How to Succeed in HR Initiative Implementation (in 7 Easy Steps)

As 2015 approaches, many HR departments are elbow-deep in strategic planning for the upcoming year. What systems will be purchased to revitalize your collaboration efforts? Which new initiatives should be launched to boost your employee engagement figures? And most importantly, what current challenges need to be overcome?

Your HR department may find all the answers, but there is still a major step left between your team and success. As Harvard professor John Kotter’s original research revealed, and a follow-up study by McKinsey in 2008 supported, only a mere 30% of organizational initiatives will accomplish their long-term goals, while the other 70% become relics of your team’s wasted time and effort.

Do you want to avoid becoming another statistic? Forget what you want to implement, and focus on how you plan to implement your decisions.

To help you do so, I’ve outlined the 7 key steps you need to incorporate before planning any HR implementation. These steps have been honed over a decade of experienced building and being part of award-winning HR teams and organizations across the tech industry.

1) Focus on a challenge. Avoid the urge to implement a new program for the sake of doing something new, because it “worked for the other guy,” or because it’s the buzz at the latest HR conference you attended. If you don’t know what your challenges are, you won’t be able to choose the program that can help you fix it, and will be left with a shiny new toy that doesn’t address your needs. Identify and detail your problem areas first, and then work on finding its initiative match.

2) Direct the brainstorming. In larger organizations, it’s easier to generate ideas and support for new initiatives when they’re in the beginning stages. While insights and contributions can be valuable, too much can quickly derail your attempts to create a workable solution. Be open to discussion and collaboration, especially with key supportive members of your executive team, but make sure to steer the conversation towards the challenge you are looking to address. This also the time to ensure executive sponsorship and support from at least a few members of your senior management team.

3) Choose a test group. Rolling out an initiative to your whole organization at once is risky, so ensure you have a “pilot group” commitment from one team or department before you get too far into the planning stages. Your pilot group will also allow you the opportunity to receive feedback and tweak the details, leading to a higher chance of success when you actually launch.

4) Create a project roadmap. The old adage states “fail to plan, plan to fail”. Every great initiative needs to start with an accepted roadmap that includes: key steps, ownership, timelines, and regular meetings for review and status updates.

5) Branding and marketing. Branding inside your organization? Absolutely. Widespread participation will make or break your new program, so don’t underestimate the value of internal marketing before and during your program launch. The best marketing will make it easy for potential participants to understand the goal of the program, and most importantly, the benefits they can reap from participating.

6) Test and adjust. Programs are rarely 100% ready to go at the outset, but that’s where your test group and roadmap come in handy. Allow time and platforms for proper testing and feedback analysis, such as a dedicated email address, a discussion forum, surveys, and user groups for participants. Your ability (and time) to make the necessary adjustments will be critical to the success of your program.

7) Let it roll! Now you’re ready. Don’t skimp on the fanfare! This could include banner ads on your intranet, executive emails, t-shirts, posters or whatever it is that will catch everyone’s attention at your organization. (My personal favorite initiative kicked-off with a company carnival. Over the top? Absolutely, but I promise it got everyone talking.)