Three Things Every Buyer Should Be Asking HR Software Vendors

As teams are becoming accustomed to this “new normal,” many employers realize that now more than ever, the way they did things in the past and the business tools they’ve used no longer suffice.

As remote work becomes more common, as businesses continue to diversify the mix of employee types they employ, and as employees continue to raise their expectations of what employers provide them to do their jobs, a fresh look at the tools your business is run on is required. Their work — and yours — shouldn’t be stymied by using the wrong tools (often for small businesses that means choosing from clunky systems intended for large enterprises). Equally important, you shouldn’t be applying a rinse-and-repeat approach to aligning an existing HR process to new technology, once you find it.  Otherwise, you might just be creating new headaches for your new normal.

As a Sales Director at Zenefits, I’ve had thousands of sales calls in my near 5-year tenure. And, I’ve recognized a pattern of questions that really aren’t serving potential customers well. If HR software has finally made your priority list, I suggest you take a different approach to the questions you’ll be asking vendors to ensure you partner with the right company and system that will help move your business forward.


Everyone Asks #1: “Our process today is (insert lengthy, manual, multi-step process here), can we do this in YOUR system?

What they SHOULD be asking: “Our process today to accomplish ‘X’ is (insert lengthy, manual, multi-step process here). How can we accomplish ‘X’ using your system?

Why? The biggest mistake I see small to medium-sized businesses make when evaluating HR systems is trying to find a system that allows them to do something exactly the way they’ve always done it. Evaluating systems is also an ideal time to assess your processes and determine if they still make sense or perhaps if there is a better way. Remember, your processes today were likely designed within the confines or limitations of your current tools and systems. That doesn’t make it right. Be open to recommendations for a better way to achieve the desired result.


Everyone Asks #2: How is this going to save me time and make my life easier?

What they SHOULD be asking: How is your system going to make our company more efficient and our employees more productive, myself included?

Why? No doubt, your time is precious. The good news is that most of the legacy systems out there are built solely for the system administrators, so you’ll likely achieve this, but where they fail is designing for what will end up being the majority of your users, the employees. The bottom line, if it’s not easy to use, employees won’t use it. While on the front end, some of your tasks might have gotten easier, many of those tasks would be eliminated if the system you purchase offers employee self-service, collaboration tools and is intuitive and easy to use. Keep the bigger picture in mind, the entire company, and everyone that will be interacting with the system. If an HR system streamlines everyone’s process, allowing all employees, in addition to admins, to focus on their roles and revenue-producing activities, that is a much bigger win for the company.


Everyone Asks #3: Can we schedule another call(s) to see a full demo of all your capabilities?

What they should be asking: Can I get a free trial of your system so I can see first hand if your product meets our needs and come to the demo prepared with questions?

Why? This question is crucial and very well may be the most telling. Software salespeople are well trained on the pitfalls of the systems they represent and are highly skilled to avoid them during a demo. Nothing is worse than finding out the shortcomings during implementation or after. I’m not saying a demo isn’t an incredibly valuable part of the evaluation process; it is. Still, if the vendor doesn’t have the confidence to let you trial their offering yourself, post-sale surprises are imminent. Digging into the system before the custom demo not only shows you how easy the system will be to adopt but also allows you to ask any questions based on your experience to address any potential issues before signing a contract.

Why the right questions matter even more right now

Evaluating HR software can be a tedious but eye-opening process, and one of the most important purchases any business can make. HR systems are what a company runs on, so choosing the wrong system or not uncovering limitations during the sales process can be costly. While features and functions are important, the overall experience the system provides employees and candidates is more. The right tools that empower employees to collaborate better, to better do their jobs, and be able to see how their work is impacting the greater organization not only means your best people stay longer but they are more motivated to do their best work. Providing a digital, easy to navigate onboarding experience means top candidates may choose you over your competitors. The ability to do all this and more in one single app via their mobile phones means they are more engaged, more productive, and get more done — from wherever they might be working in the new paradigm of work.

Transparency during the sales process, in functionality, pricing, and fit with your business priorities, is vital to help you choose the right HR software. In fact, any vendor you are considering should enable you (and a few of your employees) to do a trial with their system before you buy, so you can see, first hand, the impact possible for your organization. This is our standard operating procedure at Zenefits. Challenge other providers to do the same.

In the past two months, the world and the way we work changed. In reality, in a healthy business, work is always changing. So, too, will your requirements for software to support that change. Therefore, as you finalize your HR vendor selection for “fit,” ensure all vendors you are reviewing have the pace of innovation to evolve as you do so you won’t need to re-read this article sooner than you would have wished.