In my previous post, “Workflow Automation Can Be Scary!”, I outlined how workflow automation can be scary to many employees, as it creates uncertainty, introduces transparency and takes away control. In this post, I will explain three well established strategies that will help address each of these concerns.
1. Listening is key to managing the fear of uncertainty
Management has to invest the time to listen to everyone’s concerns. Often times, the concerned employees just want to be heard, understood and feel like their concerns were taken seriously. This can also provide key information that will be helpful in the design and implementation of the process. It may be that adding a certain report or business rule is all it takes to alleviate some of the concerns, and it may also improve the workflow process when automated. In addition, by listening, management can uncover and address some of the hidden concerns which may be less about the automation itself, and more about the reasons for it, i.e. will they lose their jobs. It is amazing how many problems can be avoided by simply listening.
2. Communicating the benefits is key to addressing the concerns around transparency
Transparency can stir fears in employees that they are distrusted and will be monitored by management after the automation. It’s very important to address this by highlighting the many major benefits that transparency and visibility provide to all employees in the process, not just to the organization. Some of these major benefits include:
Saving time: Rather than employees spending their time chasing people and paper forms or searching through emails to get status information, a well implemented workflow automation project will provide key dashboards and reports that let everyone know the status of each process.
Providing peace of mind: A typical workflow system will send alerts and reminders to each person when their part is due. This streamlines the workflow and increases peace of mind when running these processes. The employee is no longer concerned that they may have forgotten to complete a task as the workflow platform keeps them alerted throughout.
Reducing frustration: Often times, the processes that are being automated are causing a lot of frustrations to many people. Automation will improve their work life quality, and eliminate wasted time and rework due to mistakes.
Increasing productivity: The goal for automation is to free up employees’ time to focus on higher value work rather than shuffling paper or manual processes that don’t add value. They are able to be more innovative and produce more with less manual effort.
By communicating often and clearly the benefits of transparency and visibility from workflow automation, fear and distrust can be turned into anticipation and excitement.
3. Turn process owners into change agents to address fears around loss of control
Process owners can provide a lot of critical insight into the culture, uniqueness of the processes and skillset of the employees who will need to change. Their resistance to change can be reduced greatly by listening to them, valuing their input and experience, and leaning on them early on in the implementation and even in the platform selection process. They can provide valuable information that can influence the selection of the workflow solution as well as the design and architecture of the implementation. By involving the process owners in the design process, their fear and uncertainty turns to pride and security, as they become the thought leaders, owners of the new automated process and designers of the system. They will then turn into champions and change agents in the organization, helping with training and adoption of the system.
In conclusion, cultural resistance is one of the biggest obstacles to a successful workflow automation project. Organizations who address this obstacle early on and directly with the strategies listed in this article will improve greatly their chances of project success. A well implemented and adopted workflow automation project will quickly become a success story given all the benefits and time savings it provides for everyone. Within a few weeks of launch, most people will find it hard to imagine, or even remember, that they were running the process any other way.