Implementing a new technology solution is never easy, and those hurdles are often greater for employers with large, distributed and diverse teams. Identifying and implementing a software solution to address an organization’s business needs is a multifaceted proposition, yet the tool itself is rarely the main concern. For the greatest chance of success, in terms of utilizing the solution to achieve stated business goals, an organization should consider the impacts on its employees at every step.
When technology implementations do fail, often it is not due to the limits of the solution, but rather how it is implemented. Consider the transition to a new workforce management solution. As such technology automates employee scheduling, time-off requests, time tracking and how employees are paid — all areas that are deeply personal to employees — any change to these processes can prompt emotional responses. Changes to workforce processes are felt by virtually everyone in the organization, which is exactly why managing that change is critical to success.
Common Change Management Challenges
The organization must be prepared to address what is changing from multiple perspectives, including technical, process and user role changes. The challenge is to ensure all parties understand why the organization is making the change and how they will ultimately benefit from it. Yet, organizations face a number of difficulties in achieving that goal.
Moving Beyond the Headquarter-centric Approach
One of the biggest issues in change management occurs when a headquarter-centric approach is taken. In the majority of company-wide implementations, the new technology will affect everyone across the enterprise. Yet, as organizations become increasingly distributed, they need to take a broader view of each employee community so that all workers across all locations feel that their needs are considered and represented throughout the implementation process.
The rolling out of a new technology in a worldwide organization requires even greater scrutiny, addressing both local and global requirements. It is also essential to account for regional and cultural considerations. The company must present information regarding the implementation in a way that best resonates with all employees, such as graphical representation or mobile-enabled content. In addition, understanding the existing familiarity with technology of each audience and adapting the communications style appropriately will be helpful. For instance, with differing levels of workforce management automation across the globe, some locations may be more advanced from a process and technology perspective than others. Employees who are accustomed to entering time online may find it simpler to adopt a new solution than those for whom time entry has always been a manual process.
Reinforcing the Reasons for Change
Any successful transition process requires the ability to sell the problem to each audience in the organization and show how the solution can address their specific problems. This can be done by helping executives, managers and end users alike acknowledge the current problems and appreciate the substantial costs of not addressing them. Presenting a business case that highlights the cost of staying with the existing processes can help build consensus for the new solution. It is also essential to address how the switch will affect each segment of the workforce:
- Employees: Employees may be intimidated by the learning curve a new solution presents or fear that their concerns will not be heard or addressed when processes are re-examined. They may also be nervous about how the new processes will affect their jobs. Employee concerns about workforce management technology can be addressed by illustrating how the new solution delivers better control of their time and can help them enhance their role in the organization’s success.
- Managers: The challenge for managers is that, although they aren’t usually the people making the decision to implement a new technology, they are often tasked with actually implementing the change. The organization can get them on board by helping them understand the reduction of manual reviews, simplification of approvals and greater visibility into the team’s schedule that come from the new solution.
- Executives: Company leaders are typically focused on achieving cost reduction and greater budgetary control. Providing examples of how the new workforce management solution will improve productivity and lead to more effective workforce planning will help to get them on board.
Each group will be affected in distinct ways, and you will need to find a method for soliciting feedback from each group as a result. Soliciting their feedback will also help all stakeholders feel that they are a part of the process — another key component of a smoothly managed change.
Addressing Shifts in Responsibilities
A new technology implementation is often a catalyst for process change, which can create real anxieties regarding individuals’ responsibilities and how their jobs will be affected by the new solution. It is critical to communicate why the change is happening and illustrate the linkages between the personal benefits that will result from the change and the organization’s measures of success. By providing ongoing support, in the form of training, job aids and tutorials, the company can help all users gain confidence with the new processes.
Conquering Privacy Concerns
Another challenge is that employees may be concerned that the addition of more sophisticated enterprise software, such as a comprehensive workforce management solution, will spur more micromanagement, result in less autonomy and create other “big brother” consequences. The truth is that, in many cases, these types of solutions can actually deliver greater personal control. For instance, the solution can help them be stewards of their time within corporate guidelines, rather than having to seek out HR or managers for each time-off request or shift change.
Automated workforce management solutions also provide more transparency into highly sensitive transactions for employees, such as what shifts they’re working, how their time was recorded, how their pay was calculated and whether a leave request has been granted. This transparency can instill more confidence for employees that the organization is making the investments to ensure they are treated consistently, fairly and in accordance with expectations.
Best Practices for Success
There are several strategies organizations can use to ensure a smooth transition to their new workforce management solution. Consider the following proven best practices for successful change management:
- Engage stakeholders to help communicate the program and explain why change is needed by delivering timely, focused messages to specific audiences.
- Recognize the feeling of uncertainty employees may be having and explain how redesigned processes will improve the organization as a whole.
- Pay attention to how the plan is working and be ready and willing to make adjustments along the way.
- Take the time to ensure all new practices are grounded in the organization’s culture.
- Provide strong and consistent leadership; without it, change will stall.
Putting People First
To ensure lasting, positive changes for the organization, any workforce management software implementation must account for the impact on the individual, not just technological requirements. Carefully identifying how the transition will affect each employee population and providing a tailored communications plan will help to garner buy-in and reduce resistance. By keeping all stakeholders well informed and responding to their concerns and feedback, the organization can ensure the implementation is aligned with both operational goals and company culture. What results is a people-focused strategy that ensures the individuals responsible for managing the new solution — and those affected by it — understand why the solution was selected and feel motivated and empowered to ensure its success.
Ann Hellow, Change Management Consultant for WorkForce Software, has extensive experience in developing enterprise strategy, designing custom workforce transformation solutions, and aligning global programs and teams. As Change Management Consultant for WorkForce Software (www.workforcesoftware. com), Ann assists clients in facilitating the people and process aspects of an enterprise implementation. In addition to performing challenge diagnosis and project scoping, process redesign and alignment, and employee communication and engagement initiatives, she also oversees other programs led by the company’s Change Management practice, including learning and development, gap analysis, and strategic planning. Ann can be reached at email@example.com.