Change Management is one of those elephants in the room of each HR Project Management Office team. I am not sure why; it is common sense, it can be completed without true expertise, and it makes a huge difference.
Perhaps the true reason why it is poorly attended to is that 1. the project team de-scopes it because it adds costs; 2. for credibility and trust, all change management communication and efforts must be owned by the internal team, and cannot be effectively outsourced to partners or consultants.
In this blog I want to clarify the topic, point out some obvious and easy steps, and align what are the expectations. Ready?
It seems most agree that without planning to change, there isn’t much change happening. While KPMG identifies as 75% HR initiatives fail because of moderate to no change management capability (KPMG), John Kotter (Our Iceberg is Melting) evaluate that only 30% of change management efforts succeed, due to lack of management sponsorship. The numbers are damning.
Typically, resistance to change is due to a mix of non-addressed issues, such as:
- Lack of trust in the program
- No clarity on the vision
- Perception of high risks
- No burning bridge
- Nothing to gain, much to lose (WII4M)
By analysing the scope, people affected by the proposed change, geographies to align and various risks/readiness, we can prepare for what is coming and help the workforce to see how the new vision will help them, too. In turn, they will accept the change.
Many methodologies have gained popularity; in the end however all have some points in common: to inform, educate and help get over the slump of fear of change to create adoption.
In fact, while I am describing Change Management in the context of HR Technology adoption, in fact it is a discipline universally needed and instinctively adopted; teachers explain in advance how the study planning will work; governments share vision and project plans.
As a quick summary, you can see it like a runner getting ready for a challenge, as in a – Ready, Set, Go set of rules.
1 – Identify the actors
2 – Assess the needs
3. Outline a plan
4. Execute the plan
5. Train and ensure sustainable, continued change
In the case of a race, the end is the end; but for change management, the end is truly the beginning, and we will still need to repeat some steps to ensure change persistance, but more on that later.
Let’s see each of these steps, and outline what can be done in each.
- IDENTIFY THE ACTORS
The first step is to look around and identify the actors of the play you are writing.
First, there are the various stakeholders; for these, the simplest approach is to create a simple stakeholders map, in order to visualise and to share the approach – there is an example next, but it should be kept simple and actionable.
Second – and just as important – are the multiple types of users that will access the system. In the old times, an HR System was essentially and exclusively in the hands of HR; the user groups were simple: HR, Executives, and possibly HR Executives.
Today, the HR system is directly in the hands of every single worker within the organisation; internal employee or contingent worker, there is data collected, information exchanged, processes run and trust established. To do all this, the project must address first all the concerns (will it make more work? Will that be compensated? What is in it for me? Will I still get service?), then explain, share, update and finally train.
There are many examples of stakeholders’ maps available; any simple approach will serve the purpose. It is important to consider not only the obvious sponsors and system owners, but also users, outliers, vendors, or special external stakeholders (even elected officials in case of public sector or controlled industries).
Each stakeholder can then be categorized as supportive, neutral or resistant, and corrective actions can be planned to minimize issues and where possible, convince, using targeted communication.
2. ASSESS NEEDS
By combining readiness and impact, we can quickly determine the extent of the change management planning required.
Needs can be clarified with two simple assessments/surveys.
Change Readiness – where a survey targets identified groups of stakeholders are to understand both the culture of the environment and the visibility of the proposed change: how much is understood. Typical surveys methodologies apply here, matched with an understanding of organizational culture and existing communications; 10 questions with a scale of 1-5 can be enough, or one may need to address specific, key stakeholders with personalized interviews. The Keep It Simple approach is best here; no need to over-engineer.
Change Impact – analyses the different areas of change – and try to understand how each can impact people, process and technology (but more Points of view may be required). The areas of change can be listed at high level, or in a more granular way; the interest is to align the totals and average, to pinpoint the areas needing most training. The list of areas should be established in collaboration by a functional and a project lead; then evaluated step by step by the internal project team.
Most classic project management approaches will include templates and ideas to gather this data; the importance of gather actual data in this step cannot be overstated, as it allows to ask for budget if needed.
At this point, you should be on a roll. You have your input, and you know where you want to get; what is left is to formalize and make sure to assign ownership to each step.
Based on the input gathered in the previous step, you know how large will be the effort (how much high impact areas appear in the impact assessment? How many populations segments will need to be addressed, and how much difference is there among them?); you can now start evaluating the actors and costs.
As you draft a plan of steps to follow, owners must be assigned to each step. This doesn’t imply you need new FTE; but rather that you need to assign a “face of change” that can be the SPOC (Single Point of Contact) for anybody needing more information, having questions or wanting to provide feedback; identify who will craft the message, and who will deliver the details.
Remember to include the different populations and/or individuals that have been identified, and how best to reach them, keeping in mind outliers (are there employees not connected to the network? Without a cell-phone? Handicaps or unable to read? How about the individual on long term or maternity leave?), selecting multiple communication channels in each case.
Nothing better than a simple tool here; an excel works well, or a quick table drafted on a whiteboard; below an example of simple communication plan, gathering the details of who is the owner of the communication, who is the recipient (population segment), what should be communicated and why, when and with channel, to be identified by each content owner in collaboration with the change manager.
Plans are only relevant if executed, so now it is time to get moving.
The messages should be delivered at the right time: deliver the message too early, and it will all but forgotten by go live time; deliver it too late, and there will be plenty of rumors going on, that will need debunking before proceeding to the next steps.
Different populations might need information at different timing, and in case of specific challenges or very different population segments, it may be useful appointing “champions” internally within the business area or segment.
These champions are either Subject Matter Experts that are already participating to the project, and hence are already exposed to the details, or can be selected and involved early on.
Training should be considered a form of communication, and it’s key in ensuring adoption of the new processes and systems.
Just as with communication, it should be tailored to specific populations, and delivered at the right time.
Training will also have to be delivered multiple times: regular repetition of the message will most likely be needed, to re-enforce the new process and later to train onboarding employees or new supervisors that will have access to the tasks. Contractors or contingent workers may also need to review some of these materials.
An information package should be designed to that purpose, here too adapted to the specific population and tasks to be performed; it is also to be noted that training in this case could be limited to contextually available mini-videos or documents.
Change Management is really NOT rocket science. it is an effort that makes sense, with a rather controlled cost – while the cost of NOT doing it is rather exponential.
The largest complexity of the whole approach is to take ownership of it INTERNALLY; much of it is based on building trust within your own organization, so it should be examined, owned, and delivered by internal trusted people – ideally cascaded from the board down, generating understanding and engagement at every level.
I do hope this content has been useful for you, and that it has given you ideas on how to approach the change management needs in your project/organization. The same principle can be widely applied out of HR Technology projects, so it is definitely a skill worth having, and that could become part of the foundational skills of any HR function of tomorrow.
For more information, feel free to contact me directly; this content is also published among my LinkedIn posts.