Modern Workplace Feb 12, 2021

User adoption and change management – Part I: Communication as a critical factor in change processes.

Over the last few years, many organisations have rethought their structures in order to fulfil the requirements of their employees. In order to enable remote work and flexible working hours, new tools and technologies need to be introduced and processes updated, which changes established work processes for employees. Everyone reacts to changes differently, which is why it is important to involve employees.

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Katja Schoppmann
Content Managerin

Some companies have dedicated teams whose sole responsibility it is to shape and optimise the IT experience of end users. This can mean, for example, planning and controlling which information is communicated to which target group at which time, making any changes to process workflows as efficient and transparent as possible. Luisa Bruschinsky, an expert in user experience and communication, has given us a look behind the scenes of her working day and explains how to simplify work process changes for employees.

Ten years ago, it was the norm to go into the office and sit at the desk from 8 ‘til 5, but this is becoming the exception rather than the rule. Most employees have flexible working hours and can even decide from where they work. It’s important that business operations remain unaffected. It’s not enough to trust in your employees’ work ethics to ensure this flexibility. Infrastructures and processes also need to support the changes. Workplaces need to be mobile and support virtual meetings while secure access to internal data should be possible from everywhere.

A structured approach to change.

Collaboration platforms are ideal for this. As soon as software is installed on their computers, employees can get down to using it. But wait. It’s not quite that easy. Introducing these kind of tools changes the way employees work. Processes that change people’s behaviour or structures are change management processes. These could be comprehensive projects such as the introduction of a new tool to boost efficiency and slimline processes. These could also be small changes such as an update to software running in a browser that deletes the user’s list of favourites. Such changes in a workflow can be met with resistance when they are introduced too quickly or are “from the top down”.

People are the central element of all change processes, which is why it is so important to list to employees’ concerns and address them. Everybody reacts differently to changes particularly when they affect digital processes. Those who spend their personal and professional lives dealing with technical innovations, who are enthusiastic about additional applications that make their workday easier, or who are interested in process optimisation will be able to quickly incorporate the new tools. Whereas those employees who only know the steps they need for their project management tools are not interested in new tools and therefore need much longer to get to grips with them. It is particularly important for these people that new tools are introduced slowly and communication is comprehensive.

Focus on the users.

Let’s take a closer look at an example of Luisa Bruschinsky’s average working day. She is a consultant at Bechtle Digital Solutions and is currently working for the customer Metalomat (name changed), an international corporation employing more than 85,000 staff. She and her user experience team are tasked with answering the following questions every day: How do we communicate change processes? Which medium should we use for communication? Which end users should receive which information? There are several points to consider here. If changes are not communicated at all or communicated very badly, the result will be dissatisfaction and frustration, which will see resistance to the new process spread and results will suffer. A rule of thumb is, therefore, that communication must always be user-centric. That means that the users are the centre of attention and shapes the thoughts and actions of the user experience team. Each IT-related e-mail communication must be written in such as way that users understands it and receive all answers to their questions. It is important not to address the issues the IT department suspects the users have, but to focus on actual user perspectives.

If an e-mail is written in this way, it can be guaranteed that the content is both relevant and understandable for the employee. Try and avoid giving too much information so that the communication is focussed on the most important aspects. After the e-mail has been read, there must be no doubt what changes are in store and what the direct consequences are for the user. If they know from the off what to expect, employees can prepare themselves better and won’t be unpleasantly surprised.

Plan targeted communication.

It’s crucial to address the right people. Information about upcoming process changes should only be sent to the employees involved and who will be directly affected. Most employees receive hundreds of e-mails everyday which is why it has been agreed at Metalomat that all IT communications are only sent by e-mail once a week. If updates to hardware and software are planned or a new tool is going to be introduced, the employees will always find out on a Tuesday with one e-mail per change. This means they know that they are going to receive more e-mails on this day than any other and that Tuesdays are the day they’ll find out about upcoming changes. On all other days of the week, employees can focus on their work and are no longer overwhelmed by a raft of changes that don’t actually affect them.

Not every employee receives the same number of e-mails, so, for example, only those employees who work directly with a specific programme are informed about an upcoming software update. This makes sure that e-mails are always relevant and are read. In a smaller business, it could be that one day a week is too often, and one day a month would make more sense. But even in this case, it should always be the same day, for example, every second Tuesday. What’s more, it must also be checked that content is being sent to the right people. This changes from company to company and requires analysis as well as a detailed communications plan.

In addition to IT communication to all staff, the user experience team sends out a newsletter once a month to IT staff only. This newsletter contains a short summary of weekly IT communication, which ensures they remain informed about which changes have been communicated to employees over the course of the month and what has happened in the parallel IT organisations (e.g. software introduction, disabling of a tool, changes to a licence).

What do find out more about change management in your organisation? We’re happy to help with your projects. Just get in touch.