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Dave Foxall 5 Steps to Effective HR Software Change Management

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 By Dave Foxall

Avoiding "Change Failure" in Your HR Software Implementation

It is well-established that organizational changes, including HR software projects, often fail to fully realize their goals. Frequently, organizations put their effort into specifications, platform integrations, systems testing, parallel processing and data migration only to neglect the "people angle" – forgetting the employee engagement levels of the workers who will actually be using the new HR software and on whom the ultimate success of the software rests. As Forrester's Claire Schooley cites, "Organizations fail to realize the impact of change on the employees it will affect and do not plan and execute carefully enough to address the people issues through all phases of business process change management." Prosci's ADKAR methodology (which forms the basis of the five steps below) focuses pragmatically on what should be done to move people through change and is well-suited to HR software implementations.

HR Software Success Step #1: Awareness

People need to be aware of the reasons for change, including the details of the 'burning platform' that makes the current situation unsatisfactory. This stage is aligned with the creation of the software business case which will incorporate the key drivers for change. This is the first major communications effort, but as Gartner's Donna Fitzgerald says, communication is not restricted to traditional methods: "Understand the social network of your organization. Know who people turn to for help, advice and leadership and ensure they are either on board with your project or that they agree to at least adopt a wait and see attitude."

HR Software Success Step #2: Desire

The next step is to create a genuine motivation among the stakeholder groups. People who want change, help make it happen and whether people are pulled towards the advantages of the new system or pushed away by the disadvantages of the old, motivation is important. This stage coincides with vendor/system selection and it is here that the practical concerns of stakeholders must be addressed. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2011 report, Transforming HR Through Technology notes, "Work culture also can affect the acceptance of these systems. A system designed for use in Europe or the United States may not work in other parts of the world. Beliefs about the organization's obligations to employees, data security and privacy, and the role of Human Resources can differ dramatically from country to country and region to region."

HR Software Success Step #3: Knowledge

The implementation process should include a targeted knowledge and skills analysis, focused on whether stakeholders have the necessary knowledge and skills to use the new HR software to its full potential. This is also the stage in which training is planned well ahead of 'go-live'. The SHRM report warns of some wider implications than the simple need to be able to navigate the portal or dashboard: "Implementing e-HR requires a fundamental change in the way HR professionals view their roles. Now HR professionals must not only master traditional HR skills and knowledge, but also have the ability to apply that knowledge via technology." The knowledge stage includes addressing employee understanding of role and process changes—and how these changes will empower them to be a more valued contributor.

HR Software Success Step #4: Ability

For the new HR technology to be fully leveraged, new skills must be embedded; 'knowing' is not the same as 'doing'. Providing post-training support such as practice scenarios, power users, and 'just-in-time' learning resources – all of which should coincide with the parallel processing period prior to final launch – are essential to success. The Towers Watson 2011 report, New Horizons, No Boundaries noted, "Respondents that did not achieve cost savings attributed the failure largely to poor change management resulting in lack of utilization by end users." Only when the bulk of users actively leverage new HR software capabilities will HR software payback be realized.

HR Software Success Step #5: Reinforcement

It's important for organizations to recognize that education, training and communication don't end simply because of a successful first week of use. Maintenance and reward measures are needed, and, as recommended by a 2010 Sage white paper, How to Implement an HR and Payroll System, "To get the best out of your new system you have to ensure that everyone adheres to new procedures rather than reverting back to old ways of doing things." Even with the best training, old methods are easier until the new are fully integrated and feel 'natural' to the individual. As the SHRM report correctly identifies, "The challenge for most organizations is … how to encourage employees to fully use the system and be self-reliant."

The HR Software Change Management Bottom Line

While certainly tested and comprehensive, the ADKAR formula is just one strategy that can be employed in order to secure effective change management within your organization, not to mention the fact that change management is only one of the many HRIS mistakes that can be made. As such, it is important to note that before formulating change management strategies, clarity is necessary on the varying needs and concerns of different stakeholder groups. Be sure to gain input from the C-suite decision-makers, the manager and employee users, and the HR teams who may well experience the most fundamental role changes. Different groups have different degrees of interest and influence which will dictate the appropriate messaging and communications channels.

As CedarCrestone's 2011 HR Systems Survey puts it, "change management is a final critical success factor". To embrace any new HR technology, it is critical to start from a business need; ensure the organization is ready for change; convey the value of "what's in it for me" to every involved stakeholder for whatever your organization is implementing; and ensure that comprehensive training is provided for everything from the actual technology to the proposed process changes. And, above all else, make sure to continuously communicate. End

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The challenge for most organizations is …how to encourage employees to fully use the system and be self-reliant."


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