When we talk about talent strategy, we’re talking about a responsibility full of moving parts. HR professionals are tasked with finding talent to match a business’ momentum, which means they are constantly scaling programs up and down, looking back while thinking ahead, and keeping a close eye on the culture and morale of an organization.
For large companies, the challenge of doing “talent strategy” well is met by a task force of HR pros. But small businesses don’t have such a luxury — instead of an entire team of specialists overseeing all of these moving parts, it’s usually just one or two people handling everything from hiring to payroll to benefits.
Technology (whether it’s an applicant tracking system or a learning management system) can be a saving grace for these small talent teams. But starting the HR tech journey is also quite daunting. After working in both small businesses and as part of a HR tech company that serves small businesses, I’ve learned a few lessons about what SMBs need when it comes to talent management software.
HR technology for the smallest businesses is becoming more available. See: HR Vendors Are Discovering Small Businesses.
From my experience, getting HR tech right as a small business — which means making sure the tool has a positive impact on your people — comes down to asking the right questions. Here are three things to think about before investing in a new product or tool.
1) Am I ready to invest in a “non-revenue generating” aspect of the business?
The question for small businesses in any investment often comes down to one major trade-off: time versus money. Yes, this applicant tracking system might speed up hiring — but will it be enough to offset the cost?
There’s no precise formula to answer this question, but you can do a “gut check.” Look at the amount of time your team is investing in administrative tasks. Is this time taking away from more impactful parts of the business? What processes could be streamlined with technology? Perhaps you’re spending half your day sorting through applications and resumes, when you could be engaging with candidates.
HR tech will give you a return. It may not be as immediately tangible as an investment in sales or marketing technology, but it will bring positive benefits to your business — bottom and top line. To answer the “time versus money” question, remember that time usually is money. You just need to be in a place where you can set money aside for technology that you know will save your team time—and allow them to be more strategic in the long run.
2) How fast is my company growing?
The next question to ask comes down to your talent trajectory. As companies start to grow, technology can support that growth. To determine what kind of tool and platform you need, think about the skill sets you have as an HR department and the skill sets you want to grow into. Think about your current company culture, how this culture will evolve and who is expected to “manage” this culture.
Tap your employees to help inspire ideas. For example, my current role at Cornerstone was created out of an employee engagement survey—seriously. People said they wanted learning and development. We were growing so quickly that leadership hadn’t had the opportunity to take a step back, take a breath and realize how big the company was becoming.
HR tech can help you move forward and “catch up” at the same time. A static company of 15 people probably doesn’t need career pathing, but if you want to grow to 30 by the end of the year, you should have already started planning for how those 15 people will grow alongside your business and who can fill shoes if someone departs.
3) Do I want to know what I might find out?
Last but not least, you need to be prepared for what HR technology will reveal. Analytics and reporting are an integrated part of nearly every talent management software product. Are you ready to not only handle the insights you’ll gain, but take action on them?
If a brand new performance management system points to the inefficiencies in your review cycle, you’ll have to be ready to address those challenges. Your team needs to know you’re taking talent strategy seriously.
You can anticipate some of these tech-driven insights, of course. Read up on Bersin by Deloitte’s latest reports, keep tabs on the best industry blogs (hint: ReWork), and attend meet-ups and conferences.
By answering these three questions, you’ll be three steps ahead of your leadership team when it comes to presenting why you want to invest in HR technology and how it can impact your business.
This article originally appeared on ReWork, a publication exploring the future of work.