Today, there is so much technology to make our lives easier, automate simple tasks, and keep us connected. This is true in our personal lives, the business world, particularly in the HR or People and Culture domain. I must receive at least five emails or LinkedIn messages a day promoting a new platform that will transform our employee experience, improve health and wellbeing, or simplify our payroll and people processes.
So if all of these tools are there to make our lives easier and allow us to shift time spent on administration and reporting tasks to high-value activities and connecting with people, why does it seem like we still have less time and more people in our teams to keep these systems functioning?
I’ve been with CBH Group in the People and Culture space for over ten years. In that time, we’ve implemented several systems, tools, and platforms to simplify, automate or streamline, with varying levels of success for each one but lots of valuable learnings along the way. We have just kicked-off a project to shift our HCM system from the traditional on-premise environment into the cloud. In the lead-up, we’ve spent time reflecting on why we’re doing this project, defining our goals for go live, and how we’ll validate that the implementation and change deliver against our expectations.
"It’s often helpful to ask questions like - why are we doing this; who needs the information; what happens if we stop doing it?"
We’ve learned three valuable lessons from our earlier system implementations. We have used those to set us up for success as we prepare for a significant change in the way we enable our leaders to attract, retain, develop, and lead our people at CBH Group.
1: Engage your stakeholders early
People related systems or processes are designed to help your people in some way. Understanding their needs upfront and involving them in the design phase helps ensure you don’t end up with a tool that your HR team loves, but the people in your organization find cumbersome or hard to use. We discovered after implementing our first onboarding platform that provided a single workflow-driven process to streamline onboarding for our sizeable seasonal workforce, replacing the need for the former time-consuming, paper-based program. When we went live the first year, we found that people based in metropolitan areas had no problem with the change, but our applicants based in regional Western Australia with poor connectivity were frustrated with the time required to complete some activities due to training videos buffering or long delays when uploading documents. Those who didn’t have access to laptops or desktop PCs found the platform was not user-friendly when accessing a mobile device. We’d failed to clarify how, when, and where the platform would be used. Engaging with a broad range of stakeholders early and throughout the design, build, and implementation phases helps to ensure everyone is clear about the outcomes you’re aiming to achieve, allows you to uncover potential blind spots in your thinking and planning, and enables course correction along the way as issues are discovered. This early engagement also creates enthusiastic change champions who can help and support others during and after go-live.
2: Processes matter more than systems
If your process is flawed, then managing it via a system will not fix that problem. It’s critical to spend time on the process itself before implementing a strategy to manage it more efficiently. Before implementing our learning management system, we spent a considerable amount of time reviewing our training, assessment, and content review processes. We found many process problems and friction points that we were able to resolve before we even started the system implementation, such as clarifying how frequently programs required content review and who needed to be involved, what (if any) refresh training periods were needed, and, if the assessment of competence was required, how that would be captured and reported. It’s often helpful to ask questions like - why are we doing this; who needs the information; what happens if we stop doing it? Is there a better way to achieve the outcome we’re seeking - to determine where there are opportunities to simplify existing processes and ensure they are fit for your people and your business before you aim to manage them via a system.
3: Consider why it might fail, then plan around that
There’s no point in asking what went wrong after you’ve implemented a new system or platform, and it failed to deliver the outcomes you were aiming to achieve. Very early on in the project, we imagine we are post-go-live and that the project implementation has failed, and we ask ourselves, what went wrong? This allows the team to consider all of the possible reasons why system implementation could fail. From there, we discuss how likely each reason is to eventuate and its impact on our performance so we can start to plan how we will avoid each issue becoming our reality. This activity’s outcomes inform our change and implementation plan and help identify any gaps in our design that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. The activity also prompts you think about sustainability beyond the go-live date and ensure your systems and processes remain relevant, enable better people and business outcomes, and are quickly adopted by new people who join your team in the future.
While these lessons may seem simple, we’ve found they set a project up for success from the beginning and create a much higher likelihood that your project will deliver the outcomes and benefits you’re aiming to achieve.