The role of change management in HCM implementation

Navigating human capital management implementation: Strategies for successful change management

Nov 28, 2023
Labor and workforce Human-centered design Human capital Business optimization

As with any complex project, when implementing a human capital management (HCM) system, managing employee expectations and communicating early and often are key to success.

Change that feels sudden or forced can confuse workers and make them resistant to or suspicious of the new system, even when it offers features that can make their jobs easier.

Step one in change management is putting together a strong implementation team with specific people tasked with managing employee experience, education and adoption of the new technology.

These are your people who can see where technology is not just the answer, but it’s the tool. And they want to learn how to use it and take advantage of it to better the employee experience.
Steve Grem, Managing Director, RSM US LLP

Harness the power of software certification

Even the most enthusiastic internal team member cannot replace someone with system-specific implementation knowledge and experience. Involving a software-certified consultant from the beginning significantly increases the likelihood of project success and long-term system satisfaction.

A good consultant will work with you to understand your organization’s unique needs and goals, help you make a solid plan and meet deadlines, provide options at pivotal points, and fill your skill gaps. Specifically, a consultant can:

  • Help you decide how to best configure your organization’s process, procedures, tools, codes, values, structures, general ledger, etc., in the selected HCM product to obtain optimal results.
  • Provide the understanding and tools you will need to continually assess your level of success related to cost/benefit and effective utilization of your new technology.
  • Aid you in managing various aspects of the transition affecting your staff, such as time management, knowledge transfer, navigation of multiple jobs during implementation, accurate documentation, thorough testing and validation, effective communication and training, and streamlining of the go-live process.

Keep your employees informed

Your people need to know why the company has decided to make this change, how long it is expected to take and what’s in it for them. Communicate how the new system will provide them with self-service capabilities, such as accessing their data to make changes at their convenience, exploring wellness connectivity and researching career development opportunities. Better reports and analytics to enhance goal setting and communication as well as process transparency can also be exciting to employees. In addition, provide a clear procedure for employees to contact someone who can address any concerns they may have.

Address negativity as it arises

When communication about the upcoming change is an afterthought, employees feel out of the loop and less inclined to get on board. Experienced implementation professionals understand that an organization can buy an optimal HCM system and still wind up dissatisfied if workers resist engaging because the change was not communicated early on and throughout the implementation process.

Employees need to understand how the system will benefit them, and they need training as well as consistent support for the project from every level of the organization. If executives are enthusiastic and team leaders are not, those mixed signals will sow mistrust. 

Allowing negative gossip to spread and taint the outcome before the project even goes live is not conducive to success. Some workers might fear moving away from processes that, for them, were working well enough; they understood how things worked and don’t like change. For this group, sharing key information about how new processes will work and why they will be worthwhile is important. Counter fear of change with transparency, education and assurance that someone is accessible with answers as needed.

Going live marks the end—and a beginning

Celebrate completion. If workers have been following the process, they will be happy to share in the culminating go-live event. Follow-up is also important. Assuming that a project is over once it is implemented is a mistake—for employees, the experience is just beginning. User training and resources, leadership role modeling and a clear procedure for fielding initial contact from confused or frustrated workers who are trying to learn the new system are all important in ensuring user adoption and optimization of the new system.

Success means more than meeting the budget and deadlines

The success of your new HCM system is not measured only through ideal configuration, robust testing, meeting the budget and deadlines, and generating clean data. Your people need to understand what is happening and feel empowered as users. Only then can you realize the full value of your investment.

RSM contributors