The 3 most common reasons for change management failure

change management

Change isn’t something that comes particularly naturally to us humans. We’ve evolved to prefer the familiar and the safe. Change represents risk, so why, our brains often ask us, should we bother with it at all?

But our modern world increasingly demands change, particularly in the highly competitive world of staffing. With technology evolving at light speed, to stand still is to go backward. The harsh reality is that if your company continues to stubbornly cling to what it knows, it won’t be around for long.

Change is a part of life. It’s important that you not only get comfortable with it but that you approach it in the right way. It’s important that you manage the change.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll be taking a look at the role of change management in tech adoption. We’ll take a closer look at tech adoption strategies, and the basic change management processes that help to facilitate this adoption.

But we’ll begin the series on a slightly different note. Before we understand how to manage change well, let’s first take a look at the three most common failures in change management, and how to avoid them.

Failure 1: Choosing the wrong vendor

Many problems in tech implementation stem from choosing the wrong technology vendor. This should be seen not as a buyer and seller relationship, but as a partnership. If your vendor doesn’t understand what you need in a solution, doesn’t set proper expectations, and doesn’t align the features and capabilities of the solution with your specific requirements, you’re destined to fail.

“If you don’t have a list of requirements that you expect from a vendor, or if your expectations go uncommunicated, your implementation will fail every time,” says Lauren Jones, Founder of Leap Consulting Solutions. “You need to understand exactly what their processes are, what their resources are, and what their time frame is. If they can’t answer these questions, you should take it as a warning sign.”

The implementation promises are nearly as important as the technology itself. It might be a great technology, but if you can’t implement it, or if you don’t have a mature plan, the software is destined to become shelfware.

How do you choose the right vendor? Begin by asking the right questions:

  • What does service and support look like, not just today, but into the future?
  • What is the implementation plan and timeframe? (A vendor might advertise that they can get the solution up and running in 90 days… but then they might add that they can only start the process in four months’ time.)
  • What training materials and support do you provide?
  • What does your escalation path look like? If something goes sideways, who do I call?
  • Will it integrate? (There’s no transformation without integration, so will the solution work with my current tools?)

While the perspective of every stakeholder is important, the one that carries the most weight should be that of the end user. Look at the tech from the point of view of those using it, and the experience that it delivers them, be they a recruiter, an executive, a candidate, a client, or anyone else.

Failure 2: Breakdowns in communication

FACT: 57% of implementation failures happen because of a breakdown in communication. Whether you succumb to these odds or beat them will depend on the communication approach you take.

“People are inherently afraid of change – it’s human nature,” explains Jones. “If you combine that with a lack of communication, you’re going to have more resistance than you would otherwise.”

Advise your team of upcoming changes at least a month in advance. This initial communication is a great way to find out who’s excited about the change and to help these individuals become evangelists.

When building a communication plan, think about how you’ll get everybody involved in the process. Not just users, but senior executives, team leaders, and other stakeholders who will see change. Allow them to articulate their thoughts and concerns.

It’s important to elicit opinions, which can reassure your team that they’re being listened to. The truth is that you may already have a technology selected for implementation, but holding a meeting and asking ‘what are your current impediments to success?’ can help your team:

  • realize there’s a need for change, and
  • feel listened to.

You can then present the new technology as a solution to their problem.

Focus on the opportunities and success this change will deliver. What’s in it for the stakeholders? How will they be successful? How will we measure that success? It’s not just a case of saying ‘this change is coming’, but rather ‘this change is coming, and this is what’s in it for you. This is how we’re going to track your success. This is how it’s going to be meaningful.’ This helps you to allay fears and demonstrate how this change will help your team reach the goals they’re pursuing.

“In my experience, if people understand the change and how they will personally benefit from it, it’s rare that they will resist it,” Maurice Fuller, Founder of Staffing Tech, confirms.

If you start the communication early, you own the narrative. Rather than just throwing a new solution over the fence and hoping that people latch on to it, you get to craft a message that ensures people will be excited by the tech.

Remember, too, that different stakeholders will have different motivations. Take a marketing mindset, and send communications based on personas. The motivations of your recruiters will be vastly different from the motivations of your admin staff. Create personas for each department or each type of worker, and craft individual communications that speak to what motivates them.

Failure 3: An insufficient budget

Companies only allocate an average of 5% of the system implementation budget to change management efforts. ‘That sounds reasonable’, you might argue. But when you think about it, that means that only 5% of the budget is being put aside to ensure the implementation is successful.

It’s little wonder that an estimated 70% of change initiatives fail.

“I get a little mad,” Jones admits. “You spend all this money, time, and effort finding something that you feel will have an impact, and then you don’t put the same effort into its delivery. You can’t take a ‘one and done’ attitude to implementation – realizing your investment is an ongoing process that demands investment itself.”

Align the objectives of the technology with actual business goals – new technology is a financial investment in the business, after all. From a CFO/CEO/shareholder perspective, you’re using capital to make an investment in the business, and these parties are expecting a certain level of financial return from this investment.

To understand not just the likely ROI, but the size of the initial investment, you need to consider the resources it will take to both get you to the starting line and allow you to optimize the solution going forward, to the point where it delivers real returns. Few, if any, technology investments are static. They grow and develop as you grow and develop, so you need to continually invest in them if you are to get all that you can out of them.

“It’s also about measuring the right things, which allows you to go back to the CFO and the CEO and point out your successes,” says Fuller. “Show the return on investment, even if it’s not measured in dollars just yet.”

Do this successfully, and the C-suite will be far more likely to find more capital for more technology investments.

Learning from failure

The final word on change management failure is left to Jones, who raises a slightly contradictory yet excellent point: often, change management failure can be good.

“Don’t have a fear of failure. I learn far more from falling on my face than I do when everything goes exactly as planned. It’s OK to fail… just not over and over and over again.”

Now that we’ve learned how to avoid the most common change management issues and tossed the fear of failure to one side, it’s time to look at the process of tech adoption. Join us for blog two of this three-part series, where we’ll take a closer look at how to use change management strategies to successfully adopt new tech.


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