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How Does HR Transformation Affect the Employee Experience?


How Does HR Transformation Affect the Employee Experience?

I recently attended my first-ever HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas. I have spent decades advocating for the employee experience inside healthcare companies, but this was the first time I’d been a part of conversations about transformation and the future of work from the other side. While I was fascinated by many of the conversations in Vegas, I often left presentations and sessions with more questions than answers.

Here’s the core question I’m asking myself after HR Tech: What are the side effects of HR transformation on the employee experience? Your big HR transformation involves a big, scary, experience-upending word: CHANGE. By definition, transformation changes work for everyone — HR people, sure, but every other employee, too. And there are few things more stressful for employees than change, whether it’s the implementation of new software, learning new processes, or a reworked company org chart. 

And while it’s easy for HR leaders (and the vendors that sell to them!) to focus on the end product (a shiny, new way of doing things!), we need to also think about how we get there. What is the messy, emotional process employees will go through to get to the other side of HR transformation? And how can we make sure we’re thinking about the employee experience when we’re planning major HR change? Here are a few ideas.

Prepare for the Human Side of Change

Change is always going to be even more difficult than we think. If change were as simple as reprogramming an algorithm, then we’d do it all the time. But it doesn’t work that way. We’re not robots, we are creatures of habit and behaviors are not created or eliminated with a push of a button.

Let’s use marriage as an example. Obviously, it’s a big life change that goes well beyond the actual wedding day. For most there’s plenty of time to prepare for it, but it still creates anxiety because there are so many variables to consider. On that special day people want everything to be perfect; they worry about the weather, if their families will get along, and if they will remember their vows. However, even if the day is perfect, marriage is not just about the wedding day. It is about preparing to live together as a couple, adjusting daily routines and expectations, and learning how to communicate and work together as partners.

In other words, there’s a human element to change. There are so many external factors that affect our experience. When you begin the process of considering change, don’t just think about the end result. Think about your organizational culture: 

  • What are the current attitudes and beliefs about change? 
  • How will these emotional factors impact the change process?  

It is critical that you assess your teams to discover how people feel about the change, explore their perceived obstacles, and determine your organization’s readiness for change. People need time to process information in digestible chunks, they need to feel safe to disclose how they really feel about the impending change and they deserve to be supported throughout the entire process. By starting culturally where your employees are, you can be deliberate and intentional about building a plan that provides the communication and support they need throughout the process.  

Find a Change Champion

No matter how well-intentioned a change is, it will affect your employees in some capacity. For example, even if a change is small, there may be confusion about its implementation. There may be frustration with a new process. And there may be even more frustration because an employee does not know where to turn to voice their concerns.

To counter these bad feelings, create a liaison between employees and management — a change management champion. This person will carry the banner for change, and voice employees’ concerns. Involving them upfront will make the process easier and more focused for all involved, and once more earn the trust that you need to carry out successful change.

Designating change management champions will also ensure you have a clear and consistent process for communicating your intentions for the change. While it’s up to the executive team to determine the overall message, the next level of leaders will need to communicate that information to their own domains, with the message tailored to their department’s or team’s needs.

Develop Two-Way Communication

One of the most immediate ways to improve employee engagement is to make sure employees feel they have a voice — and that their perspective matters.  

That’s why it’s so important to find ways to create effective two-way dialogue with your employees. During a major change, collaborate with your change champions to figure out how you can involve employees, and make sure you are going the extra mile to hear what they have to say. Pulse surveys can be enormously helpful to do a cultural temperature check, but they may not be enough to capture the intelligence that you need when making a big transformation.

One option to consider is a town hall meeting. Town halls give leaders a chance to engage with employees directly and capture trends in attitudes, fears, and beliefs. Smaller group sessions are another option, giving leaders the opportunity to ask more granular questions about how change will affect employees at work. Regardless of the option you choose, communicating a summary of what you heard and how you plan to address the needs of your employees sends a powerful message of solidarity.

Most importantly, listen to what people have to say, and be clear in your communication.  Communicating with consistency and clarity creates a culture of trust. That level of trust can improve how an employee experiences change, even when you have to communicate about an unpopular decision. 

So, when you’re considering your next transformative project, or shopping for your next big HR tech platform, keep “employee experience” on the tip of your tongue. Focus on listening, preparing, and supporting your employees through these technology changes. Be intentional about creating and investing in an organizational culture that embodies change. If we want to transform HR for the better, we need to do it hand in hand with the employees it will affect. 

Let’s talk about how your organization is planning for change. Send me an email to connect.

Amie Deak is an advisor at IA who came to HR consulting after 20 years in healthcare. She is a licensed clinical social worker and has a master’s degree in health administration. She has been a liaison between major healthcare organizations and the communities they serve, planned long-term strategic initiatives, and led large multidisciplinary teams. Her superpower is helping people activate their hidden strengths.


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The car wasn’t mine. I had borrowed it from my stepfather to drive from my temporary home in Northern California to what was (in my mind) the perfect job opportunity. The drive time should have been no more than thirty-five minutes. I was dressed in the best suit I could afford, white shirt neatly pressed, shoes shined, resume printed in triplicate. It was a typical sunny morning once the fog burned off, and the drive was uneventful. Then it wasn’t. The sedan directly in front of me on the highway suddenly and unexpectedly lost control. Careening at 65 miles per hour in ever-widening overcorrections of the wheel, the driver eventually rammed headfirst into the median. Glass exploded, his car accordioned, other drivers slammed their brakes, and then eerie silence filled the void. Quickly pulling over near the wreckage, I managed to click on my hazard lights before running toward the now smoking vehicle. Seeing the unconscious driver bleeding profusely from the neck, I put all of my weight onto the pressure of the wound. Thankfully, I could feel every heartbeat. He never woke. Sirens suddenly blared and I was relieved by the Highway Patrol and EMTs. I walked back to my stepfather’s car, buckled my seatbelt, turned off the hazard lights and drove on to my interview. Arriving approximately ten minutes late, I checked in with reception and took a seat in the lobby. Without offering an explanation, I apologized for my tardiness and hoped that they would still be willing to see me. Reception made a phone call, and a man emerged from a door to the right of the front desk. He stopped, looked at me, looked at reception, and then looked at me again. Ceasing his approach, he immediately reentered the door from whence he came, and my wait continued. A few minutes thereafter, a young woman — let’s call her Barbara — came out to see me. She explained that she was the recruiter for the position and that regrettably the hiring manager was no longer seeking candidates. I expressed my disappointment and shook her hand in thanks. That was the moment that I saw the blood caked on my hand. I was covered in blood. Shocked from the trauma, I had never stopped to look in a mirror, to assess my appearance, or to truly process what had occurred. Barbara didn’t flinch — she simply wished me well and helped me toward the door. Ironically, my interview was with a prominent health care provider. I shared this very story a few months ago with a group of talent acquisition leaders. It was in the context of a discussion on the critical nature of the candidate experience in a very competitive labor market. After my presentation, a woman approached me and asked if I had a moment to chat. She extended her hand to introduce herself. Let’s call her Barbara. Barbara told me that she never forgot that day and vividly recounted details I had forgotten. Beyond my horrific appearance, she shared that she was very upset by her organization’s response to the interview. She had found it unconscionable that a health care provider that espouses very specific values could turn away a human clearly in need of support and assistance. She smiled at the irony of us meeting now, in this context, so many years later. Immediately after the fateful interview that never was, she expressed her feelings to the hiring manager and her direct superior. Neither cared at the time. So she voted with her feet, quit her job, and never looked back. To this day, she credits that moment for setting in motion a series of moves that led to a position where she can ensure candidates never suffer the same fate. There was passion in her voice and palpable power in her story. I was awed by the moment. She reminded me that every experience matters. Whether as candidates, employees, contractors, retirees, partners, or customers, basic dignity and care are core human tenets. When we make decisions as leaders, we often look for guidance in the latest research report or the hot industry buzzword. But what if we took a different approach? What if we started every experience focused on developing basic human decency? What if we thought about the little, personal, unforgettable moments, instead of the big picture? I think it’s worth a try.

One Sunny Morning

Want to Improve Employee Experience? Don’t Make This Huge Mistake

Want to Improve Employee Experience? Don’t Make This Huge Mistake

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