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Five Things to Consider When Choosing a Global HR Software Vendor

Thoroughly investigate what's being offered to uncover shortcoming before it's too late.

A few years ago, a top human resources technology vendor introduced an Italian version of its human capital management software. But when Paris-based HR consultant Ahmed Limam inquired, he couldn’t find a single Italian company or Italian subsidiary of a multinational using it.

Why? One simple reason, a client informed him. “The localization sucks,” Limam recalls them saying. The local rules and reports and data needed for the country were so poorly executed they were unusable, he says. “The vendor had nobody on the ground. They had one person in England who spoke only English, had never been to Italy, got some requirements from who knows where, didn’t understand them and what they built was completely useless.”

Bad integration of local workplace rules and lousy translation are just a few of the potential shortcomings of HCM or other HR software that claims to be global but isn’t. Vendors can trip up on local workplace customs and payroll tax intricacies that differ greatly from country to country, according to Limam, who worked for Oracle Corp. and France-based HR Access before starting a consulting firm.

To avoid getting stuck with something that doesn’t measure up, Limam and other HR analysts and industry insiders say companies need to do thorough due diligence.

If your company is considering converting to global HCM or HR software, here’s what they suggest:

1. Think local and global: The best global software blends local with international, so HR departments can comply with country-specific requirements while extracting critical employee data for companywide talent management, succession planning and other needs.

2. Create a global team to evaluate potential vendors: Toronto-based Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts brought in employee representatives from multiple business functions around the world to vet potential HR software suppliers before settling on Workday two years ago. “They asked questions about things [HR] didn’t know about,” says Mary Sullivan, the company’s senior vice president of corporate HR.

3. Look at language. Good translation covers not just software menus but reports and other things. Some vendors support certain languages and expect clients’ employees who speak something else to make do with English. In some countries, that won’t fly. “There’s no way Brazilian employees will log into an HR system in English,” Limam says. “If it’s not in Portuguese, they won’t use it.”

4. Analyze how cultural norms and security are handled. German companies track their employees’ religion because workers pay taxes through their churches. Japanese companies ask workers about weight and cholesterol levels. But in the United States, employers and potential employers could get into hot water if they asked about those issues. A truly global HR system accounts for such differences while allowing authorized HR employees to access employees’ personal information without compromising privacy or security, experts say.

5. Consider the level of in-country support. Because vendors may or may not have people on the ground in every country where they do business, companies have to decide how much local support they want or need. Four Seasons trained employees in each country where it operates to help other staff members on the software or refer difficult questions to regional “superusers.” Other companies might opt to get help from vendors’ in-country sales and customers service teams, regionally based teams or manufacturers’ rep agencies that vendors hire to fill in for them where they don’t have a local presence.

Michelle V. Rafter is a Workforce contributing editor at. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.