Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2016 by Rich Bowlen

Removing the Risk Factor from Organizational Process Change

Organizational process change is often the riskiest aspect of implementing new software for human services agencies. Yet in order for agencies to continuously improve, all stakeholders must be willing to embrace these changes – and the risk and fear that accompany them.

As a human services administrator, your ability to understand what motivates workers to accept or reject process change can be the difference between the success and failure of your agency’s initiatives. Only by taking the time to understand, plan for, and mitigate the risks and fears that typically accompany each phase of an organizational process change can you ensure a high rate of adoption.


Rather than just talking theory, let’s take a look at a few practical examples of risks commonly associated with organizational process change, and how your agency can mitigate them:

The risk: If workers don’t trust that a new process will benefit them, they won’t adopt the change.

How to mitigate it: The “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me) principle – or being able to share audience-specific, factual benefits for each individual involved – can be helpful when you need to convince stakeholders of the value of a proposed process change. Need to secure budget from top management? Focus on operational efficiencies, productivity gains, and the expected return on investment. To rally support from end users, communicate how the change will make their jobs easier. For example, the social worker who learns that a new process will reduce her paperwork burden by one hour per day – giving her more time with clients – will look forward to a change rather than fear it.

The risk: If workers don’t feel they’re adequately trained in a new process, they’ll reject it and revert to old ways of doing something.

How to mitigate it: If you choose a format and content that keeps users engaged during training, they’ll be more likely to remember and apply what they’ve learned – and adoption will naturally follow. Since 65% of the population are visual learners, it makes sense that kinetic, demonstrative training can engage a majority of users more effectively than lecture- or text-based training. Additionally, make sure to plan for how users will manage their existing workloads while they are in training. For example, allow child welfare workers a flexible work schedule during training to give them time to complete home visits and paperwork outside of normal business hours. Or, for child support and economic services workers, avoid scheduling appointments the hour after training so that walk-ins who are waiting can be served.

The risk: Workers will be hesitant to incorporate a new process into their daily routines if there’s not enough end-user support once the process has been implemented.

How to mitigate it: By following a few proven support practices, you can help reduce workers’ fears. Plan to provide support for 2-3 weeks immediately following training, including both access to solution provider experts and help from agency peers. Keep track of common issues and questions that surface during support too, and share them regularly with both users and the project team. Depending on how they like to be communicated with, send a group email with bullet points or post FAQs on a bulletin board in a high-traffic common area that workers can view on a daily basis.


Change can be difficult for organizations and individuals alike. Nevertheless, human services agencies must embrace organizational process changes in order to drive continuous improvement. Our resources can help: