Change Management, Continuous Improvement, Core HR

Your Change-Management Plan Is Missing the First Step

If you’re working on a project that will radically change the status quo for a large group of people, you probably have a long list of to-dos. You assemble a formal change-management plan that includes steps like:

  • Assess the need for change.
  • Analyze the impact the change will make.
  • Engage stakeholders.
  • Win approval from leadership.
  • Confirm budget.
  • Communicate changes to all employees affected by the change.

But when I work with teams on HR transformations, I often find a big blind spot at the beginning of that to-do list. Most change-management plans are missing the incredibly important first step: Get your project team on board.

Creating major change — whether it’s implementing a new payroll system or rolling out a job requisition process — requires the work of a lot of people. And if you don’t get those people excited and plugged in to why you’re making change, they can become roadblocks on the path to progress.

Here’s how to make sure the people on your project team are your biggest cheerleaders.

Start by Telling the Team What You’re Trying to Change

Too often, the project team is engaged in their work on the project, but they don’t know what their work will mean down the road. What will happen to their roles? What does their future look like?

So, before you go out to find change agents, look around you. Who on the team is going to execute your project? If you’re rolling out new payroll software, you’re likely working with the payroll organization, HR teams and an HRIT team who will manage the technical implementation.

Tell that team what you’re working toward — for example, a more efficient payroll process that requires fewer human hours and leads to better reporting. A payroll accountant may only see the slices of the project that affect the general ledger. A developer might only see their individual work, like integrating the new system with the employee database. So, it’s important to start with the big-picture goals and outcomes.

Explain the “Why”

So you’ve gathered the project team for your regular Monday morning meeting, and you’ve shown them a PowerPoint slide about your payroll goals.

Is everyone jumping up and down yet? Probably not. It’s up to change-management leaders to make sure those goals actually mean something to people. Help your team understand why you’re rolling out the change.

Maybe your current payroll software is buggy, causing the payroll team to constantly run multiple payrolls to fix underlying issues. Or, maybe the system is behind the times, and requires manual data entry from paper forms. Those technology quirks mean managers spend hours logging errors and requesting changes, and teams stay late almost every payroll cycle to make things right.

If your goal is to improve payroll software and process, connect that to your team’s day-to-day work. “Leave work on time” and “empower employees to make simple changes without our help” are goals that would make most teams excited.

Have Honest Conversations

Here’s the other thing about change: When you’re talking about improving processes or automating more touch points, you’re talking about changing people’s work.

In your formal plan, you probably assessed how your changes would affect users across the organization, like employees who will use a different system to update their direct deposit information or managers who will need to follow a new process to get bonus approvals. But have you thought about how those changes will affect the project team?

For example, you’re asking the IT team to work diligently for months on data migration, systems integrations and configurations so that, ultimately, the company needs the IT team less frequently and less urgently. If the payroll team can manage their new system without a developer’s help, the IT team may wonder, “What will happen to our jobs after this?” Ditto for payroll analysts and others whose work will become less manual or less urgent because of a new system.

That’s an uncomfortable question, but you need to address it from the very beginning. Be transparent. If you don’t acknowledge this question proactively, you’ll create a void of information that people will fill with gossip, rumors and speculation. If you don’t provide a narrative, people will build their own.

I once worked with a great manager who always anticipated these kinds of fears. She’d say, “Managing change is not always easy, so let’s work through how this change is impacting you and your role today. Tell me what worries you so that we can develop a strategy to help you along. With any change there is opportunity to learn, grow, and enhance your skill set.” She encouraged our team to do great work so that we would earn more opportunities in the future.

Tell your people: Your work isn’t going away, but it will be different work.

Remember that Change is Scary

At the end of the day, most people don’t like change, especially when it comes to their job. Change management comes down to understanding people’s fears and concerns so you can address them or alleviate them up front.

Investing time in your project team at the beginning will lead to faster, smoother projects with a more engaged crew behind you. Which will make you want to jump up and down.

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Written by:

  • Christina Felty is a principal at IA. Her experience in a recruiting, payroll, IT, and process improvement makes her a superstar problem-solver for IA clients.


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