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  • Writer's pictureMark Hordes

How to Avoid Stalled Adoption of HR & ChangeManagement Initiatives

Updated: Apr 19, 2019

by:Mark Hordes


Organizations frequently proclaim on their websites, business cards and annual reports that “our people” are our most valuable resource, yet why is it that so many strategic HR initiatives that are focused at increasing the effectiveness, productivity and efficiency of the human side of an enterprise get stalled, or fail to meet their stated objectives?

The answer lies in a lack of awareness and understanding of the principles of adoption management.

Adoption Management is the term utilized by leading companies to have a fully integrated change management process in place so that those who are impacted by the change, and whose support, engagement and involvement are required, for success, are fully aware of the impact of the change on all parts of the company, and are involved in the effort in meaningful ways before a new initiative is cascaded throughout the organization.\

Eight Ways to Overcome the Challenge of Adoption Management

1. Focus on Effective Workforce Adoption as a Pillar of Success

Start first by identifying what specific behaviors are required to support adoption by the workforce.

This could be as simple as conducting cross-functional focus groups to determine how the employees see how the change impacts them; their concerns with having to learn new skills, understanding how quickly they will have to adapt to the new change, how the change effects other parts of the organization, what is the rationale for the change, and what training will be provided, if needed, to increase their capabilities to manage the change. And, most importantly, what new behaviors will have to be learned to be successful; communicating differently with new stakeholders, learning how to be more self-directed with remote technologies, learning new ways of working in groups, versus having to be individual contributors, etc.

2. Develop and Implement a Strong Sponsorship Involvement Process

A sponsor is a process owner, an individual who is respected by the organization, who can get things done, who can remove barriers, and who seen as a role model in the organization. Yes, this sometimes can be a rather tall order to identify, not just one, but several sponsors with these attributes. What is essential is that you have the right mix of sponsors, and that these individuals can effectively communicate reasons for the change, the benefits, and what support is being put in place to ensure that the change will be sustained. Sometimes, this may take the form, of establishing incentives, providing avenues for providing direct feedback, sharing how the initiative links to the strategic direction of the company, and, providing time to go for training.

I once was a consultant to a global client where the sponsors came up with the idea to start each day with visiting their support centers, and by putting a golf ball down through the aisle, and where ever the ball stopped by an employee’s desk, they would sit down and talk to the employee about the initiative, explain why it was important to have their support and to answer questions. It also helped that the sponsors loved to play golf, and to them, this was an idea that they felt made a lot of sense and would be memorable for the employee.

They also signed the golf ball and gave out with gift card to Star Bucks Coffee. To this day, employee still talk about this activity and how good it made them feel, that the sponsors were able to engage them in a creative way.

Further evidence as to the importance of sponsorship in Adoption Management can be seen in the following study:

3. Create a Clear Definition of Effective Usage

A case in point is in the utilization of competency models in companies. Competencies are the underlying qualities employees need to bring to their jobs. For the individual employee it helps them see exactly what behaviors lead to success and makes clear how they need to demonstrate those behaviors to progress up and across the company. Competency frameworks are often linked to proficiency levels, such as, (developing, proficient, advanced and expert) to reflect individual development within each competency area.\

Quite often, competency booklets are quite graphical, with elaborate pictures illustrating the workforce in action, utilizing competencies to the achievement of business and individual success. HR departments spend a significant part of their budgets on the production of such documents, but sadly not as much on a clear definition of the effective utilization of these frameworks. Such as, how supervisors should coach employees on the competency model, mentoring on the “line of sight” for career succession, linkage to performance management, training, self-assessment and feedback from others specific to proficiencies if a 360-degree feedback process is in place.

4. Install User Friendly HR Tools

Projects are more likely to fail when the “people” side of change is not addressed.

-Resistance to Change

-Inadequate Sponsorship

-Unrealistic Expectations

-Poor Project Management

-Case for Change not Compelling

-Project Team Lacked Skills

-Scope Expansion/Uncertainty

-Inadequate Change Management Program

-Not Horizontal Process View

-Various Projects Not Integrated

Technology is expensive! If you don’t believe this look at your last invoice your SAP integrator sent you for the HR module installation.

Or, check out how user friendly the instructions are in your Intranet to find HR documents, how to file a benefits claim, or simply to ask HR a question of which you have not gotten no response after 10 attempts to find out about the housing reimbursement you are due.

It’s a best practice to run what is commonly referred to as a “conference room pilot/CRP” before you spend a lot of money on installing an HR program that no one knows how to access or use.

A CRP is like a focus group made up of employees who get an opportunity to try out an application before it goes live to receive feedback on how user friendly it is, what icons make the most sense, and if the entire process works.

Tracking usage monthly also can provide you with needed data to determine if the HR tools are effectively being utilized and adopted by employees.

5. Establish Formal Agreements for New Responsibilities

A job description is a formal agreement between an employee and an employer. We have all seen these, but how frequently do you review these to determine what has changed since it was first written? How frequently do you review these with the employee? And, when responsibilities have changed, have you updated this document for accuracy, and to gauge performance at the end of the year?

This is not “rocket science” but a basic HR practice that needs to remain fresh, a living document to manage the work itself and to shape behaviors in line with new responsibilities.

A formal agreement for new responsibilities can also be utilized between functional departments in the form of service level agreements.

Often referred to as Service Level Agreements, (SLA’s). An SLA lays our requirements between those areas of the company that you need to receive information from, in order to transform information into a useable service or product that you need to move forward to another part of the company. Recruiting as an example requires a job order from a department to develop a job profile and to recruit. If the supplier of that job order misstates, or doesn’t

accurately provide the right information, recruiting and filling the position will be challenging.

6. Don’t Assume Project Managers Can Lead Change Themselves

Although project managers play a vital role in ensuring organizational adoption of new HR initiatives, without providing the weight of the organization in support of their efforts, can lead to a high degree of dissatisfaction from project managers and the general workforce. What kind of support is required to avoid this?

• “Change Agent” training, how to identify barriers and techniques to help remove them

• Small group process skill building and facilitation techniques

• Conflict management strategies

• Communications skill building: presentation, direct and indirect

• Team management skills

• Models for creating staged gateways and change metrics

• Fundamentals of how people experience change: from awareness through adoption

• Company visible support demonstrated through funding and patience

7. Maximize Workforce/User Involvement

There are many vehicles that can be utilized to involve the workforce. These include; “lunch and learn session”, “all hands meeting” “walk-about”, “road shows” and on-line Intranet communications, as well as questions of the week and e-mail blasts with links to relevant sponsors and key communicators. Fundamental to all of these user involvement approaches is the reality that employees will only feel that they have been engaged if the users who are affected by the HR changes feel that their ideas and concerns are heard and responded to, and that they have been provided with opportunities to be involved in meaningful ways.

Also, equally important as part of this approach is to make sure that your key messages talk to how the change will impact them, what is changing, and what is staying the same? The latter is a fundamental adoption tenet that always needs to be stated. People require the stability to understand that not everything that surrounds them have been turned upside down.

8. Enable Peer Based Support

Socialization of any new HR initiative internally with one’s peers is a best practice. Can you imagine the resistance you would generate if you tried to implement a new recruitment or operator salary approach, eliminated all your managers staffing agencies without their knowledge or input, or started a new performance management process without running it by them first to identify potential constraints and timing issues?

Clearly ultimate decision-making will be more efficient when ‘internal vetting occurs”.

To ensure that they you are on the right path with internal socialization with one’s peers ask for their input with these questions:

• Is the timing good for this type of change to occur?

• Where do they see support and resistance to the change coming from?

• Who do they see are the organizational informal leaders to whom we should talk?

• Has there been any change history related to this change that we need to be aware of?

• What kinds of new behaviors will be required to achieve the change?

• Are they supportive of the change?

• How do they see this initiative integrating into others?

• What are their suggestions as to the best ways to communicate this change?

• How much personal time are they willing to give to support the change?

• What would have to occur for them to be supportive of the change?

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