The 4-step process that delivers effective change management
Welcome to the final piece in our three-part series on change management and how it relates to the adoption of new staffing tech.
In part one, we looked at the three most common change management failures: vendor choice, communication, and budget. In part two, we looked at the main factors that contributed to successful tech adoption and how clever change management strategies could expedite the process.
Thus, having laid the groundwork, it’s now time to drill down on the process of change itself. And you might be surprised at just how simple this seemingly intimidating prospect can be.
The change management process can be defined in many ways, but these four steps are a great way to get started.
Step 1: Awareness
Your first job: light up the darkness. Change is scary because of the unknowns. By explaining exactly what the change looks like, how it will come about, and the ultimate impact it’ll have on the lives of stakeholders, you’ll be far more likely to gain the acceptance – and perhaps even the excitement – of your team.
Be clear about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the coming change. Your executives can play a critical role in this early success by evangelizing the message internally.
“Create a sense of urgency, build a coalition, enlist some evangelical foot soldiers, get everybody behind you, and form that strategic vision based on the why,” says Lauren Jones, Founder of Leap Consulting Solutions.
“I found that when people understand how they’re going to benefit from technology, they’re more receptive to it,” adds Maurice Fuller, Founder of Staffing Tech. “If we can show them how they personally benefit, whether manager, user, or executive, if we speak their language and show them the returns, they’re more likely to buy into it. It’s that upfront communication that matters.”
Step 2: Adoption
Building up a good level of awareness about the change will see you removing a large barrier to the adoption of new tech, but it won’t be the last, and it’s important to identify as many of these barriers as you can as early as you can.
“Sometimes we encounter unexpected barriers along the way, whether technical barriers, people problems, or integration issues,” Fuller continues. “Identify as much as possible upfront so there are fewer surprises down the track.”
When the surprises inevitably do come, this homework will help to navigate them, as you’ll already have a number of mitigation strategies and solutions at your disposal. By preparing for the foreseeable, you become more prepared for the unforeseeable; you’ve thought about how you’re going to respond in a sticky situation and can therefore handle surprises better.
Whether they relate to finances, people, or the technology itself, issues will happen, so you need a structured plan to deal with them. Consider holding a weekly ‘defect call’ that lays all the current issues out on the table for people to solve or forming a team of bright minds tasked with solving adoption problems as they arise.
Step 3: Continued advocacy
Technology is rarely, if ever, a one-time investment. If a solution is to be successfully adopted, you need to train your staff on maximizing their use of the tool and advocate for the technology by incentivizing and celebrating its adoption.
“Often companies underinvest in training, but I have always pushed to purchase and acquire more training than we think is necessary,” Fuller explains. “This has always paid off because training is a high ROI investment. Commit to offering different types of training: videos, articles, how-tos, PDFs.”
The two departments that get hit first during a downturn are inevitably marketing and training, but the fact is that these are two of your most valuable divisions in such times, as they form the foundations of long-term success. A downturn is also a great time for training and marketing because you actually have time to focus on these critical – but often deprioritized – tasks.
“It’s like a boat in a storm,” says Fuller. “When business is good, the wind is gusting, and you’re going places. During a downturn, you have an opportunity to fix the sails, patch the leaks, and make sure everything’s in good shape for the next uptick in business.”
The point of advocacy is to sustain the change. While it’s great if it is, you can’t expect adoption to be 100% organic, to continue to roll on under its own steam. You need to push it forward with training and incentivization.
Step 4: Product optimization
So you’ve successfully adopted a new piece of technology across your organization. You’ve reached the finish line, right? Well, no.
Any piece of technology worth its salt will have the ability to evolve in line with your organization. Just as your business grows and changes, so too should your solution. Optimization is an ongoing (and ideally never-ending) process.
Bring a structured approach to continuous improvement. Create a plan to identify bottlenecks and to understand what’s happening next. Track your performance through KPIs: know what you’re measuring, how you’re measuring it, and how frequently those measurements are taken. Ideally, you’ll use the same agile approach in optimizing the solution that the developer used in its creation.
Change isn’t something that comes naturally to people, but the demands of modern staffing mean that you can no longer afford to sit in your comfortable corner. Success demands that your firm undergo a continuous and technology-driven evolution, which can only be possible with clever change management.