Social media has the power to transform how business leaders communicate with their workers. SmartBrief on Workforce Senior Editor Mary Ellen Slayter recently spoke with Robin Schooling, vice president of human resources at the Louisiana Lottery Corporation, to learn more about how her organization is using social media to engage its employees during a time of transition. An edited transcript of that conversations follows.
MARY ELLEN: The Louisiana Lottery Corporation is undergoing some fairly significant operational changes due to a change in its primary software/gaming system vendor. What role has your department played in making that transition for its employees?
ROBIN: The Louisiana Lottery Corporation will celebrate its 20th anniversary of operation in 2011. Leading up to this milestone is an organization-wide conversion to new a gaming system and retailer terminals in June 2010. Our last full-scale hardware/software conversion was 10 years ago, so understandably this upcoming conversion process will impact every aspect our business, internally for employees and externally for our 2,800 retailer partners and players. Once the bid was awarded in March 2009, the full-scale involvement of all departments truly began. From an HR standpoint, our role has been working with departments and individual employees to guage their readiness for this transition, as well as to remove barriers to a successful implementation — whether those barriers are on the individual or organizational level.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve encountered?
We knew that there would be an aversion to change, as well as some trepidation about possible changes to day-to-day functions, so it became very clear that the first order of business was to address this fear head-on. We began by talking about change, presenting the message that embracing change and keeping an open mind was the responsibility of all employees. Toward the end, we have worked to instill a sense of ownership for the change within all employees. We also let staff know that this was neither a “top-down” nor “bottom-up” model, but a fully integrated circle of communication. As the conversion moves forward, additional employees and departments are brought into the process to help define and refine their operational processes. They are also given opportunities to provide input and feedback on everything from the program’s user interface to the timing and messaging to external partners.
Some of the key components of this process have included:
- Evaluating our organization’s culture and history, and revisiting some past experiences in which wide-scale change presented obstacles. The Implementation Team has had to maintain awareness of existing procedures and systems to ensure they support change. HR’s role has been to partner with functional business units and with employees by advising them on tools, techniques and strategies to guide our organization through the process, while ensuring the sustainability of these new initiatives and operating processes once the conversion is complete.
- Evaluating how the change the change will affect our departments, work groups, and teams. In our “future state,” some roles/functions will experience minimal impact, while other roles may evolve significantly once the conversion is completed. HR’s role has been to monitor existing roles and specifically to identify needs from a talent perspective. Throughout the course of the planning phase and into the implementation phase, HR, in conjunction with business unit managers, has identified strengths and talents of existing staff, and defined areas where there may be knowledge gaps.
- Assessing employees’ existing skill sets, specifically their technical skills. With a realization that we will be moving forward with new technology (as opposed to systems implemented 10 years ago), it has been important for us to evaluate employees’ basic technical skills as well as their learning agility. HR’s role has been to enhance accessibility to technology and related training programs, while continuing to develop and support learning and performance programs for all employees. Our new hardware/software vendor will be instrumental in providing hands-on “system training” for our staff; however, HR’s input and support will continue to be necessary from an assessment and evaluation standpoint. Moving forward post-conversion, it will be very important to ensure that all employees continue to fully apply what they have learned.
- Realizing that no one works in a silo or vacuum. The HR and corporate communications staff members have partnered very effectively to ensure messages are shared with all parties involved — internally and externally. HR’s role has been to listen to employees’ concerns and questions and assist with delivering accurate, timely information internally.
How did you overcome that? Did you use any tools or approaches that you hadn’t used before?
We have more heavily relied upon technology to assist in sharing the “conversion message” with all audiences. This includes building a dedicated section of our intranet for “Conversion 2010” news where information can be uploaded and shared with all staff as things occur. For our external audience, we are fully equipped to use our corporate Web site, Facebook Fan Page and You Tube Channel (Twitter to be launched in Q2 2010) to provide a constant communication stream. In addition, our internal communication has been much more widespread than in the past and is contributing to a high level of employee engagement and alignment around our objectives. Throughout the Corporation, our staff members truly understand the strategy, implementation timeline and game plan. We’ve been very mindful of keeping all streams of communication open, and employees have continual workplace access to all social media and communication tools to allow them to share in the message with our external audience.
If a peer in another HR department came to you, in a similar situation, what would be your advice to him or her, based on what you learned from this experience?
The most important lesson is that one cannot “over communicate.” Even in the event that a new process or strategy will not affect an individual’s day-to-day work, he or she must still be aware of and have access to the steps that are occurring. It is so easy to use technology and tap into existing corporate communication strategies to share information with ALL potential audiences. People can effectively filter out what they don’t need to know.
Also, to achieve a true level of engagement and support, it is important that all employees have the opportunity to be involved. While it is critical that employees understand the strategy behind the change process, and understand their personal responsibility for fulfilling and executing within the scope of their individual job, it is also important that employees have the opportunity to participate in designing or improving processes inherent to their jobs.
HR leaders can bring great value to any organizational change process, as they can effectively drive collaboration across functional areas, define ways to achieve employee buy-in and assist in ensuring that the output/end-result is in line with corporate vision. Since HR management is about using people to achieve business results, HR professionals ensure that the “human” element of strategic implementation is represented.
Image credit, lillisphotography, via iStock