The life sciences industry is under immense pressure, and HR leaders are responsible for a critical task: scaling and supporting their people strategies in a volatile market, keeping productivity high while cutting costs. In this case, the right HR tech can go a long way. “You need to be very purposeful and think about what you really want,” said Jana Tulloch, principal consultant at HR strategy consultancy Tulloch Consulting. “It’s an investment — and hopefully a long-term investment.” Here’s why HR tech matters in life sciences, how to evaluate what’s available, and how to make a business case to the C-suite for the investment.
Why HR Tech Matters in Life Sciences
The role of HR professionals is changing, and with it, the tools they use to support companies powered by diverse, specialized high performers. HR tech can transform how life sciences organizations attract and retain their employees — automating everything from scheduling job candidate interviews to supporting employees through performance management, employee benefits, and learning tools. “It’s a huge improvement in terms of efficiencies,” said Tulloch.What’s more, HR tech can provide the insights leaders need to showcase their crucial role in supporting an organization’s big-picture goals — whether it's meeting new diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) metrics, streamlining payroll processing, or directing company resources more efficiently. Data from HR tech, for example, can flag issues that paper processes might not uncover, such as a recruiter who isn’t passing along female job candidates, said David Windley, President of IQTalent, a recruiting company with a health and life sciences division.Tulloch added that data from an automated performance management system can provide a more accurate picture of who your high and low performers are, and where to devote either retention strategies or more coaching support. “When you don’t have that type of data readily available, it’s cumbersome,” she said.
How to Identify Which Tech Functionalities Are Most Important to Your Organization
HR software can solve a range of issues, but it’s essential for HR leaders to understand their organization’s unique needs and which tech functionalities are the most important for their team. Seth Turner, cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer of AbsenceSoft, recommended asking these three questions:
- What are your team’s objectives for the year, and what solutions do you need to deploy them? Focus on your team’s goals and search for solutions that address them. A department responsible for deploying a pay equity study, for example, would likely benefit from a compensation management tool that can streamline the work in a secure database. A team tasked with boosting retention might want to narrow their search to talent management software.“It’s looking at where you can get the greatest value from the solution, and a lot of it ties into what your business needs are,” said Turner.
- How can HR align with an organization's overall business goals? People teams do well — and may get more buy-in from the C-suite — when they align an HR tech purchase with their organization’s big-picture goals. So, for example, a solution that streamlines the hiring process might be the best fit for a life sciences company that needs staff to open manufacturing plants to produce a new medtech device.“HR professionals have to look at what they’re doing and how what they’re doing aligns with the overall goals of the organization,” Turner said.
- Which functionalities are required, and which are nice to have? Finally, make a list of your must-have and nice-to-have features, advised Turner. For example, at his company AbsenceSoft, plenty of new customers are specifically looking to manage compliance with federal and state leave laws. Employee self-service, where employees can log in and see their own information, however, isn’t a requirement, but would be beneficial.
Creating a list of must-have and nice-to-have functionalities “gives you a more objective way to look at it,” Turner said. “It also gives you a way to compare pricing” as you consider tools with different capabilities, he added.
3 Tips for Evaluating HR Tech
Evaluating and purchasing HR software takes time and careful consideration. Organizations can rely on a technology requirements list that evaluates solutions based on their availability of customer support, speed of implementation, and reporting capabilities, among other categories. But HR leaders should also keep their team’s and organization’s unique requirements in mind. Here are three things you can do as you assess different software solutions.
1. Consider your use case.
You may be focused on performance management, but that doesn’t mean just any performance review software will fit your company’s unique needs. You’ll want to make sure you can customize review cycles to fit your company’s needs, or empower employees to share continuous feedback outside of a formal review. If DEIB is a priority for your company, you’ll need to ensure that the tools you’re considering support those initiatives. “Not all tools are the same,” said Windley. “Create your own rubric for what’s strategic and important for your company and use that to evaluate various technologies.”
2. Check in with IT.
Internal IT departments can play a big role in tech purchases for any department, but HR teams often don’t check in with their IT colleagues to understand what’s required, Turner said. Make them part of the conversation.IT teams often must analyze potential tools to ensure they meet specific cybersecurity requirements before any purchase is approved. They can also evaluate software to make sure it integrates with the company’s existing tech platforms.After all, that new applicant tracking system (ATS) will be more useful if it can integrate with an employee-sourcing tool and a background-check solution, Tulloch noted. Without those integrations, HR teams can still be stuck manually entering data and moving it between platforms. It's important to keep in mind that HR technology partnerships aren't the only relevant connecting points for IT: For example, deploying Lattice on AWS empowers you to meet security, compliance, and infrastructure requirements.
3. Include the users.
The HR leader is often the individual leading the buying decision. But employees are often the primary users of HR tech on a daily basis. Viewing employees as key stakeholders can ensure the software addresses their issues and challenges, and that it’s easy for them to use, said Tulloch. “Where I see a lot of tech fail is the implementation or the usability — whether it’s the usability [of the technology itself] or [people] using it incorrectly,” Windley said.
Making a Business Case to the C-Suite
“Ultimately, you want to be able to say, ‘We did our research, we looked at these different components, and this is why we recommend this,’” said Turner.HR leaders should showcase how a software solution could streamline their own work, cutting down on administrative tasks so they can spend their time on more strategic and meaningful initiatives. Highlight that it “lets [HR teams] focus on the things where they add value, versus having them do administrative, non-value-adding activities,” Turner said. The right HR tech software can help organizations stay in compliance with federal and state employment laws, formalizing workflows and processes to ensure they meet all requirements. “Particularly when you’re trying to manage performance issues, you want to make sure you’re documenting compliance pieces,” noted Turner. HR teams preparing for their meeting with C-suite executives should keep in mind that life sciences leaders tend to be data-driven scientists, said Windley. Be sure to bring data to back up your argument. “They’re going to expect you to come with data analysis and much more because that’s what they’re used to,” he said.—As you lobby for the tools to help you do your job, remember this: The work to get that budget approval — and deploy the new solution — is worth the effort. “At the end of the day, it’s all about employee satisfaction and retention,” said Turner. “Putting some of these steps in place has real value to the employee base…and to the company overall and the business results. Across the board, it’s a win-win for everybody.” Nearly every Human Resources role has been redefined in recent years, and the HR tech landscape is rapidly evolving. Download Lattice’s eBook, Navigating the Employee-First Era of HR Technology, to understand the trends that are reshaping the HR tech landscape and the vendors leading the charge.