Implementing a New System in the Workplace? Here Are 3 Ways Employees Can Derail It

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When implementing a new software system in the workplace, HR needs to anticipate the cold shoulder from employees—or worse.

header image shows a computer screen with a big red X over the screen

You know that a new talent management system or other software you purchased is a great investment for your business.

But your employees? Yeah, they’re not so sure.

In fact, many of them likely outright loathe the idea of having to use a new system at work. And failing to acknowledge and address these negative sentiments head-on can end up causing a lot of problems with your new system’s implementation—even more so than the software itself.

To help, let’s look at three situations in which employee behaviors can derail your new system’s implementation and detail some solutions to keep that from happening.

3 common ways employees derail software implementation

1. Old habits (and systems) die hard

The situation

Here’s the thing about your old system: It works. In fact, it works really well—so well that employees aren’t sure why you’re getting rid of it in the first place.

You’re eager to get everyone transitioned over to the new system. But until the license runs out on the old system, employees are clinging on for dear life, and it’s causing delays with data migration and implementation.

The solution

Don’t assume your employees understand the rationale behind the implementation of a new system. From their perspective, the old system may have no flaws, when, in reality, it has to go because of behind-the-scenes reasons such as security concerns or increased cost.

Whether it’s through posters around the office or an email from the CEO or a department head, creating campaigns to explain the “why” behind a new system implementation can go a long way in helping ease the transition.

If you did your due diligence during your software search, you likely already know of two to three features that your workforce doesn’t have today and will love. Highlighting them in your campaign can also win over workers more quickly.

2. Super-users have taken over

The situation

Things seem to be going OK, until the complaints start coming in: The system is “too confusing,” and employees have “too much going on to learn a new system right now.” Workers begin asking their manager or HR to take care of some tasks in the new system for them.

These requests are fulfilled at first, because leadership knows people are still learning the ropes. But before long, a small group of super-users have taken on all of the work with the new system—decreasing their productivity and defeating the whole purpose of the implementation in the first place.

This situation often occurs with self-service solutions, which spread tasks originally handled by one person or department to the entire workforce to balance workload. Unless employees actively take on these tasks in the new system, the benefits of implementation are null and void.

The solution

Take steps to make completing these tasks as easy as possible for workers. If your new system has an intuitive mobile app, ask workers to download it. If you can integrate the new system with a collaboration tool such as Slack that workers already know how to use, do it. Anything to lower the barrier to entry can make a difference.

screenshot of the ADP integration with Slack

ADP can integrate with Slack through the ADP Virtual Assistant (Source)

Take advantage of your super-users, too. Whether in one-on-one interactions or through a group session, have your super-users walk employees through exactly how to do common tasks in the new system. Employees will be more engaged when learning from one of their own rather than from some stranger representing your software vendor.

If all else fails and workers still aren’t using the system themselves, re-evaluate. Perhaps some tasks are too irregular or complex for self-service, which works best for simple, standardized processes (such as viewing pay stubs or updating an address).

3. Employees have abandoned ship

The situation

After a few weeks, it feels as if you won the workforce over. Employees are finally using the new system as intended, some even enthusiastically.

When you check in six months later, though, the situation has turned for the worse. Many employees have abandoned the new system, and usage has dropped by more than half. Now leadership is wondering if it’s time to pull the plug on the whole thing. Yikes!

The solution

Increasingly, businesses are investing in technology to promote beneficial, but optional, behaviors from their employees. Think referral software, by which employees are asked to refer their friends for job openings, or employee recognition systems, through which workers are encouraged to recognize other people’s achievements.

That optional part can be an implementation killer, especially once the honeymoon period with new software has faded away. Companies have to keep working to encourage continuous usage, and sometimes regular email reminders just aren’t enough.

One technique you could employ to promote prolonged usage is a staged rollout. Workers are introduced to new features or applications over time, rather than all at once.

An example of a staged rollout with an LMS software implementation.

Gamification can also be effective. By implementing elements such as points systems, leaderboards, or real-life rewards (monetary or non-monetary) for referring friends for jobs or leaving feedback for coworkers, you can encourage workers to keep using the software.

What if the new system is the problem?

Gartner analyst Mike Burden summarizes this idea of employees ultimately bringing down a software implementation in the report “HR Transformation Projects Must Address Nontechnology Issues” (full research available to Gartner clients):

“Initiatives to transform human capital management often fail because they focus on technology and don’t address issues of project management, change management, and local compliance.”

He’s right. As much focus as we put into the X’s and O’s of implementing a new system in the workplace (i.e., the setup, the hardware compatibility, the integrations), companies need to put even more focus on bringing workers on board with the change—or they risk watching the whole thing crumble.

But what if everything you do fails? What if workers continue to avoid the new system like the plague?

In that case, it may be time to go back to the drawing board but with an important lesson learned: The employee user experience matters. Have rank-and-file employees demo systems, and keep usability top of mind when evaluating your options to help ensure that your workers warm up to new technology quickly.

You can also head to our talent management software directory page. There, you can read reviews for hundreds of different systems, including important factors such as ease of use.

Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

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About the Author

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Brian Westfall

Brian Westfall is a Senior HR and Talent Management Analyst for Capterra. His research has been cited in various publications, including TIME, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Undercover Recruiter.

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