Change can be hard.
But often, changing one’s mindset is harder than the actual change itself.
The Intellectual Challenge of Change
For many people, staying the course, especially if things are going well, is the safest and easiest way forward. Moving away from the status quo and “the way it’s done” is difficult emotionally as well as intellectually.
The same can hold true for federal agencies. As much as leadership may want to embrace change and believe it’s the right thing to do, it can be very hard to implement. Furthermore, the bigger the agency, the harder it can be. Even agencies that embrace change can get caught up in the perceived level of difficulty.
It’s just as true in the world of people data, where old viewpoints and old technology make it easy to stick with the status quo, which makes the challenge of embracing a new way of doing things even more difficult.
But not disputing how your agency goes about analyzing people data is a recipe for holding back the agency’s progress.
The New Realities Made Possible with Today’s Modern Technology
The truth is that today’s technology makes it easier than ever for federal agencies to move away from their old ways of using their people data, including old processes, outdated reporting, stagnant change procedures and more. It’s not as hard as you might think for large enterprises to significantly evolve how they analyze, report and take action on the people data in their agency.
Times have changed. And the modern technology available today allows – indeed, warrants – a completely new mindset from what many still cling to when it comes to organizational transformation around the HR function and the analysis of the people data collected by the agency.
Take a large, dispersed agency with decentralized control. It varies, but in many of these large enterprises, the individual organizational units have their own hiring authorities, recruitment processes, performance management structures, performance review processes and reporting standards. All these differences in the way of doing business may have grown innocently enough. The organizational units may have grown significantly over the years for one or more of a variety of reasons. Agency missions may have expanded or contracted. But whatever the reason, the agency finds itself in a position with multiple touch points, multiple processes and multiple reports, none of which line up from a top level down. Making matter worse, each organizational unit may have invested their own funds on customized technology in the past; with their own money spent on a tailored solution, they often feel even more entitled to continue doing things exactly as they have always been done and have no desire to alter procedures.
Old legacy systems demanded a laborious, expensive way out of this conundrum. They demanded a top-down implementation approach and a “no-way-out” plan that provided a solution that could take years to reach and no ability to change course in midstream. Information Week states that “depending on which consultancy you ask and what they’re ultimately trying to sell you, the failure rate for technology projects is anywhere from 37% to 75%.”
Wow! Clearly, an approach that seems destined for failure in today’s rapidly changing world. No wonder the high failure rate.
While many of the old guard have huge financial interests in maintaining the status quo, there is a disruption underway in the market that allows agencies to alter the way they go about implementing organizational change with regards to people analytics.
No more huge upfront investment without the ability to adapt to a changing landscape except for another huge investment or financial “correction.” No more waiting years for a payoff that may or may not come.
Those days are over.
Organizational Reporting – Centralized and Decentralized
The challenges are the same but modern solutions have evolved. Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) and other senior executives still need to obtain actionable data for insight on the entire agency, but still often require a decentralized view and reporting structure as well because lower managerial layers of the organization want their own view into the data. Leaders want to perform centralized analysis, but also allow the decentralized units to continue to maintain some of their structure, reporting and autonomy. That’s because individual, internal departments and organizations want their own unique people analytics reports on their own workforce that they can act on.
What Not to Do:
First and foremost, let’s touch on what not to do. Do not let technology define your processes and how your agency operates – that’s the old way of thinking. You’ll waste time and money altering what works and makes sense for your agency, and chances are good you’ll be far down the path when you find something doesn’t work. And then you’re stuck, with only an expensive alternative as the way out. However, as opportunities for process improvements are uncovered, they should certainly be modified as appropriate.
With that mindset, here’s what to do:
- Define the data points needed.
From a centralized vantage point, determine what people data is necessary to provide the insight into your agency that is needed for executive decision making and action. This is data that cuts across organizational units and might include everything from time to hire, engagement levels and team performance. This is what you’ll report on.
Review your processes and automate them where possible. This step can be incremental, selecting even just one or two processes to begin. By automating even just a few key processes which result in some initial wins, the ultimate goal of organizational reporting transformation gains credibility and momentum. In addition, the agency will begin to save significant amounts of time and resources, while reducing manual errors and improving productivity. You’ll get the reports and information that matter in a timely manner.
- Ensure proper access at lower levels
As you move to a more decentralized state, you need to ensure proper security and authorizations are in place so that only those with a need to know can access the information needed for their piece of the agency. Each organizational unit should have the best understanding of the data it needs for the best analysis and insight into its operation, and reports that might not be valuable to others outside the unit will still be important and valuable to those within the unit.
- Ensure senior levels have access to the insight they need
While one goal is to allow a more decentralized view, senior executives still need a consolidated, uniform, centralized view of the entire agency and how each unit is performing. A common, standard view is necessary to ensure that disparate information across organizational units is presented in a single view for enhanced usability.
- Provide agility at the personnel and group level.
To help meet the goal of increased versatility, ensure that individuals and organizational units have the ability to adapt and change according to their specific needs, while maintaining necessary security controls. As stated above, technology should adapt to existing processes. At the same time, implementing modern technology may highlight processes that would benefit from modification and improvement, and this adaptation should be a standard course of the transformation process.
The journey to transformation of people analytics within a large federal agency can seem daunting, long and expensive. But with today’s modern technology, agencies can achieve this transformation in a shorter, more agile manner that takes a step-by-step approach – an approach that provides incremental and quantifiable gains.
Insight into your agency’s people from a centralized vantage point while concurrently allowing a decentralized view.
You can have it both ways.