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From User Adoption to Hybrid Work Success

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Image: Illia Reznik - Alamy Stock Vector
Somebody finally said it: Lindsay Grenawalt, chief people officer at Cockroach Labs, a database management vendor, wrote the following for Fast Company on the subject of hybrid work:
 
“There is so much that we can’t control about the future. And I can’t stress this enough: Nobody knows what they’re doing. We are in completely uncharted waters.”
 
It’s refreshing to see someone — especially an HR executive — concede so forthrightly that hybrid work will require a period of trial and error. And while this is an HR viewpoint, it’s one that IT professionals should buy into and support because the challenges of such an uncertain time fall heavily on IT as well.
 
Grenawalt’s overarching message is that experimentation is key to hybrid work success because it lets “employees feel in control of the experience.” That message of user empowerment was also shared here on No Jitter, from the IT perspective, by consultant Melissa Swartz of Swartz Consulting, in previewing her Enterprise Connect 2022 session on user adoption.
 
That session wound up offering a treasure trove of great advice and insights about how to make a user adoption project succeed. Swartz presented alongside Vallorie Weires, senior solutions and customer success advisor at Enabling Technologies consultancy, describing an engagement the two handled for a state government with 10,000 users to roll out Microsoft Teams.
 
The key to the project’s success was pairing the technical implementation with a powerful change management and adoption program. “They were in lockstep with us,” Swartz said about Weires’ change management team, which was on every call addressing the technology plan. “I’ve never seen a project where it was that much a part of the process.”
 
Weires cited research showing organizations that don’t invest in change management only see 35% of the benefit from a project compared with those that do. “You’re spending money on these [technology tools] because you’re trying to create an awesome experience for your users,” she said. “The adoption [program] just translates what you’re already trying to do into a way that your users can understand it and feel like they’ve been put first.”
 
That doesn’t necessarily mean users will always get what they want. In the state government project, one particular Teams feature gained instant popularity but had to be withdrawn because of a corporate governance issue. “Just because we address everyone’s concerns, it doesn’t mean we always say yes,” Weires said. “Sometimes it’s a hard: No, and here’s why.” The goal is to be transparent, so people feel seen and heard. “It’s not about being mushy, but it’s about people feeling that what they have to say matters,” she added.
 
Taking the sort of care and devoting the intensive change management resources to such a project requires a commitment of significant resources; Weires said 50% of the Teams rollout project’s budget was reserved for adoption and change management. And she acknowledged that IT hasn’t traditionally viewed change management as this large a component of a deployment. “This is a shift in the industry. It is a shift in the thinking,” she said.
 
But the shift is real and applies beyond focused projects like a Teams rollout. The principles that Weires and Swartz emphasized for their Microsoft Teams adoption project should be the same guideposts that enterprises follow as they implement hybrid work.
 
The big difference is that an enterprise can look to thousands of successful Teams rollouts worldwide as a model for their own effort and for confidence that the project can succeed. In contrast, it’s too early to say any enterprise has succeeded at hybrid work. But that’s all the more reason to focus on the principles of change management, transparency, and user feedback as the enterprise attempts to make hybrid work succeed.

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