Change Management Makes the Difference in Chesterfield County
Brown, Patsy J., Government Finance Review
Changing administrative processes is difficult, especially when most of the jurisdiction's employees are directly affected. And when that change affects paychecks, the anxiety level is going to be high. When Chesterfield County, Virginia replaced several standalone legacy systems and an internally developed time and attendance system with an off-the-shelf human resources and payroll system, county officials knew a change management strategy would be essential.
Under the new system, employees would enter their timecards online, and the information would be routed and approved electronically; before, each department used paper timesheets. This process change affected more than 3,000 employees, including 600 supervisors and their back-up approvers. The roles and responsibilities of the 60 timekeepers and their backups also changed tremendously. A secondary challenge involved developing processes to ensure that nonexempt employees, who would now be entering their hours in the system, would be paid accurately. In addition, many of these employees lacked computer skills.
TEAMS AND PARTNERSHIPS
When the county implemented its new timecard online system, it assembled a team to manage the change management strategy and the necessary training. Team members used several techniques to lead the organization through the experience: making sure stakeholders were involved; collaborating with key departments to build on existing processes; drawing up communications plans; and creating a well-thought-out training plan. This approach worked with the county's culture and values, which include a customer focus, employee involvement, open communications, data-driven decisions, and teamwork.
The change management and training team comprised the financial systems manager, the payroll manager, the financial systems security coordinator, a payroll subject management expert, and a representative from the county's learning organization, Chesterfield University. As they formulated their approach to change management and training, the team considered the county's culture, the expectations for high-quality training, and the need for a seamless transition to the new system.
The county also formed a change agent network to get stakeholders involved. Each customer department named a liaison to the network, and each member had several responsibilities, including providing input on training needs; gathering information required for the security set-up; observing and commenting on process demonstrations; coordinating training, practice sessions, and parallel processing within their respective departments; and communicating concerns and offering solutions. The change agent network included directors, managers, and timekeepers, depending on the size and complexity of the customer departments; some of the larger departments had three or four representatives.
The county formed a partnership with its information systems technology and Chesterfield University to use training and help desk processes that were already in place. The change management and training team agreed that Chesterfield University staff would draft as many of the training materials as possible and review all materials for quality, but subject matter experts would be heavily involved and would deliver the training in the classroom. Chesterfield University also gave a project team member access to the training registration system, allowing that person to serve as the training registrar for the system classes. The information system technology help desk provided support for problems reported by the implementation team, practice sessions, and parallel processing, before the county moved to the new system.
COMMUNICATIONS AND TRAINING
Communications planning made a significant contribution in getting the workforce to accept the changes. The initial communications plan was substantially different from the final version; it was revised continuously as the change management and training team formulated their plan, learned more, and received input - as did methods of communication, which included a survey, newsletters, change agent network meetings, an intranet site that provided updates, e-mails, and department sessions and meetings. …