Recently, a nationally recognized company found itself at odds with its workforce. After several years of planning, its $700 million enterprise resource planning implementation had hit a snag. The problem: broad resistance to change among its 100,000 employees.
Most tech-enabled business transformations can save companies billions, if properly implemented. Yet selling employees on change is often one of the toughest aspects of the project - and lack of staff support can have disastrous consequences. So what's the solution?
It starts with internal communication. Poor communication ranks high on the list of factors causing problems for large-scale projects. In fact, the key here is to communicate with your employees - not at them. Many companies over-communicate in an attempt to win over employees. This isn't a winning strategy. Often, lack of awareness isn't the problem - it's lack of buy-in. To introduce change effectively, keep in mind the following:
- Put in place the right stakeholder engagement model. Make sure your strongest internal critics are part of the process. Resist the urge to dismiss their concerns out of hand. It's not about bowing to their whims; it's about addressing potential pitfalls.
- Invest fully in engaging employees with communications. Countless organizations spend hundreds of millions on technology implementations and then close their wallets on communication activities, reducing their ability to successfully manage change. There is a huge cost to the entire corporation for not gaining internal support.
- Work with a strategic partner with deep experience in change management and employee engagement. It's much easier for an experienced third party to engage with your program's critics and find the common ground that's crucial to success. With this much on the line, an appropriate investment in change management and communications will pay off in user adoption down the road.
Above all, don't wait for grumbling. The main factor in success is creating an engagement strategy up-front. If you're mulling a large-scale, tech-enabled change - whether it's upgrading your current infrastructure, merging systems after an acquisition, or business transformation efforts in finance or HR - the time to start is now.
Monica Lin-Meyer leads Waggener Edstrom Worldwide's internal communications and employee engagement team.