Ask the expert – Change Management
In the Ask the Expert column of December 2008 Newsletter, Scott Lea, an implementation Consultant, will answer one of the questions raised by a number of our newsletter subscribers. Read beyond to see what our expert recommends.
This article is first published in Human Capital magazine – issue 6.10.
Q: We are implementing a new HR system and colleagues have said I need to give consideration to change management. What exactly is change management and what sort of things should I consider?
A Organisational Change Management (OCM) as it relates to the implementation of a new system is the process of taking employees from one knowledge/skill set to another with minimal disruption to normal business activities. To their detriment, many companies treat OCM casually with little regard for a formal OCM plan. A formal OCM plan is a “must have” in order to make sure you cover all aspects of change. The old adage is especially true when it comes to OCM – fail to plan, plan to fail.
To start with, you need to undertake an impact analysis to understand what the changes will be, who will be affected and to what degree. You need to consider any new skills required; which roles will be larger, smaller or non-existent; and are there people who are not direct users of the system but will be affected by the changes. One aspect that is often overlooked is the impact the project may have on organisational culture, for example, is your company known for the personal service it provides employees? If so, how will self service be received?
After you know what will change you need to address each of those areas in your change management plan. Your plan should cover three main areas – communication, training and support.
Communication should start long before the new system is implemented. Speculation and fear rush in to fill the gap where an information vacuum exists, so make sure you set the agenda by providing adequate and targeted communication. However communication is not just about delivering facts and timetables, but about winning the hearts and minds of employees and management alike, so tailor your communication content and delivery method to suit different audiences. Short and regular communication is better than long winded, boring emails. Think about using your intranet, newsletters or even posters and flyers to get your message across. Post implementation is just as important to inform people of the feedback you have received and how you have responded to it.
Training takes many forms and which one to use will depend on your goal. Do you want to reduce uncertainty via familiarisation with the system, or perhaps provide experience so that users have a minimum number of “flying hours” under their belts, or are you trying to change the skill set of employees? Once you have determined what you are trying to achieve you can decide which form of training is best suited. Class room, seminar, one-on-one, self paced, e-learning or perhaps an “experience centre” are just a few of the training methods you might employ. It is important that your OCM plan clearly identifies the target, goal, delivery method, assessment method and dates.
The good work you did through communication and training can be undone via poor support. While phone support, one-on-one, intranet FAQs and dedicated email boxes are commonplace, how about fulfilling multiple purposes by identifying people within the company who are respected, peer influencers with a positive attitude. Train them up to a higher level than other users, invite them to participate in system testing and make them feel special and “chosen”, then promote them as “super users” or “champions” of the system. If you have done your job right, they will not only provide a first line of support but will act as ambassadors for the system.
With the amount of work that goes into implementing an HR system, you owe it to your company, employees and yourself to effectively manage organisational change.