Every project should start with the why. Why am I doing this and why am I doing this now? This needs to become your end goal, whatever happens along the way, you need to stick with this why.
HR transformation projects can grow out of control quickly if you don’t keep your key goal in mind. What has happened that means you need to embark on this journey? Without that end goal, your project could be derailed by other, competing priorities. Once you have this established, you need to then look at the what, who and how.
What impact will this change have on the organisation, who will be impacted and how can you ensure all the stakeholders are kept on track and to plan? Take a look at our Top 10 benefits of HR digital transformation if you need some inspiration.
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can then look at drawing up your full project plan.
- Why are we doing this?
- What (positive) impact will this have on my organisation?
- Who will be directly impacted by this change?
- How do I ensure focus is maintained?
Building the project plan
Once you have these four areas in order, we recommend that you start to build your project plan. Think about:
- Your core project team
- Action owners
- Your internal communication plan
- Selecting the right technology partner
- The impact on the organisation so you can show return on investment (ROI)
Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail.
Before you get started you need to find the budget to achieve your end goal, that’s a given. This can come from fresh investment into HR and people at your organisation, because now is the time and excel spreadsheets are no longer fit for purpose.
Budget can come from reallocation of other expenditures; this happens when you are upgrading from one system that potentially you’ve outgrown to a better one which is more suited to where your organisation is today.
Alternatively, budget can also be allocated to your transformation by realigning your costs. For example if you consolidate multiple systems into one, or even a more targeted few from a narrower selection of vendors, then this will ultimately increase your buying power and reduce costs.
Another area people forget about when thinking about bolstering their financial stretch is what we like to call ‘micro-budgets’. Take a moment to consider, where you can beg, borrow and steal from? Which pots can you rethink to get the money needed to start, execute and maintain this bigger transformation project? These can often be in the forms of small content subscriptions or potentially duplicate spends.
This will often take longer than you may have originally anticipated, however managing your timescales well from the outset will help you have a realistic and achievable launch date whilst also allowing you to be prepared for any eventuality.
MINI TOP TIP INCOMING: Work backwards! When do you need this project to go live? Ensure as you build this timeline out, that you build in some ‘buffer-time’, we always need a bit of contingency. For example, the legal redlining process can take a week, but it could also take a month, until you get to it you can never be sure.
In the same breath, build in your worst-case scenarios – from illness to organisation upheaval, we don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future, therefore ‘buffer-time’ is important to ensure you don’t come in too far off your target.
Always make sure to consider any big annual HR milestones – you will still have to do your day job during the planning and implementation of this project so that extra contingency time built into the project will save you from disappointment and headaches along the way. Use the knowledge of your technology vendor to support you with a realistic timeline for their process in line with your project.
3. The core project team
Who is in this project with you? You cannot do it on your own, so you want to ensure you’ve got all the strengths you need in the people around you. Due to the nature of HR projects and how wide reaching they are; they will touch every person in the organisation and as a result a lot of people will want (not to be confused with need) to be involved. But as we will discuss later in the series, ‘decision by committee’ can kill even the most well-planned and structured projects.
As the project owner you need to be the guiding force of the implementation, with an ally in the leadership team to help to keep the momentum. Outside of that, it’s vital to ensure that other project members understand the project’s ‘Why’, and don’t dilute that core goal.
4. Action owners
Often, projects can get held up because action owners are confused or unclear on what their role is and what that means in terms of responsibility. Work with your technology vendor, your internal project team and any external consultants to outline who is responsible for each element, including any approvals or design decisions that need to happen at key milestones.
Confusion over who is doing what, could easily cause delays, but you can avoid this by including all action owners, at each step of the way of your project plan.
You should remember us mentioning ‘decision by committee’ in step 3. Although you need to bring in a range of people who can contribute to the project, there is a sweet spot, so ensure these action owners know their key priorities and can make the decisions when needed.
5. Your communication plan
A key part of your plan should be communications with all staff. This project may disrupt your business as usual including your normal workflows, delaying your responses to employee queries, and require small but noticeable changes along the way – work these comms into your project plan.
Examples of communications you may want to consider could be project kick-off, key milestones, training for all staff and of course your final project go-live. Be sure to announce this big launch to the whole organisation, you could perhaps plan an all-hands to ensure everyone feels included and informed.
If you need employee buy-in for things like new learning management systems or self-directed learning, your project will need to include a marketing-style plan to ensure the launch is successful. Post Launch this could even include following a content release plan to keep up the momentum and ensure ongoing engagement with the new technology, process or strategy.
6. The right technology partner
This can be a difficult one as you need a partner that understands your business, has experience in working with your size and type of organisation and has the right technology for your needs.
This is where you think back to your end goal. Why are you doing this project? Don’t get distracted from your end goal by shiny graphics and superfluous, but ‘cool’ features (we love them too but remember your underlying priorities). When you interview technology vendors, make sure you get what you need from the technology.
We have seen many examples of transformation projects failing because the technology that was originally selected for the project doesn’t work for the organisation. During vendor selection the shiny, exciting demonstrations win the day, but the underlying products don’t deliver what you need.
Remember, if you bring the wrong people into the discussion, the wrong decision will be made. You are the HR expert for your organisation, you own the project, and you know what features and functions you actually need, so stick to your plan and choose the vendor who can deliver on it.
7. Return on investment (ROI)
The Holy Grail of talent management – ROI. How can you show a return on investment for a digital transformation project? This is widely debated as you can imagine.
- The low-hanging fruit of the ROI world is time – will this new technology save time across the organisation? Will it help us streamline and generally make lives easier?
- If you bring in an internal mobility tool, will you save on recruiting externally?
- By consolidating your vendors, do you make savings?
- If you are introducing a new self-directed learning programme, will you increase employee retention? Will this improve engagement across the organisation?
- By working with a better vendor, will you have access to more examples of best practice you can learn from?
- By allowing internal subject matter experts to create their own content, will you save on external vendors? Will this help to keep vital knowledge in the organisation?
The way you calculate ROI is as individual as the people and organisations going through the transformation. This means you must look at it from your point of view. There are of course similarities that will cross over between industries, but your organisation will have its own culture and identity that should translate into your project. Don’t forget it!
You can go hard into the numbers or look at it with a softer ‘change for the better’ focus. Work with your technology vendor to design a business case for your project to ensure you can show return on investment both through a business and finance perspective, but also in your people values.
Embarking on a change that touches the whole organisation is never going to be easy, but focusing on the above key areas will help get you started and ensure you get the most out of your project.
About the Cornerstone SMB team
The Cornerstone SMB team works with organisations with between 100 and 1,000 employees across the UK and Ireland, helping them to get their talent transformation right. From recruiting and onboarding to learning and development, performance management and internal mobility, we support you every step of the way. Contact a member of our dedicated SMB team today to get your project kick-started with our HR Transformation Project Plan Template.