11 Steps to Implement a Better HR System This Year

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Whether you’re adopting your first HR system or working through a more complex HR system integration, planning is key to success. From identifying your business needs to selecting a vendor to coping with resource constraints and user resistance, implementation can be a long and painful process.

In this article, we’ll walk you through each step in the planning and execution phases of HR system integration. Learn what you need to know before implementation even begins and how to ensure your integration process runs as smoothly as possible. Putting in the effort now will pay off in dividends later.

Key Takeaways

  • HR systems come in a variety of forms, from highly focused to broadly supportive.
  • Proactively defining your business needs and obtaining stakeholder buy-in will save you significant time and headaches during implementation.
  • The implementation process is often a large undertaking that requires effective project management and support from many key parties.

Different Types of HR Systems

HR software can include broad functionality that manages employee data, automates routine HR tasks, and derives workforce insights through reporting and analytics. It can also be focused on a single area of HR, such as training and development, using learning management systems (LMS).

The most common HR systems are classed as either HRIS (Human Resource Information System), HRMS (Human Resource Management System), or HCM (Human Capital Management). These systems differ in their focus, but they’re all designed to optimize HR operations.

An HRIS will primarily focus on organizing employee data. It’s less sophisticated than HRMS and HCM platforms but benefits organizations seeking an alternative to manual data tracking.

HRMS software includes the same data management functionality as an HRIS but also tends to include more robust reporting and analytics. Though this type of software is more strategy-focused, it doesn’t leave out the day-to-day task management tools.


HCM software values strategic improvement. It’s focused on optimizing the employee experience and aligning HR operations with overall business goals. HCM is often integrated with existing HR software to add strategic insights.

Integrating a New HR System: Before You Start

Before you start down the path of integrating a new HR system, you must think about what your organization needs and develop an integration plan. Below, we list the essential preparatory measures to undertake before you begin the process.

Assess Your Current HR Processes

Review your existing HR workflows, systems, and processes. Identify areas that are functioning well and those that present challenges or inefficiencies. This assessment will help pinpoint specific areas where the new HR system can bring improvements.

Define Objectives and Requirements

Clearly define what you aim to achieve with the new HR system. Outline the specific functionalities and features that you believe will meet your objectives.

Consider aspects such as employee data management, payroll, benefits administration, recruitment, performance management, and compliance. Align these requirements with the overarching goals of the organization.

Decide on the Future of Existing Systems

Evaluate your current infrastructure and software. Determine whether each existing system you want to keep will seamlessly integrate with a new HR system or if some systems will need replacement.

For any system that will be replaced, start planning a strategy for migrating data from the existing platform and establish a timeline for retiring that system.

Set Out a Budget and Allocate Resources

Estimate the financial resources needed for implementing the new HR system. Factor in costs associated with software acquisition, implementation, training, ongoing support, and any additional hardware requirements.

Allocate budgetary resources accordingly, and don’t forget to allow for unexpected expenses or contingencies that might arise during the integration process.

Involve Stakeholders and Seek Buy-in

Engage key stakeholders across departments to gain their perspectives and insights. Adopting a new HR system commonly impacts HR, IT, finance, and management.

If your new system is intended to provide self-service support, then consider gaining initial perspectives from a small group of employees to gauge backing. Communicate the benefits and advantages of the new HR system and address concerns or reservations users might have.

Securing buy-in from stakeholders is crucial for successful adoption and support throughout the integration process.

Review and Select a Vendor

Thoroughly research potential vendors offering the type of HR system you need. Consider factors such as system functionalities, vendor reputation, support services, scalability, and pricing models.

Compare each vendor’s offerings with your organization’s specific requirements and values. Ultimately, choose a vendor that aligns closely with your organization’s goals and can deliver the necessary features and support for a successful integration.

11 Steps To Implement a New HR System

Implementation often creates headaches, but thorough planning can help you avoid most obstacles. Follow this step-by-step guide for a smooth implementation of your new HR software.

1. Appoint an Implementation Leader

This person should be an expert on the new HR software who can lead the team through the implementation process. The appointed leader will direct the project and take responsibility for building your implementation project team.

Implementation leaders can be sourced from the HR software vendor, your own staff, or from third-party specialist services.

  • Software vendor: It’s common for HR software vendors to offer their own consultants or certified partners to lead the implementation process. External experts will understand the software and know which stakeholders commonly take part in implementation. They’re also well-placed to gather feedback from all stakeholders equally.
  • Internal: In-house project leaders sometimes bring biased opinions of what the organization needs based on their own department’s experience. This can lead to failed buy-in from stakeholders. However, having an internal voice in project leadership can be helpful if you need to integrate several pieces of existing software with the new HR software.
  • Third-party specialist: It’s possible to save costs by selecting a separate third-party vendor just to handle the implementation. However, adding another vendor into the mix can cause increased confusion, so balance the cost-savings against any potential inefficiency.

Whether the implementation leader is internal or external to your company, they need to be knowledgeable of the software and your company’s needs. By choosing a leader who can balance these requirements, you’ll be best equipped to build out a successful implementation.

2. Establish a Project Team

Once an implementation leader is in place, they’ll need to identify available resources and assemble a suitable team to assist in the process.

Consider the end users and stakeholders when building the team. Involvement from HR staff, IT, operations managers, and executive leadership is usually necessary. Avoid leaving out any departments that will use the new software regularly. If resource availability poses challenges, external consultants can sometimes bridge the gap.

3. Build a Comprehensive Project Plan

To be effective, the project team will need to have dedicated meetings early on. Set out individual roles and responsibilities and take the time to establish goals, timelines, and project milestones. All team members must endorse the project plan to ensure alignment.

In the event of competing priorities amongst stakeholders, the project leader should step in to establish a plan that aligns with the overall project goals. Flexibility is crucial to adjust to team member feedback and any unavoidable project setbacks.

4. Craft a Change Management Strategy

Creating a change management strategy helps with navigating employee resistance, potential supply chain hurdles, or shifts in leadership during implementation. Your HR and operations teams often have the best ability to anticipate employee resistance and assess risks impacting timelines or budgets.

After you’ve identified likely resistance points and risks, start devising proactive solutions and a communication plan to minimize disruption.

5. Prepare Data for Migration

Data migration is pivotal to successful implementation. Avoid lost or corrupted data by assessing your current systems before beginning the migration process.

Your assessment should include:

  • Identifying existing data that will be migrated
  • Standardizing naming conventions
  • Eliminating duplicate information

Check all data for signs of corruption, such as inaccessible files or unexplained error messages.

You may want to test your migration using dummy data before you attempt to migrate your business data. Your HR software vendor may also provide migration tools that can help streamline the migration process and validate data along the way.

6. Conduct Beta Testing

Enroll a testing group to try out the new HR system and look for any issues. The testing group can be drawn from the project team, or you may want to bring in uninvolved employees who will be frequent users of the new platform. Your testers should highlight any areas where the system is providing inaccurate results or isn’t responding intuitively.

Complete a full round of beta testing and then review the results. Identify any areas that require further testing or changes before rollout. Test again until you’re confident the process is ready to proceed.

7. Roll Out System Training

It’s now time to start onboarding your new users to the platform. Depending on the type of software you’re implementing, start with employees who’ll be heavy users.

For example, a new HRIS system that includes significant management tools, like performance metrics or attendance tracking, makes sense to roll out with supervisors and HR managers first. Onboarding HR staff early on also makes it easier for them to later train other employees on the software.

In addition to training on the new software, you’ll need to update internal processes, manuals, and knowledge-based articles. Onboarding materials may also need to be updated to help train new employees moving forward.

Once training has begun, stay open to employee feedback. Questionnaires or surveys can help solicit opinions and gauge how your employees are reacting to the new software.

8. Launch the New Software

It’s taken some work to get here, but your implementation is finally ready for a live launch!

Communicate the launch in advance and often to ensure employees are clear on when they’ll start working on the new software. Your communications should reiterate the benefits you expect from the new system and clarify any adjustments you’ve made in response to employee feedback.

This will help build support for the software and trust that you’ve taken every necessary step to optimize their user experience.

9. Plan for Hypercare Support

The work that goes into launching new HR software can hit a peak just after launch. This period is critical because adjusting to the new system can lead to significant questions and frustration.

Employees are more likely to send in a support ticket or give up if the system doesn’t perform how they’d expect. Make sure you have an IT team ready to work through support tickets quickly.

One way to alleviate the press on support staff is to provide your employees with a self-help resource. Check with your HR software vendor in case they already have this type of resource on hand. If not, expect IT support to stay on hand longer or develop your own self-help resource internally.

10. Monitor for Post-Launch Issues

As the need for hypercare support begins to slow down, you’ll still have to monitor for trending issues. This is your first step away from implementation and into maintenance mode. Keep an eye out for similar support tickets that are causing repeated problems.

Your HR software vendor can still help at this stage and may be familiar with some of the issues that arise. If that’s the case, they can likely suggest effective fixes to help you move forward without expending additional effort.

11. Gather feedback

Once your new HR system has been fully implemented, it’s time to review your results. Bring the project team back together to discuss experiences and gauge the implementation’s success.

Take this time to identify opportunities for improvement within the new platform or for future implementation projects. Don’t forget to recognize the hard work your team has put into the process and celebrate success.

Planning Pays Off in HR System Implementation

Implementing a new HR system takes meticulous planning to be successful. Your new system will likely touch multiple departments, so poor implementation can cause rippling damage across the organization.

As a result, it pays to proceed methodically and invest time in obtaining stakeholder buy-in. With careful planning and effective project management, you can start reaping the benefits of advanced HR systems sooner and with lasting positive effects.


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Victoria Pearce

Victoria's career has encompassed a range of roles, from employment law to numerous positions in human resources. She notably held a strategic HR role at The Walt Disney Company. As an experienced writer, Victoria has covered numerous HR topics, focusing primarily on employment law, and offers distinct perspectives valuable to businesses operating on a global scale.