A Conversation with Margaret Godwin on HR Technology

About a year ago and prior to the emergence of the pandemic, Margaret Godwin of MilsonJames and I had lunch to discuss her HR Technology wisdom. Not surprisingly, our focus shifted for the remainder of 2020, but Margaret and I recently revisited the conversation. As our work environments change, employers are looking at the role of HR Technology with new eyes. To gain insight about what employers are experiencing in the HRIS space, I asked Margaret to share her counsel and expertise with us.

KATIE STONE: Thank you for getting together again to discuss some of the same topics we covered last year and the new world we enter this year. So much has changed!

MARGARET GODWIN: My pleasure. I’m glad that we can share this information with employers as they consider how technology will best serve them in our world today. It is quite a different place than when we met last year.

STONE: Some companies may be considering a change to their HRIS system as we continue to work remotely. One of the primary things you shared that a company should consider when upgrading technology is the ‘why’ for the change. We both know how disruptive, though temporary, an HRIS change can be. What are the main reasons companies are making this change?

GODWIN: There are several valid ‘whys’ when it comes to an HRIS change. I find there are 5 categories that employers come to us looking for a new HRIS solution. Believe it or not, some companies still use a considerable amount of paper and are ready to migrate to technology. Others may only be using an online payroll system and would like to automate more of their HR functions. Companies who have been using the same technology for at least 5 years find that they may want to see what new features and products are available to better serve employees. For companies that completely automate, if the systems do a poor job of communicating with each other, there may be opportunity to streamline. In the past few months, we have seen companies looking at technology as they manage larger remote populations to keep employees connected.

STONE: First understanding and defining the ‘why’ for needing a new HRIS system makes complete sense. Are there particular features of HRIS systems that are most critical when considering a change?

GODWIN: The four key areas of an HRIS are: payroll, HR, timekeeping and benefits. A pain point in one or more of these items typically prompts a change. Many companies want these four areas to be seamless, and there are incredible products out there now to maximize efficiency for employers of all sizes.

STONE: Once the decision is made to change, a timeline takes shape. Start to finish, how long does an HRIS transition typically take?

GODWIN: When a company decides to explore HRIS options, the transition takes place over two parts. The first part is the selection process and it lasts 4 to 8 weeks. This is the time for scheduling discovery meetings, conducting research, identifying important questions, and gathering input from people who will use the new system. My advice is not to rush this process. This is the time to learn the pros and cons of each HRIS system before making the decision.

The second phase is the implementation process. This follows the final decision and takes 3 to 4 months depending on how many modules you are adding. The number of HR people you are training and your capacity to spend time learning the new system. There is also some pre-work to get the system up and running in this time period, too. The HR team should plan to conduct an implementation at a time when each person can devote several hours a week to learning the new system.

This is no small investment from a time or cost standpoint. The more prepared a company is, the better.

STONE: Between the cost and the time, thinking about an HRIS change can be overwhelming for an HR team. How do you partner with FBG’s clients to help them navigate the many options available to them?

GODWIN: We are with each company every step of the way, involved in the process as much or as little as they prefer. Though we do not drive the process, we follow the guidance of the employer and become an extension of the HR team while the options are vetted.

For FBG’s clients, we help to set up vendor demos, sit in on the calls, help to articulate the most important needs for the HRIS, debrief following the sessions, and continue to communicate until a decision is finalized. We stay in touch to gather feedback during implementation and can be a resource any time they need us once the new system is up and running.

STONE: What are some of the latest features HRIS companies are offering that you consider cutting edge? Have any new features been introduced in response to the current trend of a high percentage of remote workers?

GODWIN: AI is infiltrating so much technology and it is no different in the HR Technology space. For example, some recruiting platforms identify if a potential hire is physically in the radius of that position’s home base. There are several decision support tools for employees when selecting benefits. I foresee AI continuing to evolve as many of our employees work remotely.

STONE: Our clients have remarked that your assistance is incredibly helpful. What are some best practices you recommend when making an HRIS change?

GODWIN: That’s great to hear! My biggest piece of advice is to emphasize over-communication during every part of the process. This means that before, during and after the change you are communicating with anyone who plays a role in the decision or who will use the new system. Identify your key stakeholders up front. Getting buy-in from leadership early is important, knowing your budget is critical, and having the input of users will ensure the system does what you need it to do. Get feedback often and gauge the satisfaction of those key stakeholders throughout the process.

STONE: Communication is definitely key. How can FBG clients learn more about your insights and guidance?

GODWIN: We can definitely help from the very beginning of the process. Speak with your FBG consultant and we would be happy to set up a discovery call. We will help the client determine if an HRIS decision is a good option for them – considering the client goals and strategy, it may or may not be the best option. Having an initial conversation will help to determine the ‘why’ clearly.

STONE: Thank you very much for this information – it is more relevant than ever as technology is a key to employee connection in our world today.

GODWIN: Absolutely. We are here to help, and I look forward to seeing how technology continues to support employers going forward. Thank you for reaching out to me.

To learn more about HRIS and our partnership with MilsonJames, please contact Fallon Benefits Group by reaching out to a member of your FBG team or emailing fallonbenefitsgroup@fallonbenefits.com.

About Margaret:
Margaret Godwin brings 20+ years of Human Capital Management experience to the clients of MillsonJames. Margaret began her career with Hewitt Associates, a global leader in Human Resources solutions for Fortune 500 companies. While at Hewitt Associates (now Alight), she held the position of Health & Welfare Benefits Operations Manager, supporting clients ranging in size from 1,000 to over 100,000. Most recently, prior to joining MillsonJames, Margaret shifted gears to focus on the small to mid-market business segment and held the position of Account Manager for a national benefits administration company. Her entire career has been dedicated to building and maintaining the ongoing relationships between the clients, benefits administrators, brokers, strategic partners and vendors.