“Our organization is transitioning to a new system.”
This kind of announcement can turn a nonprofit upside down – in a good or bad way. Hopefully, most people are excited about the change.
But! You’ll inevitably have staff who are confused about the move, if not anxious. That’s because they probably have more questions (than assurances) about how this change will impact their work.
That’s why we all need to be on the same page when it comes to system implementations. And it specifically falls on our leaders to be clear, careful, and in touch with the concerns of staff.
Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time building buy-in for [enter-fancy-new-system-name-here].
Here are 4 considerations for talking about your nonprofit’s data transition: based on things leaders say, and how it gets received by their staff.
Tips for Speaking About Your New Tech System
When Leaders Say: “We’re transitioning to a new system.”
What Staff Think: “This is going to upend life (work) as we know it.”
Yeaaa, things are going to get weird for a while. New systems call for different ways of working, an adjustment that always comes with challenges!
Just remember there is real opportunity here. The right platform, with the right methodology, can move the needle on your org’s mission. It just so happens that this opportunity comes with a bit of a learning curve.
Tip: Be honest with your staff: you know this project comes with it’s challenges! But at the end of the day, this is something you’re all working towards for the sake of the org.
When Leaders Say: “This will make us stronger as an organization.”
What Staff Think: “My job is about to get a lot harder.”
The hardest part of any transition is the transition itself: specifically, adjusting the way we work. But this helps everyone in the long run.
By collecting data at all, your org is building the institutional knowledge necessary for teams to thrive in the years to come. It also becomes easier to assess our efforts and track outcomes.
Tip: Try to communicate two whys: 1) why this implementation and 2) why-you-should-care-specifically. The latter can help your staff feel more empowered by the change.
When Leaders Say: “This will be an organizational priority.”
What Staff Think: “They’re making me do this.”
I hear you. There’s not enough time in the day, and now you’re being told to do the technological equivalent of learning to walk again. It’s not ideal. But it does make sense.
We’re all creatures of habit. If no one tells us to change things up for the sake of a new system, we probably wouldn’t.
Also, new data systems are expensive – in money and time. When you make an investment that big, you really need people to use it!
Tip: This is not a free pass for leaders to force systems onto people. Responsible leadership means building a roll-out plan: for staff to learn, ask questions, and make (honest) mistakes with the new system.
When Leaders Say: “This will help us be more transparent.”
What Staff Think: “They want to know my every move.”
This boils down to communication. It’s reasonable to be held accountable for how you use this system. But if that data will be used to evaluate teams or individuals (like for raises & promotions), then that should be crystal clear.
To wrap this up…
It doesn’t matter how much it costs. A system only succeeds if staff are encouraged to adopt it. By making thoughtful communication choices, leaders are entirely capable of setting the tone for a successful system implementation!
Are you going through a transition right now at your organization? What tips do you have?