When it comes to the purchase of a new Applicant Tracking System (ATS), investing in exceptional technology is a given. However, ROI isn’t dictated by the technology alone. It’s also influenced by how smoothly implementation goes, including widespread adoption and proper use of the system long after the switch is flipped.
The reality is that assembling a team and assigning tasks, while essential, only gets you so far. What’s really needed to realize the greatest ROI is the use of change management practices that support organizational needs throughout all phases of ATS implementation. In Part I of this blog series, I speak to why change management matters and practices associated with the “before” phase of implementation, while Part II will cover the “during” and “after” phases.
Resistance to Change Doesn’t Have to Be the Norm
All too often, organizations invest heavily in enterprise software but then fail to use many features and functions that further improve efficiency, performance and outcomes simply because people have difficulty changing the way they work—even when the changes benefit them in the long run.
Much of this is attributed to human nature. Creatures of habit, we tend to resist change because we don’t like uncertainty, especially in our working lives. Change management programs address this through established practices that, when applied to enterprise software implementations, have been shown to increase adoption and ensure that the technology is used to its full potential. In fact, a benchmarking analysis by research firm Prosci finds that organizations that use effective change management strategies during technology implementations are “six times more likely to meet objectives” than organizations that lack change management strategies.
Build a Strong Foundation for Change
During the “before” phase, one of the best ways to support change is to focus your efforts on establishing clear expectations, developing a detailed—yet flexible—plan and communicating effectively with your audiences. Here are several steps you can take to do just that:
1. Finalize your implementation team. Your implementation team will differ from the team that selected your enterprise recruiting software vendor. Many, if not all, of the individuals involved in the selection process will be part of implementation, but the implementation team will be larger and broader given that greater organizational involvement is required.
2. Establish clear goals, roles and responsibilities. Once the team is finalized, make sure everyone understands exactly what is expected. This includes defining the metrics and measures that will be used to track team progress. For example, you can’t just tell people they’re expected to help test the system. You need to tell them how much time you expect them to spend on testing, when they are expected to perform testing, what exactly the testing efforts will involve and how you will measure each individual’s testing efforts. Similarly, what are the overall expectations for the team and how will they be measured as a group? Be as specific as you can to ensure clarity and agreement among all involved before work begins.
3. Reaffirm your talent acquisition and management workflow. While your workflow may have been mapped out as part of your ATS selection process, it is likely that your processes have “always been done this way” and there are probably significant inconsistencies in the processes and plenty of opportunities to improve them; use this time to make adjustments based on the gaps in your current processes and the benefits that the selected system offers. It’s common at this point to uncover workflow inconsistencies across business units and geographies (offer letter templates, interview forms, etc.). You can manage these changes by assigning an owner who will transition everyone to work within the agreed upon standards that will define your go-forward processes.
4. Create a detailed implementation plan. The plan, developed in partnership with your ATS vendor, should be thorough while allowing for flexibility as challenges will come up along the way that require adaptation. Also, don’t get caught up in trying to over-automate or over-engineer the system. The ATS you’re deploying should be designed to support ongoing change, so take advantage of this feature.
5. Communicate to the entire organization. At minimum, your CHRO should announce the vendor selection and associated implementation, including what the change means to the organization and the risks of not making the change. Additional communications at this time should meet the information needs of distinct audiences, such as hiring managers and the IT department. Finally, make it easy for those with questions to get in touch with the right project team members who can provide the answers that will help put people at ease.
Undoubtedly, each implementation has unique considerations but applying the practices outlined above during the “before” phase will put you on a path toward success—one with far fewer bumps in the road.