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Dave Foxall How to Engage Stakeholders for HR Software Implementation Success

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 By Dave Foxall

Properly Responding to Stakeholder Attitudes is Key with HRMS Implementations

It is well-established that the "people factor" is a significant element in the successful implementation of a Human Resources Management System (HRMS). So much so in fact that Gartner research suggests 50-75% of technology implementations fail (especially regarding the expected return on investment) due to the prime factor of "people". Indeed, the hardware may be on specification, the data may be migrated without incident, and the system may interface seamlessly, but if the right stakeholders do not support the change, long-term success for any HR software is likely out of reach. This is why stakeholder analysis is conducted and why HR change management is so critical.

Stakeholders come in many forms—executive sponsors, departmental managers, infrequent users, clerks, IT staff and others. When it comes to stakeholder analysis, as well as assessing those stakeholders according to their relative objectives and interests in the HR software project (and their relative positional power), it is also important to recognize the issue of individual or personal attitudes about the forthcoming change. These attitudes are often determined by their past experience within the organization. More so, these attitudes often form the basis for user resistance and therefore must be proactively managed to ensure HR software implementation success.

HR Software Implementation and the Energy Investment Model

One simple method of categorizing stakeholder attitudes and behaviors is to use Dr. Donald Tosti and C.S. Lineberry's "energy investment model" (shown below). It is important to note however that this is not an exercise about labelling people. Rather, the exercise's focus is on identifying categories of response to HRMS implementation in order to use those classifications to properly focus engagement activity. The intention is to ensure that all employees are brought "along for the ride" and the bottom line business benefits can be realized.

Energy Investment Model

The research that surrounds the energy investment model has found the percentage distribution within organizations to be: "Spectators"- 38%, "Walking Dead"- 9%, "Cynics"- 39% and "Players"- 14%. As such, the implementation challenge is to increase the "Players" to a critical mass that is supported by enough "Spectators" to initiate a tipping point within the organization at which the support outweighs the opposition. Here we take a closer look at each of these categories to examine why this model can have such a substantive impact on engagement.

HRMS Implementation Response #1: Walking Dead— (low involvement, negative attitude)

Also referred to as 'Old Dogs' (because they cannot be taught new tricks) this group's behavior is nostalgic, filled with individuals looking to harken back to previous procedures and "better" ways of working. Even though some of these people may occupy highly influential positions within the organization, they behave as if they are powerless to affect the project; projecting apathy that can seriously reduce the organizational momentum for the HR software change. While representing a relatively small number within the organization's makeup, this group's malaise can easily spread (especially in larger organizations). Given the damage this can cause, it's easy to see why failure to effectively manage change is one of the worst HR software mistakes to make, and why it's crucial to expend considerable energies on this cohort.

Tip – engage this group's interest with relevant detail by highlighting specific HRMS benefits to individuals (e.g. for employees, the automated integration of payroll and time and attendance systems reduces payslip and salary errors). As CedarCrestone's 2011 HR Systems Survey states, "it is critical to…, convey the value of "what's in it for me" to every involved stakeholder."

HRMS Implementation Response #2: Spectators — (low involvement, positive attitude)

Also known as 'Settlers' because of their lack of movement, this group is cautiously positive but reluctant to take any initiative. Likely to be concerned with proper testing, they would prefer to put off any HR software "go-live" until it is completely safe and all implementation doubts have been removed.

Tip – harness this group's positive attitude through involvement in system design and consultation; do not overload with responsibility but encourage a greater degree supportive action by recognizing and rewarding efforts, however small.

HRMS Implementation Response #3: Cynics — (high involvement, negative attitude)

Sometimes called 'Well Poisoners', this group may actively look for ways to undermine the project in order to delay implementation. Oftentimes this behavior may simply be a negative response to legitimate concerns; while at other times the response may actually be a specific expression of widespread discontent.

Tip –harness the energy of this group by engaging their help in addressing concerns, ideally turning them into powerful allies. If the battle to engage any of these cynics is not working however, it's equally important to recognize a "lost cause" when it presents itself.

HRMS Implementation Response #4: Players — (high involvement, positive attitude)

Known as 'Pioneers', the player is the opposite of a cynic and likely to be an enthusiastic early adopter of new HRMS capabilities. Sometimes they may lack patience for colleagues who need more time and/or information before making a commitment, but nevertheless their enthusiasm can be contagious if channelled properly.

Tip – harness this group's positivity by engaging them as change agents and representatives for the benefits of HRMS; providing them with the information and skills to engage others in the process. As Aberdeen Group's implementation research suggests, "defining metrics that correspond to these challenges help champions and influencers gradually build this business case for the rest of the stakeholders."

HRMS Implementation Behaviors – The Bottom Line

Directly challenging those who oppose change rarely changes attitudes. More effective then are tactics which directly influence stakeholders by addressing issues of concern to the individuals. By clearly demonstrating that the HRMS will offer greater control to the individual; that obvious pitfalls have been predicted and planned for; that appropriate training and other support will be available; and that people will be provided with the necessary knowledge and tools to use the HRMS effectively, attitudes can become more positive—raising stakeholders into the positive realm of Spectators and Players. By combining this approach with additional stakeholder analyses, a detailed and multi-faceted engagement strategy can be devised that will not only drive engagement, but will also accelerate the HRMS deployment and time to value. End

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The hardware may be on specification, the data may be migrated without incident, and the system may interface seamlessly, but if the right stakeholders do not support the change, long-term success for any HR software is likely out of reach.


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