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7 essentials for better HR software change management

Change management is one of the most difficult aspects of implementing HR software. Here's how to improve your company's change management for your next implementation.

As any project leader knows, HR software implementation challenges don't end at go-live. Teaching employees how to use the new system and solving any software issues post go-live is often just as difficult, if not more so, than implementing the new system.

Creating a plan beforehand can result in a more successful change management process. Here are seven essentials to keep in mind when planning HR tech change management.

1. Create a plan

Discussing change management before go-live is not enough. Allocate time and resources to building a detailed change management plan that includes actions taken and who is responsible for implementing each step.

Review the plan regularly to confirm everything is on track and adjust if necessary for factors like a scope or timeline change.

2. Secure senior management buy-in

Getting senior management support is crucial. Leadership endorsing new HR software and visibly using it -- for example, using a new timesheet application to approve employee hours -- sends a message to employees that they need to use it, too.

3. Create a communication plan  

Consider both the pre- and post-go-live phases of the project when developing a communication plan. The communication team should send employees messages throughout the implementation highlighting the new software's benefits and stressing its good user experience. Messages to employees should increase as go-live approaches.

Continue to sell the new HR software in post-go-live communication and create an open communication channel where employees can log defects or change requests. Also, regularly update employees who have sent defects or change requests. They'll be more likely to continue using the new software and sending in issues reports if they're kept in the loop.

4. Build time in for communication approvals

Often, an HR leader or someone from an internal communications team must approve messages to employees. Document this process and include it in the schedule so this approval process doesn't clash with deadlines.

5. Develop a detailed training plan

Training is one of the most important aspects of post-go-live. Here are five key considerations when creating a training plan:

  • Provide multiple software learning options. If possible, create a few different employee learning approaches, such as the vendor's help system, a cheat sheet, instructor-led training and e-learning. Each person learns differently.
  • Be strategic about timing. Employee training should begin a couple weeks before go-live. Employees will have time to learn everything, but the training isn't so far in the past that they've forgotten the material.
  • Schedule additional manager training. Managers will need to learn functions like requesting a raise or an employee transfer. Add a few manager-only training sessions.
  • Remember the most important training. HR or IT employees who will maintain the HR software post-go-live should receive extensive training that begins before go-live, if time permits, and continues after go-live. The training should cover how to resolve issues, and the implementation partner, software vendor or external training companies may provide it.
  • Add extra training, if necessary. Some users may require extra training -- for example, a reporting specialist who needs to create custom reports using the software's reporting and business intelligence application. Make sure specific employees receive the training they need.

6. Select champions

Champions are employees who not only support the new HR software but actively help sell it and build excitement. To succeed, they need regular updates, insight into how the HR software will work and collateral for sharing the project's progress. Collateral may include a short presentation or posters for office common spaces.

Make sure champions have all the information and resources for building anticipation for the new software.

7. Explain any policy changes

Employees may be surprised if the employee policies in the software don't match the company's published policies and guidelines. Perhaps company vacation policy is changing so junior employees only get 10 vacation days, not 14, and employees first learn of that when they see 10 days listed in the software.

Communicate company policy changes to employees before they use the software, so they aren't confused by seemingly incorrect information.

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