Upkeep and successful tactics for maintaining an ATS

(Part three of a three-part series)

How to own an ATS

In part one of this three-part series on the practicalities of purchasing an ATS, I discussed how best to navigate through the processes of conducting a gap analysis to understand the state of your current ATS fully.

Part two focused on how to determine the true value of your ATS in relation to your unique business needs and what you need to know about the vendors to determine if there will be a true partnership with that software provider.

In this third and last installment of the series, I’m going to address the information you need to know about the maintenance and tactics for on-going success and getting the most out of your new ATS.

Keys to Optimizing Your Software

Managing Expectations

Appropriately managing expectations is a critical, but often overlooked, process when implementing new systems. Management needs to take hold of the system adoption process and work with end-users in a supportive manner to ensure the system is being used to its fullest capacity. Anticipate certain reactions around performance, ease-of-use, and results, and for management, this means managing those reactions by setting the bar of expectations. It is typical to expect some problems and issues and management should be sure to communicate this to their end users. There will be a learning curve and with that users need to be supported by management and encouraged to use the software and not judge the product hastily.

Additionally, keep in mind that the end-users will need to “unlearn” what they knew about working in the previous software while learning a new (and improved software product), which will not be easy for some people. Management can help by reinforcing the reasons why the new system is needed and how the software will solve problems that the previous software could not.

Effective and Open Communications

As with any big purchase, nurturing and maintenance of the product are essential for its upkeep, which means you need to establish a strong line of communication. Communication with your ATS vendor is key, but sometimes people lose sight of this. The best communications occur when the client and vendor create a mutually beneficial relationship that exhibits respect and cordiality and strives to form a lasting, true partnership that matters. Relationships with this value-add are important because they help establish an inviting and receptive congeniality allowing people to be more comfortable and open to gaining knowledge outside the scope of the product.

Management needs to assign a Product Specialist, or subject-matter expert, inside the client’s business who is actively engaged in staying current with the vendor’s tech enhancements and in promoting the use of the software product. Having a person in this capacity will better facilitate communications and set up your organization for greater success. A Product Specialist can serve as a conduit between management, users, the vendor, and be the go-to person when questions or issues arise. Having a Product Specialist is also a great resource for management and the end users, as they can answer routine questions more expeditiously then going to the vendor’s tech support desk. An added benefit is that communications will siphon through one person which reduces the chances of miscommunications or information falling through a crack. It, also, allows the vendor to learn the working style of the client and build a relationship with the client to work through issues more quickly. Periodic calls with the provider and an established email chain for the transference of information are essential for the maintenance of the software.

If you wisely chose the solutions provider that understands your business needs and aligns with your unique culture, you should expect your communications to evolve beneficially over the years.

Monitoring the System and Promoting Good User Habits with Metrics

The initial gap analysis you conducted served as a guide to bring you to the selected software which best suits your business needs. However, to ensure you continue to receive the ROI you expect from your system, a process or schedule of continuous monitoring is essential in maintaining optimal performance. In part, this observance involves oversight of the end users and how they are putting the software to use.

Management should set standards for usage and promote adherence to these standards using the system’s data reports. Identifying individuals, defined as “super users” is a good start in building out the successful persona. Understanding how they maximize their time and efforts in the software can help those who may not be using it to its fullest potential. Help users to be successful by supporting them with on-going training and using identified best practices for a successful result. You may need to get creative here and find fun ways to incentivize the end users. Incentivizing through gamification is one way to add interest and a sense of fun to the learning and advancement of their skills and knowledge of the system, in addition to helping users to follow company policies and dictates on using the software.

Understanding user and software performances, results and ROI are critical in getting the most out of your ATS. Performance reporting of the software along with the performance of the end users will help form a picture to guide you on what is working well and where additional considerations may be needed. A good system will allow you access to a cadre of various metrics. It’s an excellent way to monitor usage among your employee population and create a standard of excellence with users in your organization. These performance indicators identify how the human engineering is working in alliance with the individuals who are interacting successfully with the product, as well as identify those who are not. The only way to know if the ROI is meeting with your expectations is to keep a watchful eye on the numbers and adjust the predictors of the results to satisfy your business’s end needs.

Updates and Priorities

Try to reserve judgment during the first few months, as you will learn much about the system. The software should evolve and adjust to your unique business needs, and as time passes, you will likely have requests for updates and additional customization.

Keep a close record of your organization’s list of on-going needs, of what you require, and more importantly, where these needs fall on the list. Prioritizing a well-thought-out, reasonable list will allow you to have critical needs addressed first without inundating your provider with less-critical needs which they can attend to at a future point. This will ensure you maximize your list of priorities, allow your vendor a chance to focus on your critical requests without overwhelming them with everything you believe you might need now and well into the future. Conscientious software providers are continuously working on improvements to the software, and what you believe to be a cutting-edge customization you’d like implemented at a future point, may not be a best practice at that point, nor support your business needs, as you thought it would. Of course, no software will fit the exact needs of every client out of the box, so expect to spend time and energy configuring and customizing the product over time to meet your ongoing requirements.

A well-designed product will allow a significant amount of self-configuration by the client, but there will be times when the vendor will need to do this work. You can expect that these requests will be an additional expense, but if enough clients are requesting the same enhancement, a responsive provider will add it to their development queue at no cost. In turn, the vendor should provide feedback on what updates are soon to be in production, what they are working on currently, and what updates are coming in the future based on the demand and immediacy of the requests. Once you understand the timeline of updating your organization’s requests, you may wish to alter the prioritization of items on your list based on the speed at which the provider can perform the updates. This goes directly back to keeping open lines of communication and helps avoid misunderstandings and frustration.

Additionally, if your ATS provider has a customer advisory panel, ask to join. This group will allow you to be involved with potential, future enhancements and add your voice to the development and evolution of the software.

In Summary

The fact is, purchasing and implementing a new software system that is critical to the core of your talent acquisition, is a big investment of money, as well as your time. So, before you go shopping for new software, be sure you completed your due diligence investigating the functionality and core competencies of your current software and provider. Often, people don’t understand all the functionality and service provisions they already have and jump the gun in deciding to make a change. Often, organizations change systems because they simply didn’t communicate their needs to the current service provider; remember, vendors cannot read your mind. The correct reasons to change providers should hinge on your experience and dissatisfaction with the service delivery and technical support, signs of no upcoming improvements, along with software that cannot meet the needs of your business demands due to its limited capabilities.

Be active and engaged in training, seminars, product demonstrations, request for updates, and communicate often. Speaking with your provider to discuss your business and systems needs should be a pleasant experience and not a dreaded one. Nurture and develop the relationship you have and treat the vendor like a partner and expect them to do the same with you. A well-developed relationship will garner you more in the long-run.

Also, researching your vendors and ascertaining their level of comprehension when it comes to your unique business demands is a must. How they define their partnership with clients is another area for close consideration. It’s extremely important to understand how they define customer service and how their own workplace culture is shaped. This peek into their culture may give you a preview of how they work with their clients.

Having an established line of communication with your vendor and a Product Specialist within your organization who can serve as a conduit ensuring that information on updates, enhancements, training, etc., are presented to the stakeholders involved with the software is highly recommended. Additionally, as your business needs evolve, so should the software. Be sure to keep a diligent list of what enhancements you need and where they fall in order of importance. Supply this list to the software provider and expect a response from them on estimated timing.

Managing expectations and end-user results are very important for ensuring the software is being used to its maximum potential and that you’re receiving the ROI that you expect. Monitoring usage among the user group and identifying the power users can help shape the profile of successful user traits to better drive your business.

And finally, keep this in mind; it’s an investment. If you regard your applicant tracking system as an investment, chances are you’ll keep putting in the time and attention it needs to perform.

This is a SmartSearch sponsored post.

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