Secure the stakeholder’s commitment

In week two of our three-part series on e-HR transformation, Martin Reddington, Mark Withers and Mark Williamson look at how to gain stakeholder engagement

Last week, we examined the importance of creating a shared vision for e-HR transformation. This week we look in more detail at a critical facet of any HR transformation programme – the need to secure the commitment of managers and staff to the change process.

Perspectives on human change

The ability to manage change effectively is regarded as a crucial skill.

Vast amounts of resources are expended by organisations to adjust workers to a new way of achieving desired goals. The natural propensity for individuals and groups to defend the status quo presents a set of challenges that management must overcome to bring about desired change.

In addition, you must also seriously take into account the myriad of problems that may result if employees are not responsive to workplace issues.

In this context, it is about getting all those involved and those affected to understand and support the changes and the results of the change process, and the effective management of resistance.

Adopting a model – effectively a ‘resistance to commitment continuum’ – provides a useful diagnostic framework to identify the extent of acceptance or rejection of change in your organisation. Mapping individuals, groups and business units on the continuum provides an informative topography of stakeholder sentiment and behaviour, and allows those who are resistant to change to be identified and monitored.

To bring this model to life, a survey instrument is used, based on a number of psychological dimensions, expressed in the form of an item pool or question set. Opportunities are also provided for free text responses.

Analysing these responses will provide a good indication of the issue types and the strength of feeling or importance surrounding them. An illustrative survey might seek to capture information on the following subjects:

  • Demographics

  • Introduction to e-enabled technology

  • Data quality and integrity

  • System flexibility

  • HR support

Communication, support and training.

This kind of survey would work well in a web-based format. The results would provide a preliminary indication of any issues and/or concerns and allow a judgement to be made in respect of the position on the resistance-to-commitment continuum. It may then be appropriate, particularly with the significant stakeholders, to probe these issues in more detail. This is usually best done in the form of focus groups or one-to-one interviews.

It is also very important that appropriate ethical behaviour and standards are observed at all stages of the process. For example, if you say survey results will be treated in confidence, make sure they are. Some organisations will deliberately choose to use external parties to conduct the work on the grounds that it is perceived by the staff population as more independent and objective.

Overcoming resistance

At the start of the stakeholder engagement process, it is useful to construct a view of the stakeholder population so that these individuals, groups or business units can be characterised in terms of their importance to the change process, and how they might be affected by it.

Those individuals or groups that are seen to be high-impact and of great importance are the most significant in terms of securing acceptance of the change process. Those positioned elsewhere in the matrix present different levels of significance. In these cases, it may be acceptable to achieve modest support or even neutrality.

The biggest single contributor to success is securing the unwavering commitment of the senior change sponsors. We strongly recommend getting this in place early as a priority. Without this, the e-HR-led transformation programme becomes vulnerable to attack and disruption.

The fundamental link between stakeholder commitment and benefit delivery cannot be over-emphasised. The whole area of identifying and communication the benefits is covered in more detail in the final part of this series next week.

Key points:

  • Make sure stakeholder engagement is a key priority

  • Prioritise your efforts based on an intelligent process to map out the topography of stakeholder perception towards the HR transformation project

  • Do everything possible to secure unwavering commitment from senior management throughout the term of the project.

About the experts

Martin Reddington

Research Associate at Roffey Park and CEO of Martin Reddington Associates. He was formerly e-HR Transformation Programme Director at Cable & Wireless

Mark Withers

Managing director of Mightywaters Consulting and has supported HR transformation projects in a number of large organisations including National Grid Transco, Cable & Wireless and Barclaycard

Mark Williamson

Member of the leadership team at Partners for Change and has undertaken assignments for a wide variety of organisations including AstraZeneca and the Inland Revenue

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