29 November 2012

Installing New Software In The Coming Year? Better Plan Your Communications Now!

By Elizabeth Borton

This past August, while attending the Indiana SHRM conference as a speaker, I sat in on a presentation by William Tincup, an irreverent thought leader on user adoption of new technology. Why would a communications consultant wander into his presentation? Two reasons: 1) I’d seen him speak before and I got a kick out of his style (the guy made me laugh); and 2) I wanted to hear how companies are handling communications around software implementation. As William pointed out, “HR software will not be adopted at the employee level without proactive communication.”

Think about it. Companies spend so much time researching software vendors and their products, choosing and tweaking just the right package and then sitting in upteen meetings to ensure a smooth implementation. But does anyone stop to create a communication plan to roll out that new technology? Helloooo? Anyone? (crickets)

William has some very definite thoughts around this subject. He said that rather than using the “shock and awe” approach of shoving new technology in employees’ faces and telling them to use it or else, companies would be better served to create a well-thought-out communication/training/change management strategy. As William puts it, “Explain the reason for changing the software, why it’s important and how it aligns with the corporate mission and values. Tie it back. Don’t say you’re doing it just for the really cool software.” Of course, you’ll want to spotlight senior level support but don’t ignore the power of bringing it down to the “what’s in it for me” level. “Acknowledge it’s a change and change is stressful…but then show them how the software will make their job easier,” suggests William. Another big key to success is to ensure the users’ first experience is a good one. Keep the rollout simple and (here’s a novel idea) fun! Offer incentives for early adopters. “If they have a good experience initially, they will be more apt to work through the kinks in the future without grumbling,” notes William. Finally, as you develop your communication plan, build in opportunities for employees to share success stories. As the positive momentum builds, so too will your user adoption.

So if you get wind that the company is looking at implementing new software in the coming year, raise your hand and ask if someone is developing a communications plan. It could make you a hero. After all, what good is a really cool software package if no one uses it?