By Dr.Roland Abel, Head of Employee Experience (EX) Solutions Strategy DACH at Qualtrics
We all know what it feels like when a new piece of software is introduced. Most of the time it‘s without warning, context and any real interaction. Instead, it feels like a chore; yet another thing to learn and adapt to on top of your daily work routine.
From the company’s point of view, it’s not much easier. The more employees that use a new piece of software, the more uncertainty builds and the bigger the impact on employee productivity. In addition, there are the typical risks involved in any new IT project, around exceeding budgets and not meeting deadlines. In short, new technology rollouts are hard work, and are made all the more difficult by disjointed and uncommunicative project teams.
One of the biggest mistakes that IT teams and project managers make when planning such rollouts is attempting to complete their project without receiving direct feedback from the end user. These are the people who are most affected by the new technology. Ironically, the people who will be closest to the new software are often those who don’t get a say in how the system will operate.
This lack of communication is not because IT teams aren’t interested in hearing from end users. More often than not, it’s simply because they’re not equipped with the tools needed to collect and understand employee feedback on such a large scale.
Without this direct feedback, IT project managers can easily get lost in the specific features and functions of their new solutions, without considering how the overall changes implemented could negatively disrupt the day-to-day work of the internal clients or tech users.
By removing this feedback layer, some IT project managers think that they’re streamlining their rollouts – getting the job done faster and with less internal resistance. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true, with any time saved typically being lost further down the line.
If users don’t feel involved in the decisions that will impact their day-to-day work, they are far more likely to push back against any changes made. A lack of interest, or worse, a resentment towards the changes made, can quickly build up. This can result in more time spent on training, persuading and re-educating users further down the line. All of this can add up to spiralling project, time and investment costs.
If project managers are to ensure a successful technology implementation, they need to incorporate a system of feedback from the very start of their project designs. Typically, this means incorporating feedback from three key groups:
The implementation team: Whether it’s IT, operations, or a developer team, regular check-ins with those responsible for the project’s implementation are vital. Where possible, look to set up brief assessments at least once a month. This will help identify project risks, reveal the level of confidence in project success, and help you act on any findings or challenges before they escalate.
End-users: When implementing a new software project, it’s all too easy to get hung up on the technical details. At the end of the day, providing a positive experience for the end user should be at the heart of any new technology rollout. As such, their feedback is most important of all. Make sure that your project is focused on simplicity and usefulness as defined by the end user, finding time to get their feedback at regular intervals along the project timeline.
HR colleagues: This is one group that often gets overlooked. When implementing a new technology or process, it’s important to incorporate the feedback of HR. Often, HR professionals have the best insights into the workforce’s moods and mindsets, hearing feedback that employees may not feel comfortable providing face-to-face. When implementing a particularly disruptive project, it’s important to incorporate HR’s feedback before, during and after the project’s competition, to ensure every perspective is being captured.
To ensure feedback is received from each of these groups, IT heads and project managers should incorporate regular employee surveys into their timelines. When designing these surveys, however, be mindful of how they may be received by a busy workforce. All too often, well-meaning feedback projects result in survey fatigue, bombarding employees with time-consuming questions, with little thought for their busy schedules.
To avoid such survey fatigue, bare the following pointers in mind when designing your feedback mechanisms:
- Stick to short, relevant questionnaires. When designing a survey, the temptation can be to try and squeeze as much information out of each employee as possible. Typically this approach results in far more data but fewer useful insights, as employees quickly lose concentration. Keep surveys short, and only stick to those questions that will deliver real, immediate insights.
- Don’t start from scratch. Once you have a survey that you’re happy with, reuse it at regular intervals to track the changing views of the workforce – especially the implementation team – before going live with your new technology. It can be tempting to recreate surveys from scratch, adding new questions as a project evolves. This approach takes up more time and makes it harder to compare and contrast the resulting data. Where possible, write a template for your questionnaire and stick to it.
- Ask about the status quo. When collecting feedback for your new technology project, it can be easy to bias your research, asking about all the things that workers hate about their current set up and why they would want it to change. Try to avoid these types of biased questions, asking what people enjoy about their current technologies and work processes. This feedback can prove vital to help minimise disruption down the line.
- Invest in the right technology. If you’re running a small project, then a simple online survey may be enough to collect and collate feedback. As the scope of your project expands however, you may need to adopt a full employee ‘experience management’ platform. This will help you to collect and collate data automatically, as well as uncovering far more in-depth insights which a manual analysis simply wouldn’t provide.
- Ask for feedback on your feedback processes. When collecting feedback from your teams, make sure you ask whether the process has made them feel valued and listened to. Do they feel like the feedback process is working, and that their suggestions have been incorporated into the project? If not, speak to your implementation team to ensure that your insights are being translated into the project design.
For today’s project managers and IT implementation teams, feedback has never been more important – but it’s also never been easier to run a good (or bad) project survey. When implementing a new technology or launching a new project, it’s crucial to get your feedback approach right from the very beginning. That means combining dedicated expertise with the right experience management technology, listening to the employees involved and affected, and incorporating their specific feedback into every part of a project’s design.
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