A problem with HR technology projects

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Technology roll-outs are commonplace in today’s ever-changing world, but they are often poorly handled. Ari Kopoulos provides his change management tips.

Technology, forever evolving, offers unprecedented connectivity, automation and business insight. But, in the words of Niccolo Machiavelli in 1513, there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Make no mistake, rapid change is here to stay, and a successful HR technology project depends on your ability to respond and adapt to change. This makes a well thought out change strategy critical in successfully delivering effective and efficient HR technology. In short, you need a plan – global in scope, and somewhat futureproof – communicating process, people and technology as one.

In light of this, it’s very easy to focus on shiny technology and overlook the human element. People are crucial to the success of any system. Successful organisations have within their DNA a strategy for change. As Peter Senge once said, “people don’t resist change. They resist being changed”. They become highly attached to the old way, placing barriers that take time, patience and empathy to manage. This is compounded by the occasional lack of technological competence within the HR community.

As such, the typical approach to change often follows an ‘us and them’ strategy. It neglects engagement, different opinions, and motivations, and doesn’t build stakeholders’ investment.

Simply having members of management involved in a project is not enough. In fact, it’s more a reminder of what used to be and can quickly result in an out of touch team with no clear vision for outcomes, timeframes and implications.

Define expectations

Understanding upfront what management is expecting from your project is critical to success. Using a framework similar to a business case, start by identifying what HR processes are required, for whom and at what transactional cost. Once these are identified, you can define the requirements in terms of workflows, roles, business rules and reports for each HR process.

The next step is to assess the impact of the technology on the roles and responsibilities of managers and employees.

What job and role changes will be required? How will the existing HR plans and processes change? What training and change management will be required? You now have a solid framework for decision-making and setting priorities, infusing people decisions and business decisions.

Once the strategy has been finalised, distribute it to all affected parties for their comments, feedback and acceptance.

Testing, testing

A key milestone in any technology project is the User Acceptance Phase. It signals the point in the project when functionality has been implemented and requires input from the business that all the requirements have been met. Typically positioned at the end of the project, this is where the words, “confidently delivering benefit” could be inserted and where for many users, it’s their first glimpse into the system that’s about to change the way they work.

These are the people who understand exactly what the business is, how it operates and ultimately the ones that matter. Careful attention to the individual’s motivation, time constraints and skill level will ensure accurate inputs into training, risk and change management.

Communicate

Finally, the whole thing comes down to an ongoing and relentless communication campaign. Ensuring that all employees within the organisation are aware of what is going on and have an avenue for feedback can be a challenge.

The result, otherwise, is employees in an environment that is unfamiliar, uncertain and unclear. Meanwhile, those who are disengaged focus on the flaws and often end up resisting change.

With any type of change, you must manage anxiety. To move people to a new way of working, you need to create a positive spin. A good strategy involves marketing, which effectively brands and launches the project. This experience will create awareness and excitement celebrating the new HR technology. At the end of the day, it is first impressions that last. Good luck!

About the author

Ari Kopoulos is the national sales & marketing manager at EmployeeConnect. For further information visit employeeconnect.com.au

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