisions? Technology.

Today, if you ask a room of recruiting and HR leaders about their technology stack, most will visibly cringe. It happened as recently as a few weeks ago when I attended #HRTX in DC. Often the bigger the budget, the more reluctance to any change in that technology stack as many have the perception that change will cause chaos – not vast improvements. This existence only leaves more people in our industry clueless about new technology on the horizon and more importantly, how to make better decisions in that context for the future recruiting teams.

Popular Mechanics: Understanding What’s Broken

It all starts with understanding the landscape – both in your company and in the broader HR tech world. Before diving into the world of HR Tech, figure out where the problems lie. hrt2Talk to your team, and see what they struggle with. What would they change if they could? Check in with your internal clients. What do they wish that you could do for them? Is there something in the current process or system that they wish would function better or differently? Listen and learn from your constituents.

Going in blind and looking at every tool or product is only going to overwhelm you and convolute your selection process. Having a sense of what will help contribute to the success of your organization is critical as you embark on this mission. And frankly, by being selective and strategic, you’ll look a little smarter. Let’s be honest – that’s something that most of us could always use a little help with.

In the time it’s taken me to write this so far, I’ve gotten two emails from HR Tech vendors who each claim to solve all of my ills and finally get the C-Suite to recognize recruiting’s contributions. While both of those aforementioned miracles are unlikely to be the result of the canned email in which they are purported, you’ll want to be able to tell if these claims hold any water. But how?

Ask around among your peers and colleagues to see if they have used or demo’d the product. You may also want to tap into your network to find those who may have attended the annual HR Tech Conference, SourceCon or any of the RecruitingDaily #HRTX conferences, as these are heavily attended by power-users as well as vendors. See what their thoughts on the product look and functionality are. If these are trusted colleagues, then that might be a valuable enough opinion to help make your decision about whether to take a deeper look at the product. At the end of the day, your time is valuable and it’s time that could be spent working with candidates to fill actual jobs. Doing your homework on an HR Tech vendor just like you would for anything else you were buying with company moolah is usually a play that serves you well.

New vs Used: Demo(lition) Time

As I mentioned, the HR Tech market is crowded and getting perpetually more so. As a hrt3stakeholder who will need to either use this technology on a regular basis or is buying it on behalf of a team, you need to have the best understanding about what could constitute a major portion of your budget and time in the near future.

Think about it – to get the best feel for a new car, you don’t just watch a video of that car driving effortlessly on a slick track. Instead, you walk in and test drive it yourself, on a real road with traffic and people who think the left lane is the cruising lane. Your M.O. should be the same when doing a demo of a product. Let the vendor know that you want a live demo, with real data and examples of how it works. If they are reluctant, and can only offer you death by slideshow, then run for the hills. What this is telling you is that there’s a better than average chance that the product isn’t ready for prime-time or simply doesn’t work well.

Another often-overlooked but equally important factor is that you want to know what minds are collaborating on the product with the founder(s). Ask them who is on their advisory board or development team that is guiding the shape, feel and functionality of the product. Smart founders will surround themselves with a mix of HR Tech veterans and industry practitioners so that they can glean real advice and guidance for the direction of their product. Those who say they can’t or simply won’t share that information are again a little suspect. If they say they have neither of these populations represented as part of the advisory board, buyer beware.

No Haggle Price: Making Buying Decisions

Let’s assume you like the product, (and for the sake of this article we’ll assume there is hrt4budget for it) and it’s time to make your case to the powers that be. But even at what appears to be a very black and white juncture, you still have some options you may not be aware of. Ask if you can do a pilot for 3 months or some other specified period of time. This time may vary based on the complexity of the technology and how long on average it may take to see the fruits of the product. What you’ll find is that 90 days/three months is about average.  In full disclosure, this option is more likely if the product is at an early stage but the founder(s) are still confident in their product’s capability. This is most important to help you get a sense of buy-in from your team. After all, why spend the money, if they won’t use the tool?

As far as price negotiations go, this is going to vary by vendor. Some will be more willing to flex on their price in order to get you on board as a customer. This is by no means an absolute rule, but then again you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right? Don’t be greedy or patently ludicrous, by asking for 50% off the price, but negotiation is not unusual in these scenarios.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to share your experience and perspective on the tech. We’re all in this together and we have to learn from each other. The more you share, the more time you save for everyone else doing research and trying to learn on the same rough road you’re traveling.


This post originally appeared on on Nov 16, 2016. 

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