Ultimately, however, your job will be to manage expectations and communicate.
By Matthew Nelson, NYLife
Don't get me wrong, if you are thinking of changing vendors for your employee engagement programs, go for it. But don't go into the process thinking it is going to be easy to flip the switch from one vendor to another.
Here are some lessons I learned to achieve flipping the switch successfully:
The RFP Process: Managing Expectations
When we started the Request for Proposal process, I underestimated the number of partners, the amount of time and the number of communications (managing expectations) needed for a smooth transition. Think about it. Any online system means that you will need to engage the following departments in your company:
- Project management (we are philanthropists and engagement folks, let the experts manage the process)
- Technology (you will get into the weeds like never before)
- Security (you are sending personnel data over the wires, do it safely)
- Audit (they will give you peace of mind, even if it is an arduous process)
- Human Resources (they have the data you need)
- Payroll (especially if you are doing payroll deductions)
- Controllers (they will make you jump through the hoops but it is worth it to know the systems you create internally and with your vendor are rock solid)
You will have lots of new friends from across the company!
Because you are the business owner, you will meet with all of the above departments so they understand your programs. They will want you in every meeting. The transition will be nearly a full-time job for you so make sure your usual job gets covered.
Ultimately, however, your job will be to manage expectations and communicate. Jill Johnson, president of Management Mastery, offers sage advice:
“The project management associated with the evaluation, selection and implementation of a new vendor solution has everything to do with managing expectations and providing frequent, clear and consistent communication. In my engagements, one must constantly re-visit and re-adjust expectations with a variety of stakeholders relative to a variety of topics – budget, schedule, requirements, deliverables, understanding, etc. There is little room for ambiguity in any and all communication – be specific.”
There will be setbacks, unanticipated consequences and glitches. Name that up front.
When I bought my first house, a friend and real estate lawyer told me to expect three major crises in the process. When the sewer line looked like it was filled with tree roots, I thought, “one down and two to go.” Normally I would have freaked out, but my expectations were managed well and I was soon the proud owner of my first home.
…And Lots of Communication
You will need to communicate up and out. Your leadership will want to know the progress. Have a small steering committee that can help you get the resources you need to be successful. You might want to have the heads of the departments listed above on the steering committee. Together, they will think of things no one business area would think about.
You will also need to keep your employee base informed. Send out teasers of some of the new upcoming features. If you set a launch date (and give yourself plenty of extra time), make sure you deliver on it. Deadlines are always helpful but they are also fraught with disappointment and the need to apologize. Lead with your strengths and set a realistic launch date.
Pick Up the Slack: Thanking the Troops
After your programs launch, have a recognition event for all those other departments who chipped in. We gave out awards to every person involved. They were all a little silly, but the one-liner awards reflected the role they played in the success of the transition. From the very top, the “Resources R Us” award went to our Chief Administrative Officer for getting all the right people to drive the planning and implementation.
And to all my colleagues who had to jump in and cover my usual work, they received the “Pick Up the Slack” award. The awards were a great way to acknowledge and thank everyone involved.
Making the transition from one vendor to another will give you a whole new skill set, a new set of internal friends, a greater appreciation of how your systems work and the satisfaction of knowing you are promoting philanthropy and engagement in new ways. Buckle up!
Join Matthew at the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship on April 3-4, 2014, one of the country’s leading conferences on employee engagement and corporate social responsibility with attendees from Fortune 500 companies across all sectors of business.