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Working with a lot of clients making big technology changes, we know that having a change management plan in place is important to the actual and perceived success of the change rollout. But what exactly does change management mean, and how can you create a plan of your own to guarantee success?

What is Change Management?

Change Management is the structured approach to ensuring that changes are thoroughly and smoothly implemented. With regards to HR technology, change management is crucial to the success of a newly implemented system. For example, for a company coming off of a paper-based enrollment process and implementing a benefits administration for the first time or a company implementing employee and/or manager self-service as part of a new human capital management (HCM) implementation, a change management plan is needed and critical to the success of the implementation. We have been a part of various new HR technology system implementations and have witnessed firsthand the difference in the perceived success of the projects based on whether a change management plan was in place and expectations were pre-established.

To set you up for a successful change, here are our top three things to keep in mind when making a significant technology system change:

1. Ask: What is changing, and who is being affected?

It is important to identify what is changing, who is being affected by this change and in what ways. Using the example above of an employer moving from a paper-based enrollment to an online-based enrollment through a benefits administration system, the means of enrolling for benefits is changing from paper to online, which is essentially affecting everyone within the organization.

The employees who enroll are being affected as self-service requires them to do the enrolling instead of going to HR to do it for them, and in industries like manufacturing where not all employees have computer access, the employees will be responsible for finding a computer to enroll in their benefits; HR administrators are also being affected in how they administer the enrollment and communicate the enrollment process.

In a manufacturing company where the majority of employees don’t have computer access, HR might have to set up kiosks for enrollment or set up time to walk through the enrollment process with employees; the managers are being affected in that they also have to change their employee communication surrounding enrollment and could potentially have to train their employees on the change. Executives are also being affected in that they have to have buy-in for the change as they will be financially supporting the change. They need to see the ROI of the change and be able to communicate and reinforce its importance to secure the support of the rest of the company.

“ Identifying the change triggers and who is being impacted by the change is crucial and will help in the expectation setting. ”

It’s also important to keep in mind that employees can be hesitant to the change because they think this huge time and financial investment in a new system to improve processes might replace their jobs. Although replacing a position with a new benefits administration system is rarely the case, executives and change implementers should be sensitive to the thought and communicate the change in a non-threatening way to employees. Identifying the change triggers and who is being impacted by the change is crucial and will help in the expectation setting. This first step will also be key in the next step: communicating the change.

2. Ask: What needs to be communicated and to whom, when and how?

After identifying who is going to be affected, you will need to create a communication plan around the change’s rollout. Your communication plan should include the following:

  • Audience: who needs to hear about the change?
  • Messages: what do employees need to know about the change, how it will affect their day-to-day jobs and what they need to know to be successful with the change? The message won’t be the same for each group.
  • Channels: will you communicate through email, text, paper packets, mailers, posters or all of the above? Communication channels depending on the audience.
  • Frequency: how often will you communicate the message?
  • Follow-up: after the rollout, what type, if any, follow-up communications will be sent?
“ Communication is so important with change management.”

Communication is so important with change management. As we mentioned before, we have seen the difference in outcomes when an employer only sends a single communication, not targeted to the specific audience about the change, versus an employer who sent repeated communications targeted to the different groups being affected, i.e., employees, managers and executives. (Check out this post for additional tips on communicating changes.)

In one positive example, an employer was making a system change in which the new system had a robust reporting dashboard the previous system lacked. Communicating with executives that the new dashboard was available and how to use it equipped the executive team with tons of great data they could use throughout their decision making for the company. Had this new functionality and training on how to use NOT been communicated, valuable functionality (that was being paid for) would not have been utilized.

3. Ask: What training will be required?

The employees in a manufacturing or similar setting might need to be trained on how to transfer different jobs or departments and how to request time off. The office employees might need to be trained on how to log in, how to enter exception time, how to check time stamps, how to check their accrual balances and how to request time off. For some employees who are used to going to HR to make changes, having a self-service system where they are required to elect those changes themselves is something they might have to be shown how to do.

For example, when an employer implements a new time system, HR will need to train the managers on how to make approvals or adjustments to time cards and how to approve time off requests. They might even need to be trained on how to train their employees to use the new system, but this is less necessary with better designed systems, which provide context sensitive help text and are designed to be more intuitive.

“Training on system or process changes is another critical factor in a successful change management plan. ”

Training on system or process changes is another critical factor in a successful change management plan. Training will most likely need to be conducted with each of the different groups being affected.

Have you recently undergone a big change? Did you have a change management plan in place? Let us know how your change went by commenting below.