New technologies have great potential and promise for transforming and digitising HR. However, many programmes are failing to deliver their return on investment. You can buy and build a bright shiny box, but if it is not being fully utilised, the benefits diminish rapidly, hence why adoption is a hot topic in this space.

There are three common reasons why adoption is a problem. First, when coping with constant disruption, how do you get your organisation to focus on adopting this new piece of technology? Second, the speed and scale of technology change is now much greater than the individual speed of behavioural change. Finally, there is relentless pressure to deliver results, meaning programmes tend to focus on the technology and not on adoption. The net result is failure of programmes to deliver the SaaS promise.


A new paradigm in software adoption is emerging, rendering conventional wisdom ineffective and is offering a smarter approach that will accelerate ROI.

Conventional wisdom

When utilising a structured approach to change management, there is a defined methodology. This is normally predicated on a waterfall, linear approach, supported by a paper based toolkit involving lots of spreadsheets, analysis and PowerPoint decks.

This is conventional wisdom on change management. Whilst the core principles are sound; it tends to reinforce what we already know (challenges of adoption), feels daunting at the large number of activities and resources required, focuses on measuring inputs (not outcomes) and fails to address the challenges of a moving target (i.e. high frequency change).

Is there a smarter way of driving adoption?

A smarter approach?

A smarter approach means adapting your methods based on what you’ve learned about what works. Rather than following a step-by-step method, you experiment, get feedback, learn from it, and follow that loop again. This is what some people refer to as an agile approach.

There are new digital tools for change management too, called digital adoption tools. Like any good app, there are handy help buttons and on demand guidance to aid understanding. When someone gets stuck, it will know where they are and gives them the right materials or plays a video to help them move past it.

This means that if you are a global organisation, not all of whom speak English as a first language, instead of having to implement training or communications in every single country, the coaching capabilities can be managed centrally and change executed at the point of need.

The final aspect of the smarter approach is about moving towards a devolved structure. Instead of having one central team responsible for learning, a top-down approach, churning out initiative after initiative from the centre, we are able to cost effectively provide the right tools and motivation that enable individuals to choose when and how they engage.

Top tips on bringing adoption to the forefront

Usually, when people go to buy a new HR system, the focus will be on getting it set up and configured. Typically, it’s only when they’re ready for launch that they think about training, communications and engagement. Just because you have built the bright shiny box, it doesn’t mean your people will follow.

Adoption needs to be thought about much earlier on. The technology is the easy part - adoption is far more difficult. So, how do we bring adoption to the forefront?

One of the biggest challenges in software adoption is around leadership. Technology is not just for the techies. Wherever leaders may be on the spectrum of whether technology rules or is just a fad, they need to embrace the potential of new technologies.

Pace is also a big thing. HR need to recognise that sometimes you need to slow down in order to get to the outcome faster. Then there’s moving away from the idea that every change programme has a start, middle, and end. With high-frequency change, there is no nirvana. Just like we have to adapt to each new iPhone update, we have to keep on changing.

There are also specific challenges in terms of how we engage our people. It is no longer good enough to communicate, communicate, communicate. Our people behave more like consumers, and we have to convince them that this new system is good for them, or else why should they bother? The user experience has to be at the forefront when bringing in these new systems.

What we need to do is educate organisations who are about to embark on these change programmes, so that they look for help before they stumble.

Niraj Varia is Managing Partner at Invate-HR, an innovative, boutique Workday consulting firm with a unique perspective on how to help clients maximise their return on investment.

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