6th December 2022
Picture this: you’ve just gone through several rounds of negotiations, finalised approval from the board, and after several reviews, signed the contract with your new risk management or health and safety software provider.
As the health and safety leader, you’ll be undoubtedly delighted at the prospect. Your life has just become a whole lot easier. Wave goodbye to poorly crafted Excel spreadsheets, and chasing after workers who’ve failed to submit reports. You’ll no longer have to hole yourself up for a week to put together a board report - your new software generates this in a matter of seconds.
But there’s one final snag - user acceptance. It’s no good implementing a brilliant new software system that’s going to turn the current - albeit archaic - processes in your organisation on its head, if the people around you won’t use it.
Change management is an inevitable part of business. Sometimes we underestimate the negative effects change can have on our people, however, it’s something that has to be taken into account.
A recent study by independent research and advisory firm, Verdantix, uncovered some key risks that organisations should be aware of when implementing a new EHS software. These risks, alongside poor change management, risk creating barriers to user acceptance in your workplace. Read on.
Understanding both the psychosocial risk of change, and specifically, the risks of EHS software implementation will empower you to navigate a complex process and come out on top, with a workforce who are completely bought into the new technology.
Achieving widespread user acceptance starts with recognising the impact that change can have on an organisation and its people.
What’s the best practice for change management?
Poorly managed change is a psychosocial risk in itself, and can generate unnecessary stress and headaches for your people. Change management expert, Amanda Clements, founder of The Collective Lab, notes how it’s not the pace of change that wears people out, but rather, “How the change is led.”
Certainly, there are numerous approaches to leading change, some more effective than others.
Self-determination theory alludes to the fact that we all have an inherent drive towards fulfilling our potential. To achieve this drive, we go through life aiming to complete three intrinsic needs - the need for autonomy, the need for competence, and the need for relatedness (towards other people). Being able to live a life that fulfils these needs is motivating - and of course, this pertains to the workplace.
When it comes to software implementation change management, we need to be aware of how imposing change on staff impedes on their need for autonomy, which is where the ‘tell and control’ approach to change management is not very effective when trying to create a harmonious transition.
Telling your people to tough it out and get used to a new software - which inevitably includes new processes to learn, an interface to figure out, and a likely long project timeline to adapt to - might not be received well.
Primarily your implementation journey should begin with co-creation of change in mind. Sit down with each group, and aim to identify their EHS needs, and what’s currently causing them a headache. Not only will you communicate that you value their input and concerns, but you’ll also maximise your investment by helping ensure they’ll be engaged with the project from the beginning and get full use out of your software.
What are the risks of implementation?
Software implementation can greatly help your business - but can also pose specific risks and challenges that threaten to derail the effectiveness of the technology. Here are four change management risks to avoid in 2023 when implementing EHS Software.
- 1. Poor change management via lack of consultation with your people
Before you get started with the new software implementation, make sure you’ve incorporated consultation with your staff as part of your overarching change management strategy. Don’t just tell people what’s going to happen (tell and control approach); rather, ensure they’re given a platform to offer their opinion and feedback, to have a degree of input into the process.
After all, end users will be both using the system, and expected to engage in an improved safety culture. Being on the front-line, your people might have some valuable insights into commonly overlooked risks, or processes that are especially complicated. Make sure their voices are heard and the change is co-created.
Amanda is a strong advocate for co-creation of change. “People are more likely to accept change if they’ve played a role in its design.”
In their study, Verdantix, found that some firms identified ‘super users’ - workers who could champion the project , be superfans of the software, and would be willing to help their colleagues with learning the software and engaging with it.
- 2. Poor communication of the overarching vision for the project
As with any significant change to an organisation, leaders should strive to communicate a clear vision of why the software is required to all key stakeholder groups, as well as have a vision that ensures each stakeholder group’s specific needs are met.
Aim to meet with each group, and explain in detail why the need for a new software has arisen, clearly outlining how long the project will take to implement as well as the degree of input, time and effort expected from each team.
Ensuring that your people have had a chance to understand exactly why their daily tasks might be changing will help prepare them for the new software. Upgrading to a digital EHS ecosystem might mean uprooting a lot of outdated processes and changing the traditional ‘how things are done around here’ mentality that’ll be deeply rooted in your staff.
- 3. An unrealistic project timeline
Be realistic with your implementation plan. If you’ve come from a clunky, paper-based system, or a mirage of spreadsheets and Word documents, patience with the new system is key. Perfect implementation does not happen overnight, and moving from a compliance-focused EHS approach, to a digistied EHS ecosystem means that adequate time needs to be taken to understand your organisation’s configuration requirements.
Communicating the project timeline to your people is another key part of ensuring you have widespread user acceptance from the team. Don’t sell them the pipeline dream of a new system that’s going to be ready in a week!
- 4. Selecting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ EHS vendor, with poor knowledge of the space
Your vendor relationship will be the most important success factor in your software implementation project. Ensure that you partner with a vendor whose consultants know their subject matter to a high degree.
The implementation timeframe is long, and a working relationship with consultants that are willing to go above and beyond to understand your firm’s specific needs is a must. If you run into a configuration issue - which is likely with the scope of an EHS implementation - your consultant needs to have the technical proficiency to help support your organisation and make sure you’re back on your feet in no time.
Experiencing setbacks in the implementation journey can hinder the user acceptance you’re after. Working with a vendor that’s going to support and train your team to work through any issues will empower your team to get acquainted with the new software
Be wary of vendors with an offering that’s standardised, and those who offer little support along the way.
EHS software implementation is a rewarding investment - but also is a journey that’s intricate and fraught with potential pitfalls that can become a barrier to widespread end user acceptance.
Be aware that managing the change is essential for full staff buy-in. Meet their need for autonomy by having a co-creation focused approach from the outset. Engage with your relevant stakeholders groups and make sure you truly understand their pain points and needs when it comes to EHS processes.
Keep in mind those key risks for implementing a new software and take the time to choose a vendor that’s going to form a high quality, working relationship with your organisation.
It may be a long journey - but it’s one that’s going to have an incredible impact on your organisation for the better.
Report sourced from:
Verdantix, Best Practices For EHS Software Implementation Services, 15th July 2019