What Every VP of HR Needs to Know About Change Management

Implementation is about people.

This may seem obvious, but it was an especially notable observation at the HR Technology Conference held in Chicago recently. Katherine Jones, partner and director of talent research at Mercer, led a session on implementation of HR technology, pointing to research that 70 percent of change initiatives are considered a failure. “I’m here to help you be part of the 30 percent,” Jones told her audience.

In the past 10 years, we’ve seen more and more HR software shift to the cloud, simplifying usage for both employees and HR administrators. But despite the evolved tools, if you can’t get people to change, nothing will change.

The second observed shift is fragmentation. Instead of relying on one vendor to manage recruiting, talent development, performance reviews and more, HR leaders are able to choose best-in-class software for individual needs. And, each company has done this in their own way. An HRIS may lie beneath a conglomeration of killer tools preferred by individuals. Pieces of on-premise continue to be used while cloud software is peppered in.

Not surprisingly, the fragmentation has led to some complications.

A new HRIS is an excuse to change things and modernize the whole process, Jones said. But soon the changes grow exponentially. In Mercer’s research, 55 percent of respondents said they were redesigning their process during implementation of their HRIS.

What’s the key differentiator, to be part of the 30 percent of success stories?

You need people to care about your project and invest in it.

Jones recommends compiling a list of stakeholders, weighted by how critical they are to the project, their degree of influence and their importance to the buy-in stage. The communication strategy for each should be appropriate based on where they landed on this grid.

Here are a few tips to stay on track:

  • Avoid the over-promise: Don’t say a new technology’s key benefit is increased usage. This is a hoped-for result but even when achieved it may not appear dramatic enough to justify costs.
  • Start with a plan: Instead of designing your process during implementation, get your plan and timeline set up ahead of time.
  • Enlist advocates and change agents: As an HR leader, your team won’t have the resources to manage the full rollout. You’ll need advocates in IT, in finance and more to carry some of the weight.
  • Address concerns: Some communications will be company-wide and others will be targeted towards managers or the HR team, based on degree of involvement. One important question to address is “What will change on day one?
  • Plan for a successor champion: Who will continue the program. Likely, this person has something to lose if the process fails, and could be the person who got the business case approved.


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