How to tackle ‘fear of the new’ in HR departments

Evidence-based management is on the rise
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Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt (FUD) has long been a strategy for getting people to believe false information in politics, public relations and marketing.

But it's also used by people internal to a company as a way of maintaining their interests and combatting change.

Perhaps the last part of the workforce to go through its digital transformation, HR is experiencing its digital moment. And for a large proportion of people working in the space, FUD is more important than ever.

New, transformative technologies are pushed aside as other infrastructure projects and initiatives (the known) are prioritised. Some departments will claim not to have the time to focus on tech adoption because they’re busy with performance-management that month, completely ignoring the idea that tech could save them huge amounts of time.

Meanwhile, outdated methods such as annual staff surveys and subjective appraisals are still given precedence over continuous real time feedback.

Yet, the benefits of adopting more sophisticated methods are obvious. Evidence-based management is on the rise. We no longer need ‘people persons’ in HR but instead, require strategy-focused leaders who are able to use new technologies for workforce forecasting, attraction and retention strategies, mobility and succession planning.

But this transformation of the HR function is no secret. So why the continued resistance?

Breaking down FUD is more complex than merely outlining the benefits of introducing new technologies. To any serious HR professional, these would be obvious.

But for the sake of simplicity, let’s split FUD into three main groups,!

Fear of implementation

Much of HR’s inertia is born out of a fear of being responsible for botching the implementation process. This means that technology vendors need to produce a slick, seamless launch & onboarding process which ensures adoption doesn’t come in the way of other high-priority projects and tasks.

Extensive “roll outs” shouldn’t be a part of any technology vendor’s playbook. Instead, new technology should cascade effortlessly through the business, inflicting as little pain as possible on management teams as possible, and leaving employees’ calendars relatively untouched.

  • How have you launched platforms in the past?
  • What will be expected of employees that use the platform?
  • Who are the most influential stakeholders in the company & how could they help us launch?
  • What are your expected timelines from pilot to full roll-out?

Fear of spending money

HR departments aren’t necessarily used to having a budget for tech spend. They may not have any independent budget at all.

That’s why it’s so important to demonstrate the business value to their company through case studies and ROI models. The HR department should be able to picture themselves using the product successfully, and often need to feel like they’re a late adopter of the technology.

Essentially, they’re looking for a bet that’s safer-than-safe.

Although that doesn’t exist, technology vendors can offer something that more-than-helps justify the purchase. By providing insight on how engaged, motivated, happy, or likely to leave employees are, HR can measure the impact of their campaigns & bring figures to the boardroom.

For many business leaders - inside and outside the HR department - this will justify the cost of the technology.

Tackle this fear by asking the HR department these relevant questions:

  • What is your budget?
  • What’s your retention rate for employees?
  • Do you know how much disengaged or absent staff cost your business each year?
  • How do you report to senior management?

Fear of becoming unpopular

Of all the categories of the Big Five personality test, HR people are most associated with agreeableness. It’s natural, when you work in the people department, to be a ‘people person’, and therefore be conscious of how others interpret your actions.

The same applies when you’re asking an entire organisation to use a tool. What will they think of it? Will they use it? Will they feel like it’s an invasion of privacy?

Tackle this fear by asking the HR department these relevant questions:

  • What do employees currently think of processes that exist to measure or improve engagement (or similar?)
  • What’s the risk of not introducing the tool?
  • What do you think employees will think of the tool?
  • Is there any risk employees won’t understand why they’re trying to use the tool?

At Motivii, the best way to ensure those questions are answered well is by clearly communicating why the platform is being used, which information can be seen by HR & which is anonymous, and what employees are expected to do with the software.

But most importantly, employees should see some value from using the software themselves. They should receive insights personal to them, to help their experience of work. They should be the focus of the software, rather than the HR department. At Motivii, we found by giving employees access to their own insights has been an important part of encouraging them to complete their weekly update.

By taking this approach, and focusing on giving value to individual employees and managers, uptake of technology will be natural within the company you work at. Meanwhile, for vendors, to ensure HR isn’t left as a technological dud, your business development needs to overcome the FUD.

By Alan Wanders, Growth Manager at Motivii & Consultant at X8IQ