The People Factor in Change Management

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1 The People Factor in Change Management

2 Content Introduction... 3 Know your audience... 3 Address your audience...4 Train your audience... 5 Support your audience... 7 Future trends...8 2

3 Introduction Have you ever wondered why so many organizations fail to successfully implement their new business application? Why so many users resist using their new business application after implementation, even if loads of time and money were spent on development? Sometimes change management is completely ignored or considered a lesser phase. In other cases, change management primarily or solely Every change implies resistance. focuses on the organizational side, meaning the preparation and definition of a new way of working, including new roles and new responsibilities. That is clearly an essential aspect of change management, but for truly successful change, preparing the people in your organization to apply the new business application to their daily routines should receive equal emphasis. Every change implies resistance. No matter how efficiently you define your business processes or how well your new business application matches the needs of its users, people will inevitably go through a phase of confusion and insecurity before they are ready to adapt to the new situation. So, how can you help your audience navigate this change and turn their new way of working into a real success? In short, by: (1) getting to know your users; (2) communicating with them at the right moment; (3) providing them with necessary training before rollout; and (4) supporting them after rollout. Now, let s take a look on how to do that. Know your audience The best way to get to know your audience is to go out and meet them. Talking with their superiors or mapping out business processes will give you a fair idea of whom you are working for. But by actually meeting people you gain much more insight in their way of working, their needs, and their desires. Sounds simple, doesn t it? Well it isn t. Too often, user input is gathered by talking to key users exclusively. Even though key users generally contribute great expertise to the project, it is risky to rely solely on them, as they 3

4 are typically deeply involved in the project and tend to look at things predominantly from a project-oriented perspective. Instead, go out and observe people in their daily work environment. You will obtain much more valuable information that will help you define the most efficient strategy for training and user support. You will learn more about your users current situation and about the gap they will have to bridge in the future. The more realistically you can describe the current situation to your trainees, the better you will be able to explain how they will have to adjust to the new situation. You will also be able to differentiate between user groups. If differences between user groups are significant, it might be better to provide separate training sessions. Each training session would then contain specific exercises and examples from real-life situations familiar to attendees. This will provide them with a hook - something they know and they can work with, even if it is in a new environment. By meeting people you gain much more insight Address your audience Effective communication is key in preparing people for change. By informing your audience in a timely and efficient manner you can eliminate many questions and uncertainties that could develop into real frustrations by the time users enter a training room. Getting it right is not so easy, though. People are already swamped with huge volumes of information on a daily basis. If you don t target your communication efficiently, it could very easily get lost in everyday information overload. 4

5 Here are some ideas for getting it right: Don t communicate unless you have something to say. It s tempting to over-communicate in order to maintain Top of Mind Awareness, but it doesn t work. Only send out communications when you actually have something interesting to say. Communicating without a real message will only result in an audience that doesn t take you seriously next time. Before releasing any communication, ask yourself the following question: Will this message be of interest to the intended user group? The answer might lead you to diversify your communication, sending out separate versions to different groups in order to better target the message. If this is the case, then address it! Repeat more than once. The likelihood of your message catching on will only increase. This does not mean you should reuse the same content over and over again. Instead, vary your approach: use a different formulation, apply another format, reduce the message to its core, and use different media. Be concise. Large blocks of text don t make for good reading material. The same goes for the wording of your texts. Leave out words or sections of text that merely constitute filler. If you can say the same thing with fewer words, then streamline your texts. Don t underestimate the power of face-toface communication. It may be more timeconsuming, but communication is a twoway process and by meeting people, for instance at informal info sessions or at team meetings, you can learn how the change is perceived and adapt your communication strategy accordingly. Train your audience Training might be unneccessary or might not be the best solution for everyone. For instance, if you implement an extension to an existingsoftware tool, formal training could be You will be dealing with different user groups with specific training needs unnecessary. A clear communication just before the change is implemented and adequate support material could suffice. However, if you implement larger systems or change business processes, training will be a main factor in preparing people for the new situation. Many organizations still invest in a single training program for the entire intended audience. The advantages are obvious: you only have to develop one set of training materials and exercises and trainers only have to prepare for a single training. However, you should also consider the disadvantage: it is hard to motivate and encourage 5

6 people required to sit through a training session that only partially applies to them. The learning effect will be very limited in such a program. And rest assured, most of the time you will be dealing with different user groups with specific training needs. So, here are some helpful tips: Invest in a good training curriculum. This means that you provide individual training for each user group focused on the topics of interest for that specific group. Of course, you will have to put more effort in preparing training material and organizing training sessions. However, as the learning effect will be much higher, this investment will pay for itself in the long run. The knowledge you acquired about your audience and their specific characteristics will help you design the training curriculum. Define the best type of training. Classical training remains by far the most popular form. Although classical training is time-consuming, it is an excellent way to build knowledge within an organization. Not only can the trainer transfer knowledge and teach new tasks, but trainees can offer the added value of their existing knowledge and expertise during training. Adults in a professional environment bring extensive background and expertise to training and they will try to integrate the new information in their own context. Questions that will undoubtedly arise can be interesting topics for discussion. During exercises, trainees can work together and learn from each other as well. So why would you opt-out of classical training? Maybe your topic is too straightforward for full-scale classical training. Or maybe your audience is spread over several geographical locations and sending trainers to all these locations might be too expensive. In both cases, e-learning can be a valuable alternative. The advantages of e-learning are well known: 1. People train themselves at their own desk and at their own pace. 2. Trainees can plan the training right before they have to start working with the tool. However, despite these advantages, you should only use e-learning if your audience is motivated to learn. Also, e-learning means solo learning and there is no interaction with peers or with an expert. In order to avoid unanswered questions, you should set up Q&A sessions or virtual classrooms where topics can be discussed. Make the necessary resources available. If you organize classical training, make sure you have skilled trainers. Skilled trainers don t necessarily have to be professional trainers. In your own organization, you might find people who 6

7 know how to manage a group, who know how to convey something in a clear and structured way, and who are enthusiastic and motivated to share their expertise. Such internal people are perfectly capable to lead a successful training program, even if they aren t certified trainers. Internal trainers also have the advantage that the knowledge they acquire by preparing and giving the training will remain in your organization. However, always keep in mind that in order to provide good training, everyone needs time to prepare. Even a key expert user who knows all the ins and outs of the project needs dedicated time to become familiar with the training storyboard and material. Don t forget the facilities. Software training will only be efficient if you allow the trainees to do hands-on exercises. This not only means that you need a training room equipped with computers - preferably one per trainee - but also that you can work in a training environment with real-life data. When trainees can practice using recognizable, real-life data, the learning effect is enhanced. Support your audience Learning is a process, not a one-shot exercise that ends after training. By providing the right material, you can continue to support your audience throughout the learning process once they start using the tool. If you want to provide adequate support material, here are some principles to keep in mind: Tailor your material to the user profiles you have identified. Large manuals that discuss every topic, instead of focusing on those that are of interest to a specific user group, will remain unread in an office drawer. Instead, provide smaller manuals that are in line with a person s specific needs, design cheat sheets that summarize the main steps of an action, or create a poster explaining an installation procedure in a couple of steps. Consider what the best format is. For training you will need a printed document, but if you train experienced computer users you might consider an online version, such as a web-based format. Try to define an integrated approach for training and documentation. This will allow you to reduce the work of preparing material. Also, if you make people use the manual during training (for instance, while performing exercises) they will become accustomed to using the manual and to its content. Reserve enough time to create the material. Creating support material is not something you do while you are testing the system or answering help calls. It is something you have to schedule in your long-term plan. You don t have to be a passionate novelist to create good support material. Nevertheless, an affinity for writing surely helps to produce easily readable documentation. 7

8 Future trends Although formal training will always be an integral part of change management, training can also be promoted while the user is working with the tool. For instance, instructions can appear on the fly at the exact moment the user needs them. In general, user support should be considered an integral part of an application. Small help texts can appear when the user clicks a field, movie files or more elaborate help texts can be made available in a separate pane embedded in the software. Of course, if you want to integrate this type of information in the user interface in a non-intrusive way, a thorough knowledge of user-centered design methods is a must. Users are also becoming more active players in the documentation process as new technologies allow for more interaction between author and reader. Comments and ratings allow users to provide feedback on the information at their disposal. Platforms such as wikis or forums enable users to build their own knowledge base. This allows users to share and spread knowledge throughout their organization, making the learning process a real part of the day-to-day work routine. Authors: Valerie L heureux and Sofie Vanophem About Human Interface Group Human Interface Group is Europe s leading usability consultancy. Human Interface Group has been conducting worldwide usability research for nearly 20 years for a wide variety of companies and public authorities. We also have access to an extensive network of usability professionals throughout the world. Curious about how we can help you streamline your change management? Visit Mail Call +32 (0)

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