How to Drive Successful HR Technology Transformation

Innovative approaches for change management

By Aliah D. Wright Sep 28, 2015
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ATLANTA—When it comes to implementing new HR technologies, change is never simple. But it can be easier if you decide on a strategy first.

So said two presenters during a seminar on change management and technology adoption at the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) annual conference earlier this month.

During the session, nearly half of attendees said their organizations were either considering adopting new technologies or were currently in the middle of an HR technology system implementation. A third of attendees said they were responsible for change management at their organizations.

The session, “Innovative Approaches for Change Management to Drive Successful HR Technology Transformations,” was led by Aon Hewitt partner Michael Martin and Aon Hewitt organization development and change management consulting lead Jennifer Baker.

Session attendees were from organizations as diverse as NASA, Kaiser Permanente, Home Depot and Ingersoll Rand.

Attendees were told that it isn’t enough to simply inform employees that change is coming. Instead, it is better to get their input and make them feel part of that change—even though many may be accustomed to regular changes in the technology they use in their everyday lives, like on websites and social apps.

Martin and Baker’s list of change management essentials when implementing a new HR technology system were:

  • Communication with all stakeholders.
  • Buy-in from stakeholders, including end users and the people actually doing the implementation.
  • Collaboration between those implementing the change and those impacted by the changes.
  • Timing so people know when the changes are expected to take place.
  • An understanding of the risks and a mitigation strategy to address those risks.
  • The necessary funding.
  • Identification of systems that are changing and how the changes will impact those affected.

Keep in mind that “new systems don’t impact everyone in the same way,” Martin said. The presenters also said that leaders should be actively demonstrating the desired behaviors associated with the change. Additionally, there should be clear alignment between the program’s objectives and business drivers.

Have answers to such questions as: “Why are we doing this? Why is HR spending all of our money on HR technology?” Martin said. These questions should be answered clearly by those implementing the change. Identifying stakeholders and making sure they are engaged and on board with the new technology implementation is critical.

“Identify who the stakeholders are and … build a plan to manage stakeholders. Cultural aspects will have to be considered, too,” he said. “[Especially] for a global company.”

For new HR system implementations, the learning materials for end users should be simple and easy to understand. “You need to remember communication and training, of course,” he said.

Citing a study by Harvard, Martin said that “93 percent of organizations [that] have used communication without a comprehensive change-management strategy abandoned their initiative within eight to 12 months without significant success.”

Many companies have their projects delayed, he said, because of a delay in user adoption.

“Change management isn’t about sending an e-mail [and] saying ‘I’ve built awareness,’ ” Baker added. “Nowadays, employees don’t want you to send them an e-mail. They want the e-mail at point of action. They’re looking for in-the-moment help. That help may occur at any time of the day. The evolution of change management has evolved from training manuals to on-demand in-the-moment preparedness,” she said.

“Change behavior requires addressing four common employee responses,” Baker said, “and HR should make sure they are aware that people have four common responses to change:”

  • Understanding: Do you understand what is being asked of you?
  • Emotional: If you don’t understand what’s being asked of you, you are more likely to have an emotional response.
  • Ability: Do you have the skills to do what you’re being asked to do?
  • Incentive: Am I being incentivized to act in the way you’re asking me to act? Am I being given the right motivation to behave in the ways you’re asking me to?

“What do you need to do to recognize positive behavior and have the outcomes outlined?” Baker asked.

“As you think about these four responses to change,” she continued, “consider the eight levers of change.” The first two are:

Leadership and Stakeholder Management. “Give leaders the tools to help make sure, from an end-user perspective, that individuals who are going to use the system have been engaged in the implementation of the system so [they] understand how to navigate through it or provide feedback on it,” Baker said.

Communication and Measurement. “If you send an e-mail six weeks out and don’t communicate with [employees again] until implementation, they won’t remember that.” Don’t forget to measure the outcome and tie that into your direct strategy in order to build momentum, she said.

Staffing Capability and Capacity. For all workers using the new technology who will be doing something different, consider whether they have the skills and time to do what the new technology will force them to do. How do you ready these employees so they can successfully take on new positions and tasks? “Analyze the future state of what that person will do once the new software goes live,” Baker said.

Policies, Processes, and Performance and Goals. “Make sure your policies and processes are not in conflict with what you’re asking people to do,” Baker said. As for performance and goals, “Get friends who are stakeholders,” she said. Make sure you have a common success measure or goal to “make sure the ball doesn’t get dropped,” she said.

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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