6 Quick Steps to Ease the Payroll Software Implementation Transition
Unlike some HR and business applications, payroll software is truly organization-wide in that its function affects every employee on a regular basis, even if only via the pay cycle—a truth that represents specific employee-related implementation challenges for employers looking to leverage a new payroll software solution. In fact, as a recent Bearing Point report points out, “The technical challenges of implementation are a simple matter compared with the human challenges”. While functionality, data security, and choice of deployment are all crucial considerations when choosing the solution (and have considerable impact on the implementation project), of equal weight are considerations such as change management, stakeholder engagement, and the provision of training for the new payroll system. Indeed, as a recent erp.com article states “…adequate training is an essential component in any successful… software system deployment”, a truism that can lead to even greater results (and a more rapid time-to-value) if the supporting training for the new payroll software is tailored to specific needs. As such, the following six steps outline the basic components of what we feel a successful payroll software implementation training strategy should entail.
Payroll Software Implementation Strategy Step #1: Clear Business Goals
The payroll software business case will contain the basis for measurable business goals that the organization is aiming to achieve with the new payroll application. While those objectives may be reduced costs, improved employee satisfaction, enhanced business reputation, or simply better regulatory compliance, the fact of the matter is that employee training for the payroll application is critical. As the famous Jack Welch once opined, “The ultimate competitive advantage lies in an organization's ability to learn and rapidly transform that learning into action”. Such is the case for implementing payroll software. When the implementation training strategy is aligned to the goals in the business case, then employee performance can be directed towards those achievements.
Payroll Software Implementation Strategy Step #2: New Skills & New Requirements
Returning to the stakeholder analysis performed as part of the payroll software implementation planning process, each distinct stakeholder group will have a different contribution towards the business goal and therefore a different set of training needs. Certainly, all groups will require an element of big picture awareness (as the system applies to their own roles), but on a day-to- day usage level, each will have very different practical process knowledge and skills needs. For example, employees may only need to know how to access their online payslips while managers may also have to grapple with a new management payroll dashboard and reporting functionality. Likewise, for those individuals that make up the organization’s payroll personnel, most of their processes will now be different—a fact that affects how they need to be trained (especially given the fact that these individuals will be expected to be the payroll system’s experts; dispensing user advice to less-aware colleagues). Finally, the organization’s senior management will need a thorough briefing on what new reporting options and analytics will be available as a result of integrating the payroll system with additional enterprise applications.
Payroll Software Implementation Strategy Step #3: Gap Analysis
The next step is to conduct a gap analysis for each stakeholder group, comparing their new requirements with the current levels of relevant knowledge and skills. Unless there is either a learning management system in operation or an effective database (or system of manual records concerning employee competence), a proper training needs analysis is likely to be necessary in order to establish the current skills picture. The advantage of a training needs exercise that is directly linked to the new payroll software is that it can be positioned as part of the communication and engagement program, creating early employee involvement in the implementation project.
Payroll Software Implementation Strategy Step #4: Training Program Development
Once payroll system needs have been identified (from stakeholder groups), gaps have been discovered, and training deficiencies have been categorized, the next step is to actually develop the training program for the new payroll system. Of note, 3 key areas that should be considered are content, method, and delivery:
The content should include: the wider context of the payroll software and the contribution it is expected to make to the organization’s bottom line; step-by-step details of the any new processes or changes in procedure; and a future road map outlining how the payroll software will be further developed and/or leveraged.
The ideal approach is a blended menu of training methods; including instructor- led facilitated sessions, synchronous and asynchronous e-learning modules, and the establishment of collaborative learning communities and forums (leveraging any social media tools that the organization has access to).
Delivery may be covered by in-house personnel if sufficient internal expertise is present to conduct the full training program within the schedule. However, often a more common (and cost-effective) option is for the training to be delivered as part of the vendor contract.
Payroll Software Implementation Strategy Step #5: First Stage Evaluation
A well-conducted training program is a major influence on a successful and on-schedule payroll application implementation project. In fact, as erp.com states, “For immediate ROI on go-live, proper training is essential to preparing an organization’s workforce for early adoption of system functionality”. Still, in order to ensure that proper payroll system learning took place, a final review of the training’s effectiveness prior to go-live will provide a picture of the organization’s (i.e. the users’) readiness to adopt the new system. As has been seen by countless organizations though, the level of readiness will depend largely on how rigorously the above steps have been carried out.
Payroll Software Implementation Strategy Step #6: Post-Implementation Training
As use of the new payroll system becomes increasingly normalized, on-going training should be mainstreamed into the organization’s regular learning & development strategy—particularly if the company is looking at payroll software improvement strategies. The two key questions that will guide that strategy are:
What further training may be required to embed and enhance the required skills for proper
payroll application usage (therefore improving the payroll software’s utilization ratio)?
How will new users receive relevant training as part of their on-boarding as they either enter
the organization or move to a new role?
Payroll Software Implementation Bottom Line
Gartner research found that one of the most frequent causes of technology implementation failure (and as much as 50-75% of implementations fail to result in their expected return) was inadequate training. As such, it’s not hyperbole to say that implementation success for your new payroll technology rests on the supporting training strategy; and that strategy in turn rests on alignment with business goals, the identification of clear skills gaps, and of course, proper evaluation.
As use of the new payroll system becomes increasingly normalized, on-going training should be mainstreamed into the organization’s regular learning & development strategy—particularly if the company is looking at payroll software improvement strategies."