Common misconceptions about change management in HR IT projects

As one of my colleagues wrote in his blog, lack of support for the change stream is one of the main reasons why HR IT implementation projects fail. Working closely with customers embarking on their HR transformation journey, I have noticed that change management does not always hold the prime position it deserves. This, in my opinion, is due to the lack of understanding of what change management actually is, when it should come into play and why it is particularly crucial in HR projects.

Change management starts in your team

A common misconception is that change management is communicating the project outcomes to an audience affected by them and giving them respective training to adopt change. In SuccessFactor’s terminology, it means things like communicating that from now on employees can update their own personal information in their electronic profile instead of reporting changes to HR, and subsequently training them in how to do this. This is, of course, a part of change management and is crucial to user adoption of the new solution. But change management goes much, much further – as for the audiences reached, content communicated, as well as the point in time when it starts.

Leading experts in change management recommend to deploy the first change management activities before the actual project even starts.Your very first target audience for change management activities are not your users – they are, in fact, your project team members. In Gavdi we call this the “inward looking” dimension of change management, the purpose of which is to build the commitment of your team to actually deliver the change project on time and with respective quality. Before your team becomes dedicated to this idea, they need to understand things like why is this project important to the future of their company and, indeed, their roles. This is where the very first step of change management starts.

If you want to own the message, be the first to tell it!

Building dedication and commitment of your team is an ongoing and challenging task as you encounter unmet deadlines, people dropping out of the project, doubting its potential. To make things even more challenging, at some point you have to start handling the “outward” communication to the users: wider employee, manager and HR groups in your organization, i.e. what most customers understand under “change management”.

There is too, a common misconception in relation to the outward communication and that is in regards to when it starts.Many customers tend to think that two weeks before “Go-live” is sufficient timing to communicate, that a specific HR process will be handled differently. Au contraire, this is way too late to communicate change. By that time, most employees would have heard that something is going to change. The lack of communicating what exactly will change can generate uncertainty followed by a misinterpretation of the consequences of change. A common reaction would be a fear of HR becoming obsolete due to the self-service functionalities of SuccessFactors or not having the right skills for these transformed roles.

When it comes to change management, HR IT projects are special…

Finally, what many of our customers don’t initially realize is that engaging HR IT systems like SuccessFactors affect absolutely everyone in the organization, because everyone is expected to interact with it in one way or the other. In contrast, a new payroll system will affect the work of Finance and IT, but the work of regular employees will remain unaffected. This stresses the importance of managing change even more, by focusing on user acceptance and user adoption. Just imagine all your employees thinking that the entire project is a waste of time and refusing to use the solution. That can damage the entire organization and prevent it from benefiting from the solution it has nvested in.

Finally, transitioning to the cloud is embarking on a journey of constant innovation. SuccessFactors releases easily applicable updates four times a year, meaning that the later you get your key users used to working with the solution, the more innovative features they may have to absorb.

In summary

Whether you are implementing a HR IT project or just thinking of it, don’t underestimate the role of change management. It’s not just crucial to the acceptance and adoption of change in your organization – successful and timely delivery of your project depends on it. So don’t waste any more time and dedicate those resources, execute those communication and training strategies! And if you need a hand, remember that companies like Gavdi are here to help you!

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