If you’re in the human resources profession, you will most likely experience at least one—if not several—HR technology implementations throughout your career. HR technology implementations affect every part of the organization.
Achieving success is not as simple as just selecting the best solution for your organization’s needs, “it’s a cultural change that will require dedicated resources… and it doesn’t have a start and a stop date – it’s an ongoing process” said independent HCM analyst Madeline Laurano, and Principal and Lead Strategist at Black Box Consulting Andy Rice, at the session titled “Preparing the Organization and Managing Change: Strategies for Success” at Human Resource Executive’s 18th Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition.
If you’ve never experienced an HR technology implementation, you’re in for an exciting challenge. But as humans are generally resistant to change, it can also be difficult and frustrating. Carefully preparing for each phase of the implementation will help result in a positive experience for the entire organization.
It’s about the people
Change management is the process of managing the people side of a project to achieve your required and desired outcomes. It’s a cultural change for your organization and it will affect different employees in different ways.
A cycle of grief
Another important aspect of the people side of change management is to understand that individuals will go through stages of grief similar to those identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the process of death and dying because change is the death of an old way of doing things and a window into a new thing that you don’t yet understand. There is a period of uncertainty.
What will these stages look like? Stability will turn into Immobilization (OMG – change is coming, what do I do!?) …Denial (this project will neeever happen) …Anger (Wait! This is going to happen and I’m ticked off!) …Bargaining (Okay, you can implement the tool, but I’m not going to use it!) …Depression (this bargaining thing isn’t working and now I’m depressed) …Testing (Okay, okay -- I’ll try it) …Acceptance (There’s nothing I can do, change is coming, maybe I’ll be okay with it).
Part of the duty of change management is to get people through these stages as quickly as possible and this can be accomplished through constant communication.
So what can your organization do to be more prepared?
- Continually engage stakeholders to make them understand WHY you are going through this change. Answer their questions.
- Take a programmatic approach to change management and look across the entire organization when planning.
- Be as honest and as realistic as possible and set expectations early on. HR technology is wonderful, but all technologies have their strengths and weaknesses. Change management starts at the very beginning during the technology selection process. Learn what parts of the technology will be amazing and what parts the organization might not like as much. It’s about setting the right expectations for employees.
- Measure – if you make the claim that the new technology will save time, make sure your change management communication relays how in its message. There is always a conflict between what an organization needs and what the individuals need, so craft the communication accordingly.
- Change management isn’t a pep rally - It’s not about the “Rah! Rah!” It’s about setting honest expectations and meeting them -- and continuously revitalizing that message.
- Do research – talk to other customers. Find out what could go wrong. Probe your providers and make sure they are giving you contacts. Go to user groups on LinkedIn to find information.
Where to start
Start early in the sales cycle and have a methodological approach. You have to know the problems in your organization that you’re trying to solve.
Ask vendors questions so that you will know the long-term benefit of the product. This information will help you manage the change process. The more direct and detailed questions you ask because you know your detailed requirements, the better off you’ll be.
And insist that the sales team and your implementation team conduct meetings early in the process to clarify details, to minimize re-work and to reduce confusion.
Identify a change agent or the change champion in the organization. Who can grab the most attention and get everyone’s ear? This person will need to wear multiple hats: facilitator, designer, project manager, educator, marketer and inspiration agent to name a few!
Sometimes your change champion may have to compensate for the lack of these characteristics in your executive champion for this project. Sometimes executives can’t bring the inspirational message to the organization.
Also, think carefully about the list of qualities that you’re looking for in your change champion. What do you need to roll out an effective change champion strategy and what tools will you give them to empower them to be an effective champion? And how will you reward your change champion and recognize them for their contribution to this project?
Communicate your strategy
Different stakeholder groups have different needs and you need to address their unique challenges, so have a communication plan in place and provide regular updates from the project team.
Who, How and When?
Will updates be weekly, monthly or quarterly? Will they go out from the project team, the champion or the CEO? Will they be sent via email, company blogs or social media? Will you conduct town halls, executive briefings, peer reviews, or focus groups? Yes, the content is king but the delivery is queen.
What Change Management is NOT
When creating a change management plan, understanding what it’s NOT is always helpful:
- It’s not a calendar
- It’s not “just” training
- It’s not an HR strategy
- It’s not your vendor’s responsibility
- It's not a checklist
A well-designed and carefully-executed change management plan with help to eliminate confusion and resistance and will encourage faster, greater --and happier-- rates of adoption.