Successful transformation – it’s vital to support staff when making changes

More and more companies are recognizing that introducing cloud software doesn’t mean digitalization will take place automatically. If companies are to really reap the rewards they’re hoping for, they must specifically ensure staff are on board with the transformation. However, they frequently underestimate the amount of work involved, the level of complexity and, above all, the impact a successful change experience will have. Our tips will show you how to provide effective support for the transformation.

The vision is to roll out a cloud solution, get off to a flying start with the go-live and establish work structures that are more productive and processes that are more efficient. However, many companies see a certain disillusionment creeping in once the software has been rolled out – the new tool isn’t used very much or is even rejected outright, and the sought-after benefits fail to materialize. By implementing targeted support measures for the transformation, companies can ensure staff are on board with the change process and work successfully with the new software from day one. Three factors are crucial: 

  • 1. Culture
  • 2. Organization
  • 3. Infrastructure

1. Culture – creating the right mindset

Change starts in the mind – and needs to be initiated before the project can be rolled out operationally.

Role models are needed for change
To be successful, a cloud project must have the solid backing of the company management. After all, the entire workforce takes its cue from the managers. The leadership team will only appear credible and secure the employees’ commitment if they themselves really embrace the changes. It is therefore absolutely essential to address any reservations among the senior leadership team at an early stage. This helps ensure no half-hearted or contradictory messages are sent out to the organization, which could obstruct or even completely halt the transformation process.

Creating clarity and providing guidance
When transformation processes fail, one of the most common causes is a lack of transparency. It is therefore vital to set out the reasons, objectives and framework for the changes before the project even gets off the ground. These reasons then need to be communicated continually and clearly throughout the course of the project. The key question is: Why are we rolling out a new solution in the first place? The answer must set out the opportunities and added value in a clear and tangible way – for each individual and the organization as a whole. People need to know what’s in it for them and how the company will benefit. Staff will only be willing to actively embrace and help shape the necessary changes if both they and the management are convinced that the project is worthwhile.

2. Organization – promoting the willingness and ability to change

Digitalization brings about changes to workflows and tasks, and to some responsibilities, organizational structures and business models. The following steps are essential for ensuring staff are on board during this transition:

Developing a concept for communication and learning
A concept for communication and learning should be developed – ideally in advance of the project, but certainly no later than its very early stages. This should clearly set out which information and learning content should be distributed at which point in time and via which channel. When selecting the appropriate communication platform and suitable formats, the following question is important: Are there established formats – newsletters, blog posts or podcasts – which are well received throughout the company and which I can use to reach all members of staff? If the answer is yes, it makes sense to use these. This will cut costs and ensure a wide reach. Equally, it is important to keep the campaign varied. Innovative formats such as trailers or explanatory videos, for example, can help attract plenty of attention or generate high levels of acceptance.

Motivating staff with consistent messages
Messages about the objectives of the changes being made must be consistent and carefully worded, as they are vital for securing the staff’s understanding. They can then be passed down through the organization from the top by means of talks, meetings and the defined communication platforms. For instance, after the go-live, success stories are a great way of keeping staff highly motivated and showing them how added value is being achieved.

Having a meaningful project name is another important point – even though this tends to be underestimated. Rather than simply using the name of the software, those responsible for choosing the project name should encapsulate the vision for the project and thus create positive connotations. Additional features such as a project logo or mascot can also help improve acceptance, as they strengthen the sense of community and make it easier to allocate content to the project on a day-to-day basis.

Identifying where skills are needed and plugging gaps
As soon as the project is underway and there is increasing clarity about the new digital processes and tasks, a needs analysis should be carried out to establish whether the skills and abilities that are currently in place match up with new duties and roles. Creating sounding boards made up of representative cross-sections of employees from certain areas has proved a useful approach for carrying out this needs analysis. Once the needs have been identified, the next step is to promptly draw up a suitable training concept and get Recruitment involved.

3. Infrastructure – making resources and personnel available at an early stage

Rolling out a new solution is similar to a marathon in the sense that the change process keeps on running, even once regular operations have started.

Making resources available at an early stage
Making savings in the wrong place is simply a false economy. If, for instance, you wait until one week before the go-live to send out an email about the roll-out of new software, you will encounter very strong resistance from the users. Hasty measures just end up wasting money. It is therefore important to make the resources for supporting the transformation available early on – otherwise you miss your only chance to enter into dialog with those involved and garner their enthusiasm for the project from the outset.

Supporting the transition – many hands make light work
Make enough staff members available to support the transformation – otherwise the measures initiated will quickly fizzle out once the initial euphoria has passed. Perhaps there are change experts or eLearning authors in-house who can be involved – or unknown and untapped resources in the company, such as employees with good writing or presentation skills. Ask around in good time! This is a good way of cutting costs and boosting employee loyalty to the company. What’s more, when it comes to passing on knowledge about using the new software, there will doubtless be suitable employees who can be trained as multipliers.

Get committees on board
It’s important to involve the staff council, works council, representative body for disabled employees and all other important committees at an early stage when measures such as qualification are being decided upon. It’s best to appoint a fixed contact person at the outset, as this makes consensus building easier. What’s more, when these groups and committees support the project, it’s more likely that the workforce will accept it, too.

The change team as a service provider

A cloud project is both an opportunity and a challenge for the entire company. However, with careful preparation, obstacles can be overcome, especially if the change team presents itself as a service provider to the staff. If the change team identifies with this role, the project support measures can be designed to be “customer-focused” at all levels. This improves both the change experience and efficiency, and creates the right conditions for a lasting transformation.