Our parent company, Presagia, contributed an article to each issue of last year's @Work Magazine, a publication by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC). If you haven't had a chance to check out this excellent resource, we highly recommend that you do! DMEC provides best practice resources for our complex industry and @Work is one of their resources that we always stay on top of!
The 2020 column, Absence & Accommodation Technology, focused on walking employers through the many considerations they should have as they research leave and accommodation technology, dive into the review process, implement their solution, and maintain a healthy relationship with their vendor post go-live. We’ll also be giving an insider’s look at the many pitfalls employers make when assessing and managing technology, with an eye to helping them avoid these common missteps.
As we did with the Technology and Absence Management series, we've created this blog series to share each 2020 article with you! In this post, we're sharing the November column, which looks at important considerations, such as communication strategy, when implementing absence technology.
As important as finding the right absence management technology is how your organization implements it. No matter how good your technology is, if you don’t have the right implementation team, communication strategy, and process in place, you won’t end up with the solution you expected.
Implementations are a tricky time. Often, you want to move quickly to improve the employee experience and produce better outcomes. This can drive the mistake of leaving key people out of the process. One common mistake I have seen is the human resources (HR) team forgetting to involve the information technology (IT) team. While today’s cloud-based absence management systems require minimal IT involvement, they do require data feeds from other systems, which often need to be built by IT. Forgetting this can lead to long project delays.For every system implementation, the core components are communication, collaboration, and process. Let’s start with your collaboration group. As a consultant, the key stakeholders I often see are:
- Project lead
- Business users (e.g., leave case managers)
- Legal counsel
- Executive sponsor
- HR information system/IT
- HR software vendor
Once you’ve identified all the players, it’s time to dive into the process. Every vendor has its own standard process, and it’s important to review this to understand what to expect. This should include a communication strategy, laying out when you will meet, who needs to be included in communications, and more.
Typically, the implementation begins with a discovery phase in which your vendor learns about your absence management program. This includes a gap analysis, wherein you identify any must-haves not present in the standard system, such as company leave policies. The outcome of the discovery will be a solid understanding of how the system needs to be configured and a more accurate project plan that takes everything into account.
As you work with your vendor on configurations, bear in mind that using the system as it is offered out-of-the box and taking advantage of the configuration options available (i.e., adding company leave policies), instead of modifying it to wrap around your process will lead to a faster and less costly implementation. Customizations that require actual software development sound simple, but often create significant and costly stability issues for a system.
Parallel to system configuration is building your interfaces, which is a golden opportunity to clean up your existing data. You’ve probably heard the phrase “garbage in, garbage out”; this is the landmine to avoid when you’re dealing with a compliance issue such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and various other leave laws.
Once your interfaces are functioning and your working test system is up, it’s time for testing and training. During this time, you have your vendor’s full attention, so use that: test thoroughly and ask questions about anything you’re unsure of. The goal of testing is to iron out any kinks in the system so that you can then successfully go live.
It’s important that your relationship with your vendor doesn’t end at the go-live stage. It’s a best practice to have regular meetings with your implementation team for several weeks after go-live to ensure the system is fully performing as expected. From there, you’ll be transitioned to support and account management teams. Make sure you learn your vendor’s support protocols (e.g., do they offer an online ticketing system for faster service?) and whether it has a dedicated account manager assigned to you as your ongoing liaison.
This brings us back to communication, collaboration, and process. Respect the process, and always keep clear lines of communication between all players so that you can collaborate and implement the best solution possible for everyone.