Workforce technology partners pair priorities with patience

By Andie Burjek

Sep. 17, 2020

For organizations to choose the right workforce technology partners for their unique needs, the process isn’t quick and simple. 

Workforce experts explained the steps organizations can take to choose the best option for themselves. 

Also read: How technology can help your employee engagement strategy

Taking the initial steps to finding your workforce technology partner

To find the right workforce technology partners, the first step organizations must take is to define and identify their business requirements, said Karen Piercy, a partner in Mercer’s Philadelphia office. Also, they should define what the key user experience requirements are: 

  • How will users interact with it?
  • Is it mobile enough? 
  • Will HR be able to adapt to it? 

Another important factor is to consider the organization’s unique needs. When a company puts together its extensive list of requirements, generally speaking the large vendor solutions will already cover around 80 percent of them, Piercy said. Rather than focusing too much on these standard requirements, companies should spend more time considering their unique needs for their business and situation. 

“Carve out the critical things that are somewhat different and figure out how each solution will meet those needs. That will really help separate the marketplace,” she said.

Another area to consider is the service and support aspect of the vendor solution, she added. How does the vendor work with the organization on an ongoing basis after the partnership has been made? How do they handle problems, and how much do they let customers be involved in new technology or new functionalities that they’re in need of? 

Consider your unique needs 

Enterprises should go after partners that can accelerate their business goals, said Chris Bruce, co-founder and managing director of Thomsons Online Benefits. 

According to Thomsons’ research, 49 percent of organizations with fully centralized HR operations exceed their employee engagement targets. Meanwhile, only 33 percent of firms that have not fully centralized their HR operations have seen the same result. 

“By working with partners that can help businesses meet or exceed their goals, whatever they may be, they will be better positioned to thrive,” Bruce said. 

Common software customer concerns 

Most HR professionals are not intimately familiar with all the HR solutions available, Piercy said. There’s a lot of ongoing change in the marketplace including mergers, acquisitions and new technologies, and HR needs someone who understands what’s going on in the industry. 

Experts can help HR prioritize how they’ll evaluate vendors on everything from functionalities and features to user experience, she said.

“Companies often list a whole lot of requirements, and consultants know that 80 percent of them are standard functionality. So we don’t need to focus as much on that. It’s finding that 20 percent that are the things that not all technologies do well or that they might do very differently,” she added. “That role in helping pull out that 20 percent is very valuable, and helping them prioritize how they’ll evaluate the vendor.”

Questions for companies to consider include: What’s important to me? Is it mostly about user experience? Is it mostly about features and functionality? What’s the balance between these things for me? From there, these experts can help evaluate what vendors meet these needs and this balance the best.

While this is a best practice, many companies do not make decisions this way. The Workforce Business Intelligence Board’s “2020 HR State of the Industry Survey,” developed by’s research team, asked 809 survey respondents what their top three most important factors are for choosing a workforce management technology vendor. Unsurprisingly, 32.5 percent of respondents put “cost” in their top three. On the other hand, only 19.4 percent chose “ability to customize for our business needs.”

Experts can also help organizations compare costs for different vendors, Piercy said. Each vendor prices differently, which makes apple-to-apple comparisons more difficult, and certain experts can peel back these pricing models for the closest cost comparison possible. 

The longevity of the selection process

Organizations should expect the vendor selection process to take at least two to three months, Piercy said. “You don’t want to short-cut a lot of that process,” she said. “Also, once you’ve picked the technology, you need an implementation partner, so there’s another round of selection right there.”

headcount planning strategies

She advises that organizations start looking six months in advance and stay on task. 

A lot of organizations know how early they need to start, but where they falter is they start to lag after that initial start date, she said. Then suddenly they realize they’re going to have to rush the process in order to get everything done on time. 

Consider total cost of ownership

Once you have decided on the top vendor choices, that next step is to build the business case for leadership. 

While getting that apples-to-apples cost comparison is important, leadership needs more cost information before they make the vendor selection. They also want the total cost of ownership of the technology, Piercy said.

“Leadership is going to need to know the total cost of owning the technology. What’s the business case or ROI involved in that?” 


Andie Burjek is an associate editor at

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