A Primer on User Adoption & Engaging Employees in Change
In the digital world, the only thing that is constant is change. It’s human nature to resist change and that is never more apparent than when a business tries to implement new protocols, processes, or technologies. Thankfully there are proven strategies that, when led by experienced change professionals, help drive employee adoption and deployment success.
Change enablement is a discipline that helps individuals in an organization prepare for and embrace change, allowing the entire organization to transition to its desired future state with minimal disruption. Change enablement strategies should be developed before undertaking any type of a large-scale business transformation initiative, in order to improve the odds of employee engagement, user adoption, and project success.
Change enablement differs from change management not only in name, but in its approach. It actively encourages user adoption by helping employees understand how both they and the organization will benefit from the change, rather than just telling them what’s changing and expecting them to fall in line. In other words, it enables employees to become equal stakeholders in the success of the project and makes them that much more likely to become advocates for change.
Standard techniques to improve user adoption — such as defining objectives, stakeholder analysis, focused communication, and training, to name a few — are critical throughout the transformation to ensure that employees understand the importance of the desired change. Though this is a meaningful first step, in order to achieve true, sustainable change, these traditional techniques must be supported with strategic focus and effort. That’s where change enablement comes into play.
Change enablement is fundamentally about generating strategic insights and mitigating risks related to a project’s rollout. You can think of it as establishing a successful change infrastructure, and then using that infrastructure to bring change alignment.
Since every change is different and requires careful consideration, you need the support of an experienced and invested change expert. This change expert can get intimately involved with the project to assess readiness from both technical and organizational perspectives. From there, that expert must strategize, coach, communicate, train, and tactically reinforce messaging throughout the implementation to establish a foundation for success beyond just the life of the project. The singular focus should always be to help employees and the organization succeed. Continue reading for some of our expert tips on bolstering user adoption through tried-and-true change enablement activities.
Roadblocks to User Adoption
Despite their best efforts, many leaders may find that their valuable time and resources were spent implementing changes that never took. But why? There can be many reasons why user adoption is low, but some of the most common roadblocks a business might encounter include:
- Users don’t understand how the change aligns with organizational strategy —Employees must see a connection between the change and the stated organizational goals and strategy in order to understand the “why” behind the new process or technology.
- History of failed projects — With a history of failed projects, this latest undertaking may feel like just another initiative that is doomed from the start. Employees need to fundamentally understand how the project will be handled differently than previous projects.
- Change saturation — If users are experiencing never-ending change, both in and out of work, successful user adoption will prove even more difficult. Adding another “new” anything to their plate may feel overwhelming and serve only as competition with other priorities.
- Lack of implementation strategy — If the new process does not have an implementation strategy, it’s already fighting an uphill battle. A comprehensive strategy should be the first step in ensuring user adoption.
- Lack of bandwidth — Repeated change — more to the point, unsuccessful repeated change — is often a draw on resources, particularly the time of those responsible for supporting strategy execution. Even if everyone is on board with the change, if they’re overbooked, it can be hard to make the change actually stick.
- Lack of training resources — Successful user adoption can only occur when people have been given sufficient role-based training to feel comfortable and confident in their new process or system. Training needs will differ from person to person; therefore, it’s imperative that organizations take learning differences into consideration.
- Inadequate technical solution — Technology must create business value. If a technical solution makes an employee’s job more difficult, more time consuming, or otherwise hinders productivity, employees will be less inclined to use it.
- Lack of accountability — If employees don’t have regular benchmarks to hit that signal their level of adoption, they can easily revert to old tools and processes that they’re more comfortable with and that seem more intuitive to them.
- Change is too disruptive — If the new process is a major deviation from the status quo, that can make user adoption even more difficult. While not impossible, organizations eyeing a majorly disruptive change would benefit from a change enablement partner.
- Cultural misalignment — Sustainable change is difficult to create and maintain if the change is not aligned with existing organizational culture. Cultural characteristics should be considered when developing any change strategy.
5 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged Through Operational Change
- Start with a clear vision: A clear and compelling vision is arguably the biggest influencer in the successful implementation of any organizational change. From leadership down to entry-level employees, everyone involved in the business must have a crystal-clear understanding of what the change is, how it aligns with the organization’s strategy, its purpose, how it will work, and what their role is within it. When expectations and steps in the process are clear and are consistently communicated, it becomes easier for all involved parties to get on board and support the program’s success.
To help effectively communicate all relevant program information to stakeholders in a way that is both clear and compelling, turn to a partner who specializes in change enablement. Through this relationship, their change team should embed themselves in your organization to better understand your culture and what makes it unique. If leadership and the team responsible for onboarding the new protocols fully understand the end user and how they operate, they will be better equipped to effectively communicate the program vision.
- Develop a strategy: To ensure a higher likelihood of project success, those spearheading the change should assess its impact and develop a best practice approach to accommodate the unique needs of the organization and the employees within.
Project leaders don’t have to go it alone, though. Change assessments conducted by trusted consultants can help organizations better understand their readiness for change and the potential challenges they will face, which can help in developing a more effective strategy.
- Communicate alignment with organizational strategy: Statistics show that on average, 60% of employees don’t know their company’s strategy. To improve user adoption, start making employees aware of the company’s mission. Then, clearly communicate how the change aligns with and supports organizational goals and initiatives.
This is sometimes referred to as providing line-of-sight through communication: Leadership demonstrates how an employee’s day-to-day tasks support the company mission and how the changes to those tasks align with company goals. When users have a clear understanding of “why” they must change, they often do, and the transformation can be a much smoother process.
- Utilize program sponsorship: Project sponsors should be in a position to influence and be active and visible in supporting the change throughout the project. There should be a strong relationship between project sponsors, management teams, and employees. Sponsors should be as transparent as possible in order to set expectations and priorities, communicating with stakeholders regularly. Research shows that sponsorship is a top contributor to project success.
- Create awareness of the change: Communication plays a key role in nearly every step, but consistent communication in and of itself should be a priority during a change enablement initiative. Everyone impacted by the new process or technology should be updated regularly — as deadlines are met, as new protocols are implemented, and as new systems go online. That way, there are no surprises, and employees can take actions to support progress rather than hinder it.
Understanding User Adoption Rate & Why It’s Important
Understanding employees’ adoption attitude toward organizational change can shed a light on a) the value of the new change and b) whether or not the change management process was effective or needs to be revisited. To measure a new program’s success, many organizations analyze the following adoption rate metrics:
- Adoption rate: The percentage of new users of a feature. The formula for calculating adoption rate is:
- Time-to-first [key action]: The mean time it takes a new user to try an existing feature, or an existing user to try a new feature for the first time. That time can be associated with understanding the value of the feature, getting curious about it because of its name and promise, or context that makes the feature an attraction.
- Percentage of users who [performed key action] for the first time: This is a slightly different way to examine the first-time experience. It’s as simple a asking what percentage of users have performed an action the business cares about for the first time in a given time period. For example, “86% of users purchased at least three products through our mobile app in the month of July.”
How to Gauge User Adoption Success
Measuring the success of organizational change is an ongoing process, and it is critical to ensure more widespread adoption and sustainable progress. To effectively gauge how well employees utilize new processes, programs, or technologies, we recommended that organizations do the following:
- Define the objectives of the new program or process and its correlating key performance indicators (KPIs). Organizational change and user adoption KPIs will vary from business to business. It is important to analyze any metric that improves or hinders the business’ mission and revenue.
- Consistently measure adoption during the change process. For users who consistently utilize the new change, there can be incentives or rewards, but for users who do not, this measurement creates accountability and can reinforce the Change enablement strategy.
- Establish a sustainable timeline for measurement to ensure employees are adopting and make that timeline well known. No one expects employees to master new programs overnight, but there should be performance expectations for employees. When expectations are clear, it is easier for employees to get on board and feel comfortable with the change.
How Hitachi Solutions Tackles Change Enablement & User Adoption
At Hitachi Solutions, we take change enablement seriously, which is why we’ve built a whole practice around it. Our Digital Transformation Advisory Service (DTAS) is designed to help organizations across all industries identify digital opportunities, determine organizational readiness, align priorities, and map out the best paths to innovation. Part of our larger Digital Compass initiative, DTAS provides you with a team of specialists to help shape and execute on your change enablement strategy and includes post-implementation offerings to ensure user adoption and deliver ongoing support.
Contact us today to learn more about DTAS and our other Digital Compass solutions.