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The creation of an effective internal website

How to set up an effective internal website?

Self-service take-up

A lot of money is invested by companies on implementing internal web sites, developing HR for the intranet to facilitate employee and management ‘self-service’. The aim is often to increase employee understanding of company goals and procedures and reduce workload on key personnel, enabling these personnel to become more strategic. Furthermore intranets can provide a greater degree of flexibility for individuals and groups as well as assist in the creation of a ‘learning organization’. However, despite the potential benefits to both the individual and the organization, utilization of these systems is generally low. So how can we get employees motivated to use self-service websites?

7 Best Practice Tips:

  1. Make sure each business area or department on the intranet are involved in the design, implementation and evolution of their web sections. Better still, ensure they plan and define their expectations and use of the web to ensure goal attainment. The system is far more likely to be effective if it is business needs driven.
  2. Ensure the end users are monitored and asked for feedback on the web sections and any changes – don’t forget though if you ask for feedback use it!
  3. Enthusiastic support from the very top is essential you need you people to think; ‘if the boss feels it is important then perhaps so should I’.
  4. All information on the web must be important, relevant to users jobs, and benefit them in their work. If you can include aspects of work that they must use or use because it is simpler (such as forms of ‘self-service’ vacation application or time recording), it will help increase usage.
  5. A searchable, easy to navigate, repository of information is essential – must also be up to date and current. Whilst care should be taken not to overload people with too much information, research shows staff can become more productive if they do have easy access on the intranet to a range of company documentation.
  6. Do ensure people are given recognition for any work published or pages developed on the web. This not only increases motivation but ensures changes can be communicated to the right person – which will increase accuracy and reliability.
  7. Technically the system must be fast, reliable, and easy to use. If staffs have to invest time finding information and/or struggle with the system, they will give up. There are detailed best practice guidelines for the technical development of websites available, which include use of color, format and content presentation. Which include use of color, format and content presentation, identifying new items, ensuring no broken links, and reducing the number of clicks/ease of navigation – Get a guide and stick to it

3 things to Avoid:

  1. Do not leave it all to the IT department to organize – it is usually a disaster. They can only take responsibility for the technical aspects, not motivating individuals or selling business practices. The strategic effectiveness of intranets will be badly affected if content and structure is left solely to IT.
  2. Do not assume that staff will start to use it in time, or after a short initial training course. They will need good reasons for using the system so be patient.
  3. Do not use as a general data repository or an uncontrolled mass-communication device. People suffering from information overload actually reduce the time and effort spent on the system and can miss the information that is valuable.

Developing these areas of best practice should enable your organization to be effective and ensure investment in intranets is not wasted.

So how is your internal intranet strategy going?

Stephanie

Put managers and employees to work on the change to reduce resistance

Involve Managers and Staff in the work of change management

Many Change Managers assume that if the rationale for change is made clear to the organisation then they will go along with it. In the process of demonstrating the need to change and an understanding of the impact (on themselves and their group) employees will buy- in and thereafter work actively to realise it. There is an assumption behind all this that ‘Change’ is negotiated and develops over time and that the change agent’s task is merely to make clear the imperatives and the people will fall into place.

Whilst this approach has been criticised for ignoring political and social aspects within organisations it is also inaccurate when talking about major system changes, outsourcing or mergers/acquisitions where we are faced with transitioning organisations against a strict deadlines. Here the degrees of freedom are limited and failure to successfully implement can result in stiff penalties for time and cost overruns. In such circumstances our room for ‘negotiation’ is constrained, the change outcome is a given and the people affected are faced with a forced change.

Also we see that the complexity of change is increasing as many major programmes consist of several, in their own right, substantial tasks. For example, in one major change programme I worked on the client was disentangling from a parent company and implementing an IT system with new standardised processes. All of these forcing substantial changes in role and responsibilities right across the organisation – and this programme also included the outsourcing of substantial parts of the finance function!

As well as the staff managers are affected – with perceived loss in autonomy and the need to acquire new skills key concerns. In another change programme in which the author was involved the financial controller had a significant change in job scope as a result of a system implementation and outsourcing which involved the loss of fifty percent of her staff. This resulted in prevarication and concentration on detail, non-acceptance of the rationale for change and question/problem raising that came over to the central project team as structural resistance.

The focus of our intervention in this case was on a country unit that had specific change issues that made their changeover have high perceived business risk. This unit for example had already gone through several changes of ownership in the last few years and was heavily impacted again. Our first step was to understand how the change impacted on the group, department and individuals within the business. Change needed to be thought through and the changes in role and task for these three areas were worked through in detail.

The intervention strategy we considered was based around thinking through to what the changed organisation would look like when we were finished. The patterns of communication, the new roles and responsibilities, and the impact on individual jobs were considered then the transition needed to bridge from the current situation to the future mapped out. This defined the necessary training and coaching for the individuals over and above that already covered in the formal training programmes. The transition management was trickier and this was handled by facilitating the cutover planning at group level. This acted to involve the organisation in the changeover (it’s on ‘its’ way) and engaged them in participating in the design of the move process itself. Defining in detail the roles, tasks and timings during the cutover were key aspects of this intervention. Further, interviews and group meetings around the changeover allowed ‘voice’ to be given and concerns and issues to be fully surfaced – they raised the resistance and helped solve them.

Key learning points

Do not interpret all resistance as opposition to change. Opposition can often be a sign of interest in the outcome and an expression of legitimate concern Capture the concerns and rationale. It may be that someone has identified a flaw in our reasoning and may have identified a route to possible failure, perhaps from the last time this occurred. To find out why it did not work last time may reveal some interesting lessons. However, be cautious about agreeing with an issue as this may be interpreted as a sign that the change can be negotiated – capture without judgement.

The assumption that all employees will go through the same cycle of resistance is false and too simplistic. Often there are winners in a change process. Identify these and build coalitions to build a success culture. Also some departments or groups of people are more successful with handling change than others – building on these winning groups can help bring the whole organisation along.

We all know the value of clear communication but do not forget to include the need for relevancy. Exhortations of the value of the change at a high level are useless unless made clearly relevant to the people affected. The communication must be tuned to the hearers specific needs – general broadcasts are discounted and people will provide their own rationale for change processes.

Avoid the ‘Englishman on Holiday’ change strategy – ‘if they don’t understand speak slowly and more loudly!’ At a feedback meeting for research into the situation at a French plant the consultants gave a withering overview of the impact of the various initiatives, changes and improvement programmes a major high technology company was imposing on the factory. The response from the senior team – ‘the management have not explained this clearly enough therefore “they” do not understand it – they must do it again’. People in change need focused information – how does this new system affect me. Will I still have a job? Will I be able to cope – will they train me? This means communications must be relevant, focused and bespoke aimed at a segmented audience – don’t treat people as the same with the same vanilla information requirements.

Some interventions

Local briefings at department or group level to strengthen team feelings of unity and develop focus on the task in hand.
Cutover process – form well managed meetings to act as a resolution point for raising and solving problems.

Tighter linkage to the changeover (particularly for the management) to expose the organisation to the task and encounter change.

  • Activate processes to resolve/close personnel issues — close these issues managers often have difficulty in handling these.
  • Mentor the management to actively participate and lead change via the consultant is an essential task.
  • Visible presence of change manager to emphasise the company’s commitment to making the change.
  • Reflect listen but not judge issues — allow self-reflection.
  • Ensure communications is done (Watch for gate-keeping in one project when I checked the communications had got no further than the secretary)
  • Provide recognition of improvements ideas and try to push upwards any ideas the team have that have value however small.
  • Recognise that resistance is a legitimate concern for the well-being of the business.
  • Ensure communication channels are open and deployed (again this is sometimes not done).
  • Hire consultant to act as change focus (reflecting with support but not judging or leading)
  • Tighter engagement of the organisation into the change process — they will switch to solve mode.

Finally don’t assume managers know how to manage change or know how to help their people change – because often they do not. Special training and development is necessary. Also be sure that the management has bought in, in one case the stiffest resistance came from a senior leader whose scepticism fed the resistance of the whole team.

Royston

The Consulting Process – How to Run an Assignment

This slide show is a presentation I do at London University on the consulting process. I covers the main steps in the process and includes some useful techniques – you can get it at my account on slide share.

Getting ready for change carrying out a readiness assessment

Change Readiness

Many organizations find that change programmes, even apparently straightforward changes, fail to achieve their objectives. In many cases this is due to unclear aims, uncertain plans and a low awareness of what is required of the people involved.

Research has shown that a clear understanding of the current organizational situation, readiness for change, and the requirements for different stakeholders to enable the change, will help to increase the chances of success. An organization needs to understand the positive aspects of current attitudes, processes and behaviours that can be actively used to drive change, and the negative aspects that need to be reduced or controlled to avoid errors and reduce resistance.

Management Studies

In management research it is suggested that all components of change need to be assessed to gain a complete understanding of the level of readiness:

Management research emphasises the rational and political aspects of change, but tends to suggest that emotional responses are problematic. Much of the research is based on case-studies and tends to be descriptive, analysing change after the event and offering prescriptive solutions.

Psychological Studies

Psychological research focuses on three aspects of the individual during change, cognitive, emotional and behavioural, but also emphasises how the structure and situation within which the individual experiences change will influence their reactions. Emotions are accepted as a part of human nature, and both positive and negative aspects taken into account. Although this research also uses case studies, the concepts are backed up by tested theory and grounded in psychological experiments, enabling a much clearer view of cause and effect.

Psychological aspects of change:

Research in this area suggests that employees often view change as a signal that the organization may be reducing their side of the psychological contract, unless communication is clear they will tend to interpret any change as a potential loss. Many will experience anxiety and feel that their current schemas or mind-sets are challenged, which will increase anxiety further and lead to emotional contagion within groups. Psychological research also emphasises the importance of fairness or ‘justice’ perceptions during change, and how carrying out an assessment can be used to develop positive perceptions of ‘anticipatory justice’ to facilitate the actual change process.

Knowledge about the correct application of techniques to reduce anxiety, develop trust and commitment, adjust schemas, and help staff through processes of emotional and rational acceptance, will lead to positive behavioural outcomes. At the same time the correct use of behavioural reinforcement, goal setting, and role modelling will feed back into behavioural, emotional, and cognitive aspects.

Recent psychological research has also led to an awareness of the importance of considering both structure and agency in preparing for change. This suggests that it is important to assess and where necessary change the rules norms and roles that have developed in the organization. Consideration of organizational culture and history are important.

There is also now increasing evidence that organizational discourses (how people talk, the words they use, the stories they tell), strongly influence employees approach to change. Past experiences of change influence a persons approach to current and future changes, how groups of people talk about change can be an important part of the process. Although history is difficult to re-write, and cultural change is known to be extremely problematic, organizational discourse can be influenced over time, and analysis of this is another important tool for assessing change readiness.

Integrating management and psychological theory leads to seven key aspects of change:

A Holistic Approach

Many change consultants focus on the individual, arguing that individuals change not organizations. However, research suggests a more complex approach to change is needed, the organizational processes and structures need re-alignment to enable the individuals to change. Therefore a more holistic process is required, that takes into account the full range of likely barriers and enablers, all of which are interconnected, as highlighted above. All these aspects need to be taken into account when analysing readiness and designing each stage of the change.

Change Readiness Assessment

The readiness assessment includes analysis of the behavioural, emotional, cognitive, structural, rational and political aspects of the organization, specifically analysing the following areas:

o Values & goals
o Perceived management support
o Individual and organizational ‘self-efficacy’
o Perceptions of the history of change in your organization
o Communication flows
o Current & future measurements and rewards
o Change willingness x stakeholder
o Resources (availability, limitations)
o Processes (suitability, requirements)
o Management structures
o Administrative support processes
o Technology
o Knowledge levels
o Future-gap awareness

The methods used can be based on action research (therefore accepting that the assessment itself will generate some change, and actively using this) and grounded in the psychological and management literature, it will include:

o Focus groups to increase understanding of the above areas but also inform regarding communication processes and underlying blocks or channels for change promotion or resistance.
o Interviews with key stakeholders which will also enable assessment of private or sensitive issues.
o Survey instruments to add a quantitative element, provide access to a greater number of stakeholders, and enable some measurements for before and after the change.

As openness of communication is a key aspect of successful organizational change, it will be important to feed-back the findings to the people involved. Indeed, this feed-back activity will be an important mechanism in generating a positive approach to the change.

Readiness Assessment as part of the Change Process

Analysing the organization and the carriers and barriers for change is an important first step in any change process. Without this analysis it is difficult to assess what steps need to be taken to mobilise change. Perhaps more importantly, carrying out the assessment also enables the future change to be contemplated, discussed, and envisioned, with a potential loosening of current mind-sets, and pre-acceptance leading to increased push from all stakeholders. However, the process needs to be managed in a professional manner, making good use of psychological techniques to facilitate a positive outlook, as research suggests attitudes solidify early upon hearing of an imminent change and there is a need to secure a favourable sentiment from the very beginning.

Benefits of a Change Readiness Assessment

By carrying out a change readiness assessment an organization will enable:

o Increased likelihood of a successful change
o Clear objectives for the change
o Related measurements to enable assessment of success
o An understanding of what needs to be done to enable change, across a broad range of areas (processes, attitudes, behaviours)
o An increased understanding of the need to change for all stakeholders

Ethical Considerations

All assessments should be carried out under British Psychological Society code of conduct guidelines or similar code, by highly qualified consultants. All data should be collected, reported and stored to ensue anonymity and confidentiality. All participants will be offered the right to withdraw, and it should be stressed that participation is voluntary. As highlighted earlier, the information should be fed-back to the staff, which will also facilitate the start of the change process.

Forced Change in an Outsourcing – guidelines for communicating to reduce resistance

Forced Change in an Outsourcing

Change Managers in an Outsource often assume that if the rationale for change is made clear to the people affected then change management is unproblematic and resistance negligible. People assume that if we rationally explain to the employees affected they will ‘buy-in’ to the process and thereafter work actively to realise the change or at least moderate their resistance to it. There is a assumption behind all this that changes are negotiated and developed over time and that the change agent’s task is but to make clear the imperatives and the people fall into place – communication mechanisms (usually Slide-Ware) are the main carriers of this type of intervention.

Whilst this approach has been roundly criticised for ignoring political and social aspects it is also more and more disturbed in major system changes. In outsourcing or mergers and acquisitions we are often faced with transitioning organisations within a strict deadline. Here the degrees of freedom are limited and failure to successfully implement can result in stiff penalties for time and cost overruns. In such circumstances our room for ‘negotiation’ is constrained as the change outcome is a given and the people affected are faced with a forced change.

Of interest to us as managers and consultants in such circumstances is how we support the change in particular minimising the business risk, defusing change resistance and avoiding long term damage to the organisation.

Forced change against a strict deadline is the reality and we also see that the complexity in a major change is increasing as many major programmes consist of several big initiatives in their own right. In one major change programme I worked on the client was disentangling from a parent company, implementing major systems changes, whilst outsourcing a part of the operational IT. All of these forcing substantial changes in role and responsibility right across the organisation and this programme also included the outsourcing of substantial parts of the finance function in a phase two.

Don’t forget Managers are affected by an Outsource as well…

At a management level change of status assumes high importance with any perceived loss in autonomy or the need to acquire new skills key aspects to consider. In another change programme the author was involved in the financial controller had a significant change in scope as a result of a system implementation and outsourcing which included loss of staff from her department. This resulted in much prevarication and concentration on detail, non-acceptance of the rational for change and question/problem raising that came over to the central project team as structural resistance.

Also don’t assume managers know how to support their staff through change – because they often do not. Special training and development is necessary. Also be sure that the management has bought in, in one case the stiffest resistance came from the team leader whose scepticism fed the resistance of the whole team being outsourced.

Three Key points in managing change communication

  • Relevant – We all know the value of clear communication but forget to caveat this with the need for relevancy. Exhortations of the value of the change at high level are useless unless made clearly relevant to the people affected. Unless the communication is explicitly tailored to the hearer’s specific needs general broadcasts will be discounted and perceived negatively.
  • Clear – Avoid the ‘Englishman on Holiday’ change communications approach – i.e. if they don’t understand speak slowly and louder! At a feedback meeting on the situation at a French manufacturing plant the consultants gave a withering overview of the impact of the various initiatives, changes and improvement programmes a major high technology company was imposing on the factory. The response to this from the company – “the management have not explained this clearly enough therefore ‘they’ do not understand it” – obviously they did not get the message either!.
  • Segmented – People in change need focused information – how does this new system affect me? Will I still have a job? Will I be able to cope – will they train me? This means communications must be relevant, focused and bespoke aimed at a segmented audience – don’t treat people as the same with the same vanilla information requirements.

Some interventions I have used

  • Local briefings at department or group level to strengthen team feelings of unity and develop focus on the task in hand.
  • Cutover process – form well managed meetings to act as resolution and solution forum to build for the change-over.
  • Tighter linkage to the change-over particularly for the management to expose the organisation to the task in hand and encounter change.
  • Activate processes to resolve/close personnel issues — close these issues managers often have difficulty in handling these.
  • Mentoring management to actively participate and lead change
  • Visible presence of change manager to emphasise the company’s commitment to making the change over
  • Reflect listen but not judge issues — allow self-reflection.
  • Ensure deployment communications is done (Watch for gate-keeping in one project when I checked the communications had got no further that the secretary)
  • Provide recognition of any process improvements ideas and try to push upwards any ideas the team has.
  • Recognise that resistance is a legitimate concern for the well-being of the business.
  • Ensure communication channels are open and deployed (again this is sometimes not done).
  • Hire a consultant to act as change focus (reflecting with support but not judging)
  • Tighter engagement of the organisation into the change process — they will switch to solve mode.

As an endnote — Know the limitations of rationally based change methods and avoid broadcast communication. Target and segment communications at the various groups in an organisation and you will be much more successful and managing communicating even bad news. When we design a marketing communications approach we segment our audience and focus messages at specific target groups – this is a lesson we could use within change management.

Royston