How do you build engagement during a Workday deployment in the face of dwindling staff engagement globally? Our Head of Change, Chris Burns, explores the issue.
Since the late 1990s when organisations moved from measuring levels of staff satisfaction to levels of staff engagement—deeming that latter as a more meaningful measure—there has been a general downward trend. In the last global count, only 32% of employees feel engaged in the workplace. It appears the more we do to address this trend, the less effect we seem to be having!
Is this trend occurring because we’re overcomplicating things? We live in an age of instant access to information and are bombarded continuously both in and outside of working hours. Perhaps we need step back and ask ourselves whether the mantra espoused by many change theorists of ‘Communicate, communicate and communicate’ is the right one? Leading change and engagement theorist John Kotter, himself, indicates that there’s a need to adjust how we engage in meeting what he calls “the rapid fire strategic challenges faced by Organisations today.”
I believe this issue is particularly relevant to the delivery of Workday and similar ERP solutions. How do you build the requisite level of engagement within a disaffected user population? One that’s unable to absorb yet another initiative delivered from above.
In an attempt to provide some solutions, I’d like to share some suggestions based on my 16 years of helping organisations cope with this type of challenge.
1. Use a single integrated change and engagement approach
The time when communications and training were considered as separate-but-linked elements within the change management work stream disappeared with the arrival of the smartphone and 24-hour news. The iPhone, YouTube and Twitter created the mechanism for people to remain connected, and as a result, the lines between traditional forms of communication and training have blurred.
But the reality is, when supporting a significant change like an ERP implementation, communications and training should coexist on the same engagement pathway. They target the same people, implement the same system, and support the same timeline. Separate change, communication, training strategies, and plans don’t make sense in the digital age.
The answer is to capitalise on the strength of these specialisms and create a single change and engagement approach and plan that addresses the needs of a single set of impacted stakeholders and engages with them based on their needs. Anything else adds complexity and acts as a barrier to clear thinking.
2. Top-down ‘I know best’ strategies rarely work
The leader-dominated engagement approach where somebody who ‘knows best’ communicates from the front of the room has been overused. It’s an engagement killer. This leader-follower philosophy doesn’t work in a Workday environment. There are too many moving parts and too many stakeholders to force it through. You may get past day one, but by day 1,000 people will have reverted to old habits and familiar tasks.
It’s essential to have leadership support; however, it’s also vital to connect people to the technology they’re adopting throughout the implementation process. Often, too much focus is on the former at the expense of the latter, with projects resorting to sending high-level updates to keep people informed but not involved.
The key is to find the right people from across your organisation and actively involve them in the design, build, and testing of a system like Workday. Engage these leaders early in the design process, develop their skills and knowledge of Workday, and ensure their knowledge and expertise is harnessed and applied to improve Workday once it is live. The benefits gained from this approach culturally, as well as operationally, will outweigh the often-cited refrain of ‘What’s the point of training our people? They’ll only leave!’
3. Accessible and bite-size information is the answer
The rise of social media has changed our behaviours and challenged engagement norms. We now expect our interactions across multiple media platforms in bite-size portions. We also expect that information will be available on demand, especially as the patterns of how we choose to work changes.
A change team on any Workday project needs to mirror these behaviours. The world has moved on from PDF screen grabs and documents stored on SharePoint. We need to be much better at developing the infrastructure and tools that provide 24/7 access to the information people need in the way they choose to receive it. There are a variety of tools already available that provide this type of platform. Are your change teams aligned with this new normal for engagement?
4. Focus on the message before you worry about the medium
Although the digitisation of information has changed many things, the fundamentals of staff engagement remain the same—clarity about:
- what the message is;
- who needs to hear it;
- when you need to say it; and then (very importantly)
- listen and respond.
By definition, if you are not doing these things, then you are not engaging.
This simple approach applies equally to communications and training. The focus on the message you want to get across, and the impact it will have, is the key. Once you understand this, you have the foundations for meaningful engagement, and you have a chance that people will listen.
Don’t use innovative engagement tools as a smokescreen disguise the absence of these basic principles. The driver for the selection of the any tool for your organisation should always be based on the value that it brings, not based on the premise that it’ll impress a few senior stakeholders.
A final thought
When managed effectively, a Workday deployment can be a catalyst for real engagement—inking end-users, HR, Finance, and IT together to solve significant business challenges. Unfortunately, change and engagement approaches haven’t adapted as fast as the technology they deploy, and there’s a long way to go before we match the rhetoric around engagement and meet the needs of impacted people.
I believe that first you must fix the basics and focus on reducing the barriers to effective engagement. Start with getting the message right, design simple approaches and plans, ensure you involve impacted people at all levels and (very importantly) listen and respond to what they’re saying. Once these elements are addressed, you can then get the best out of the myriad of innovative engagement and adoption tools that are available on the market.