System upgrades and implementations represent a significant investment of time and money. However the return on investment and potential to transform an organisation is invaluable. Ask any IT manager what they consider to be the main criteria for a successful upgrade project and the odds are they will mention the need to get the architecture right and the importance of attention to detail during the build. The most commonly forgotten, and equally important elements, are the non-IT related components of the upgrade project such as the change management and communication strategies that facilitate by-in of end users and adoption of the newly upgraded system
The best way of achieving user buy-in is through a change management strategy. By applying proven techniques and approaches it is possible to develop an implementation plan that engages managers, motivates learners, and energises the entire organisation.
One of the greatest challenges when upgrading a system is employee resistance to change. Instead of seeing a system implementation as a ‘transformation’ for the organisation, employees simply see more work and processes to learn.
Employees typically resist change for two reasons:
1. Lack of motivation and/or
2. Lack of ability
A successful change management plan must address both these issues. Failure to handle change management effectively can lead to decreases in productivity, persistent resistance to change, lower customer service levels, and valued staff leaving your business. If staff don’t trust leadership, fail to share the organisation’s vision, don’t understand the reason for change or if they aren’t included in the planning, then there is unlikely to be any successful change – regardless of how brilliant the new IT system is.
Communicate and Educate to Motivate
Understanding resistance by individuals is an essential element in providing an effective change management process. Resistance often results from the uncertainty and fear that arises when employees don’t understand the impact or the benefits the change will bring. By initiating clear, positive communication channels and vision sharing, this resistance can be avoided or overcome.
Motivation by fear and intimidation, often resulting from employees perceiving change as mandated rather than consultative, frequently results in passive resistance. Empowerment is always a better approach. Individuals like to form their own opinions based on knowledge. Therefore if end users feel included and are educated throughout the change process, (providing the rationale and context for the change), acceptance rates, support, and system uptake will increase.
Employees need to know what the future state will look like. This goes beyond the high level descriptions that may have been provided early on and should address questions such as:
- Why has a new system been introduced?
- What are the new business processes?
- What are the new procedures?
- How will jobs change and what skills are needed to achieve these new jobs?
To be effective, training should only begin once employees are ready to embrace the change and have the desire to learn.
Develop ability through learning
Providing staff with training and a proactive learning environment will help them to adjust rapidly to changing job requirements. It will provide them with the ability to adopt and use the technology advances, and help them to engage in the organisation’s fundamental culture change.
Opportunities for learning can be created through a range of communication channels, from formal training and education programs to the more dynamic online learning environments. When it comes to IT training courses, online methods are often more flexible, accessible, effective and affordable than traditional instructor-led classroom training.
Portable learning tools, for example, deliver the kind of training and communication that in past times could only be done with a knowledgeable trainer working on site, alongside the employee. Mobile technologies and eContent provide the capability for training that appeals to all learning styles and diverse worksites. This translates into a gain in the efficiency of learning when compared to conventional classroom training.
These days, interactive eLearning is available in many formats and via a multitude of delivery mechanisms – corporate networks, CD-ROM’s, corporate Intranets and the Internet. This ensures that the same content is delivered to all employees virtually anywhere.
Computer based training enables management to track which training areas are giving employees the most difficulty, which competencies are most in need of refocusing and which employees need what training. The results can be analysed across all departments, branches, groups and regions, providing fast, in-depth feedback on the effectiveness of the change management and learning strategy.
Adopting an online approach to learning will help to accelerate the pace of sustainable change, increase commitment by staff to required changes, and develop greater capacity for future change in the organisation. At the same time, this approach will provide the increased stability needed in the midst of the change management process.
When staff have developed both motivation and ability through an effective change management strategy, the uptake of any new system will run far more smoothly for all concerned.
Sharon Lowry is head of Workforce Management Division, ComOps