Climate to support technology change: An empirical study of an HRIS

implementation
E. Wilson-Evered1 , C. E. J. Härtel,1 N. J Hingston,2 P. Whitman and J. Laing,3
1
Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2
N.J. Hingston Contracting, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
3
University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
Abstract
Despite their widespread application over many years, the implementation of human resource information
systems continues to be fraught with problems. Failures and complications are frequent with estimates
ranging between 40% and 70%. Costs of failed technology projects are immeasurable but some estimates are
in excess of US$12.6 million per project. Even when implemented, there is evidence that the management
information systems are used strategically. There is limited recent empirical research conducted during HRIS
implementation and in particular few studies have explored the climate of the organization within which the
project operates. Integrating project implementation methodologies within a change management and
innovation framework offers alternative direction for research and new insights to improved implementation
methodologies. In this paper, we report a study of an HRIS implementation of 6500 employees during a
period of major organizational change. The study tests a model of predictors of support for innovation and
change. In accordance with our propositions, we find that transformational leadership, information about
technology change, emotional satisfaction and participative decision making account for 46% of the variance
in support for new ideas. This study is distinguished by the direct application of the findings to inform the
implementation methodology.
Acknowledgments
Funding support for this research was partially provided by an ARC SPIRT Grant awarded to Professor
Debbie Terry, University of Queensland. The authors acknowledge the contribution of Professor Terry, Dr
Blake McKimmie, Ms Katie Wilson, Mr Cameron Newton and Ms Nicole Doherty of the University of
Queensland, Brisbane, Australia and the support of Mr Graeme Carswell (Chair) and the Project
Management Group of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospitals, Brisbane, Australia.

Introduction
“Businesses cannot afford the write offs associated with information technology project failures not to
mention secondary effects such as lost opportunities, reputations and staff morale.” Katzen, 2001:
p.48.
Increasingly complex human resource information systems (HRISs) are required for contemporary
strategic HR planning and management to enable effective workforce analysis, forecasting, trend analysis and
decision making (Caldas & Wood, 2000). Although, the trend for multinationals is for enterprise-wide
resource planning systems (ERPs), the less complex HRIS features in many Australian businesses. Though
commonplace, the implementation of a new HRIS often occurs in organizations where managers and staff
are unprepared for the scale of change looming before them. Consequently, people resist or distance
themselves and many HRIS projects fail to realise projected benefits and deliverables and experience overrun
budgets. A report published in November 2002 by KPMG (Harvey, 2002) found that 56% businesses
suffered a failed IT project in the preceding year with an average cost of US$12.6 per project. Australia’s
spending on IT continues to rise with the government sector’s (ABS, 2001) total expenditure on information
technology and telecommunications (IT&T) for 2000 being estimated at $4.3 billion or 5% of total government

which. 1999. Finally. the organizational climate. growth and confidence (Pasmore & Fagan. Despite the wealth investment in people. 1992). 2003 2 . Bagozzi & Warshaw. 2002). 1989. and useful (e. This study takes place in the health care industry which has unique characteristics. 1995). People develop efficacy through access to training and learning supports that enable their professional development. time. Space limitation prevents a complete exposition of the implementation methodology. we offer recommendations for practice and directions for future research. Whitman & Laing. technology change is driven by clinicians without the normal laws of supply and demand. 1997. Acceptance of new initiatives in general (West. Further. the implementation methodology by many professional project teams is often ‘one size fits all’ and does not adapt to the unique climate of each organization. This widespread phenomenon has led to the studies conducted by scholars and practitioners from diverse range of disciplines from organizational development (eg. to have a project group ‘outside. Zammuto & Gifford. Martinsons & Chong. Härtel. This is followed with a report of the findings and the way in which they informed project management. is the organisation’s drive for more time. In the health context. information and acceptance often manifesting in panic and resistance (Castle & Sir. 1999). health care organizations do not make the most effective strategic use of information systems (Orr. This situation is a delicate blend of tensions. Theoretical and Empirical Basis for Propositions Despite refinements to present day IT designs and implementation methodologies. often with costly results. is dependent on the opposing pull of at least two competing forces. In terms of the context. 1993). On the one hand. organisations choose to use homegrown methodologies to manage IT projects (Harvey. such as the software being reliable and appropriate IT success. software and hardware. faster completion of tasks). 1999). in turn. Schnitt. the organisational context and the implementation methodology. and implementation programs often exceed projected budgets or they may be aborted prior to full implementation (Martinsons & Chong. Igbaria & Iivara. Hingston. 1995. acceptance of the new technology and effective use of HRISs. It is important. Karahanna & Straub. resulting in a clash of values and priorities (Goodman. Nevertheless. we identify the project teams’ drive for a speedy efficient implementation. 1995). Ibgaria & Iivari. 2003).HRIS Implementation operating expenditure. 1999). Caldas & Wood. the organization to lead the implementation initially as these people are not bound by cultural norms and fears that can cloud decision making. 2003). All other things being equal. We begin by describing the empirical and theoretical basis for the study. 1996) is contingent on the degree to which the climate is open to and supportive of new ideas and innovation. 2001). IT and organisational change literature cite the lack of support from the workforce as the primary cause of unsuccessful IT implementation programs (Martinsons. Implementation problems stem from lack of attention. Rather we report an empirical study embedded in a range of initiatives designed to promote openness to new ideas. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) is a cognitivebased model investigating factors responsible for low user involvement in IT (Szajna. Gray & Harbrow. Recent studies have reported further that computer experience and organisational support impact on self-efficacy. the cost of technology failures is immeasurable but the reasons for projects failing could help pave the way for success.g. and organizational change strategy so that although the system ‘in’ the organisation continues to have problems (Jones. 1989. 2001) to engineering (eg Kern & Jaron. and on the other. Spending on health care related technology is currently projected at a massive US$1. Lewin’s (1947) force field analysis to this tension is illustrative. effects perceived usefulness and ease of use (Davis. Perceived usefulness is the most important determinant (Davis. 2001) and this contributes to the lack of benefits realisation.3 trillion (Kern & Jaron. 2001). we report a study of the organisational context (climate) and the way in which the implementation methodology was adapted to fit through collaboration between project and organisational constituencies. In this paper.. New technology in health care differs from other sectors as costs are viewed as an investment that will lead to improved service quality to patients and the community (Kern & Jaron. Empirical studies of the model have reported consistently that people are more likely to use IT if they perceive the system is easy to use. from which we explicate a model of support for change and innovation. 2003). therefore. Sohal. Wilson-Evered. 2001) and new technologies in particular (Szajna. problems are inherent on the organisational systems and organisational climate in which the HRIS is imposed. As Katzen (2001) notes. Conversely.

2001b). At the individual level. we argue that specific information is required during HRIS implementation that makes explicit the impact. which had been implemented 20 years previously. Below. enabled and supported by colleagues and leaders (Cohen. Shull. Communication has been identified by a many scholars and practitioners as a significant determinant of effective organisational change (Lewis. Contemporary research on an Australian health care networks implementing new technologies found that strategic use of technology was constrained by: lack of understanding of IT investments and potential outcomes. Professional development: the amount and opportunities for training and professional development will influence directly the climate for change and innovation 4. Watson & Pillia. 2003 3 . Wilson-Evered. we summarise these facets predictive of support for innovation and change: 1. 2001). 2003). Further.HRIS Implementation As mentioned previously. the new systems created organisational links between staffing practices. Wilson-Evered. 2. Hartel & Neale. payroll processing and financial management. Participation in decision-making: end-users and key stakeholders involved at all stages will potentate and change embracing climate 3. At an organisational level. Next. Jung & Berson. different groups revealed distinct patterns of predictors (Wilson-Evered. 1995). previous research has demonstrated the effectiveness of the transformational leadership style in stimulating innovation and change among followers (Bass. 5. support and other organisational systems will influence their innovative potential. energy. enthusiasm and feel good about feedback. 1996). As an indicator of acceptance of new technologies we propose that that an organisational climate embracing change and openness to new ideas is one in which change will flourish. Whitman & Laing. 1996). Schmidt. Though a superseded HRIS. 1999. 2001a. Hartel & Rowe. Eisenbach. management and HR issues. Important elements of climate that influence the way in which change is perceived and embraced by employees (Rogg. al. Emotional satisfaction: the degree to which employees experience high morale. high morale. Avolio. 2001). However. The two packages were linked with middle ware to enable pays to be calculated directly from the roster. recent work by Perola -Marlo and colleagues (2002) has demonstrated the importance of affective events on team climate and innovative performance on research and development (R&D) teams. change is more effective where participation is encouraged. confidence in technology and change leadership. & Seibold. Schmidt. ESP is an automated rostering system to replace the paper and pencil or EXCEL based systems. A neglected but increasingly important area of study is the effect of the affective experiences of the workplace to encourage acceptance of new ideas and change. 2003. Similarly. However. Royal Brisbane and Women’s (RBWH) were schedule to begin the simultaneous implementation of the Queensland Health’s (QH) standard package Human Resource Management information systems of LATTICE and ESP (Environment for Scheduling Personnel). low distress. Leadership: is vital to support of technology change and specifically the transformational leadership with facilitate climate that is receptive to major change and innovation. Climate represents shared perceptions about the way in which the organization works across a number of dimensions (James & McIntyre.and by extrapolation technology acceptance (Ford & Ford. 1996). the organizational context or the climate has an impact on the implementation of new technologies. a previous study on hospitals implementing the same systems found that support for innovation was contingent upon employee job satisfaction. Information and Communication: the amount of information and communication about the IT project will predict the degree to which the organization is open to new ideas and change. Hartel & Rowe. WilsonEvered. LATTICE replaces PRISM/Caspay. and competing fiscal demands (Orr et. we explore facets of climate that have been implicated in effecting change. This project represented a massive change to business processes and work practices affecting everyone in the organisation. Härtel. little awareness by managers of the competitive gains of IT. Similarly. 2000). 2003. Background and Organisational Context In July 2001. specific facets of the organisational appear important for HRIS project effectiveness. Hingston. Employee perceptions of communication (conversations about the change) influence the course of a change . From the foregoing review. Further. the timeframes and the value of the implementation for each employee. Extensive research on innovation has found that climate processes encourage experimentation with new ideas is associa ted with a change (West & Anderson.

hospital newsletters. various staff members were approached (or volunteered) to train as Client Service Officers (HR staff) or ESP Users (Staffers/Schedulers). such as leadership. Respondents were advised that that the purpose of survey was to assess staff opinions regarding the integration and redevelopment of the RBH and RWH hospitals. better workforce planning) of LATTICE-ESP. plan and schedule. brochures. divisions/departments common to both hospitals had been merged under a single management. all user groups met with multidisciplinary organisational and design representatives to ensure that the work practices and database configurations were both user-friendly and tailored as far as possible to specific departmental requirements. As part of the integration initiative. principally from the University of Queensland.500 employees) necessitated a “staggered” implementation to reduce risk factors associated with the ‘big bang’ approach. The survey was developed through research. both hospitals were to occupy a single building by the end of 2002. such as workshops. employees were grouped according to the existing six Payroll (1100 employees each). However. Two systems administrators were employed for ESP and one for the LATTICE was in place for managing the database on the LATTICE system. The implementation process therefore involved six sub-projects each with its own project staff. The challenges of establishing and accurately maintaining the employee databases and administrative structures required by the systems were considerable. Hingston. Training was conducted by experts in both information systems and is considered an on-going process. reduction in time spent developing staff schedules. RBH and RWH employees were informed about the implementation of the two information systems. These meetings served the dual purpose of senior divisional members distributing information to their employees as well as enabling employee input into the decision making process. collocated on the same campus as the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. This progressive merging provided additional challenges for the implementation as new structures. when each of the six teams would begin implementation). Project Preparation In the period leading up the Staff Opinion Survey. Intranet and notice boards. information was disseminated in other media. 2003 4 . management teams and clinical services. unlike these other hospitals. work groups were formed. However. The number of employees precluded direct contact with each person. The implementation from July 2001 to November 2002 was implemented during a 5-year period of major structural change and rebuilding. Finally. experience in organisational research (Griffin. The survey was distributed to all staff between December 2001 and January 2002. senior QH project managers conducted regular meetings with senior members of each division/department. A letter from the District Manager was included that encouraged completion in work time organisational surveys were conducted 1-2 Wilson-Evered. Survey scales supplied on request from the first author. Härtel. Some divisions were already merged. the size of the RBH and RWH (6. For 60 years. and greater perception of consistency and equity through the improvement of staff scheduling work practices.HRIS Implementation benefits include up-to-date payment (including overtime. recall. The information provided encompassed the nature. other integrations occurred under varied circumstances.g. and the implementation of LATTICE and ESP. The Corporate IS group allocated a project member to the team and participated in the project steering committee and other decision making groups. These two systems. and others disbanded each week.. 2000) and in consultation with academics from a number of university departments. had been implemented in other QH facilities. rationale and employee benefits (e. Each grouping (employees with corresponding HR/Payroll Team (Lattice user) and Rostering officer (ESP User) commenced implementation on the two systems at six weekly intervals. improved effectiveness and utilization of staff resources. the RBH and RWH were separate entities with independent operating budgets. both together and separately. redevelopment and integration. consistent interpretation of QH awards. organisational climate. more accurate pay. The RBWH were at the time two major tertiary teaching hospitals. and the implementation “time-line” (i. However. Whitman & Laing. Hart & Wilson-Evered. Furthermore. In addition. Method The overall aim of the Staff Opinion Survey was to assess staff attitudes towards a variety of aspects in their work environment. shift penalties). Consequently. We report analysis of a subset of the dataset in order to test specifically our proposed model.e. resulting in an unstable organisational structure and disrupted staff.

Härtel.HRIS Implementation yearly to evaluate a range of variables targeted to improve staff satisfaction and organisational climate. These two departments also recorded the highest survey response rate across all divisions/departments. Six questions were developed in house to evaluate the HRIS and Rostering software Implementation. the level is acceptable for organisational research especially during a period of total reconstruction. all variables in the study were significantly correlated. most requested more information.” Cronbach’s alphas for all scales were in the range . Whilst the overall response rate is low. Wilson-Evered. we present the results of the multiple regression.80-. Analyses The results of the analyses identified that all divisions require more knowledge about the new systems. Two areas produced a good response rate (40%) and other areas delivered low returns (7-10%). Finally. maintaining code numbers so that they were not accessible to any member of the hospital or project staff. reorganisation and reengineering. For each question. respondents rated the extent of their knowledge of the new systems on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Results Respondents The 444 employees who responded to the survey (RBH = 188. 2003 5 . Support for new ideas was extracted from Anderson and West’s (1998) Team Climate Inventory. A number of strategies were employed to ensure confidentiality: coding all surveys. All scales used Likert type response formats. RBH and RWH = 126) were from 14 separate hospital divisions/departments. The higher level of knowledge may be a product of greater enthusiasm in general and a positive climate among the group. in some cases their lower knowledge is most likely related to implementation beginning later than the majority of other departments. Response Rate A total of 2250 surveys were distributed (adjusting for surveys returned unopened) and 444 completed surveys were returned for an overall response rate of 19. RWH = 130. and professional growth were derived from the Organizational Climate from the QPASS instrument (Hart.7%. Griffin. al (2000) brief measure developed in the Australian context. However. Consequently. The majority of work areas were aware of their sub-optimal level of knowledge. “I have been informed about the new information systems” and “I am aware of the changes involved in implementing the new systems. Hingston. correlations and simple multiple regression. Transformational leadership was evaluated using the Carless et. these groups were particularly affected by the merging of their departments. an indicator of at least modest interest in and possibly enthusiasm towards the change process. Whitman & Laing. Data were analysed by application of frequencies. or other recognition. Table 1 provides the results of the Pearson’s correlation of the variables in the model. and securing all surveys at the University of Queensland where data entry took place. Example items are. thanks. There is good team spirit in this place and I am encouraged in my work by praise. Wearing & Cooper. emotional satisfaction was constructed by deriving items from a number of subscales that indicated positive affective experiences in the work pla ce (eg. ensuring that no personal identification was possible in the feedback process. Areas with scores lower than the mean were especially identified. two teams had not yet begun their implementation but showed good knowledge of the information systems and were superior to other groups.90. However. 1996). Measures Subscales measuring participative decision-making. In Table 2.

560** .585** . 2003 6 .723** . Table 2.05 level (2-tailed).296** decision making 6. participative decision making and professional growth as the independent variables.263** Growth 3 4 5 6 .573** . Open to new .560** .723** .611** .575** .357** Leadership Acceptance of . Hingston. Correlations among variables in the study. This analysis was run to evaluate which organisational climate measure has a predictive influence over support for new ideas. Standard multiple regression of organisational outcome measures on the acceptance of new ideas. Härtel. Transformational .580** .697** ** Correlation is significant at the 0.181* Leadership 4.585** . Informed about . Whitman & Laing. Figure 1 presents the results of model testing.436** -. decision . Variables 1 2 1.132* technology Emotional .181** 1 .580** .611** .323** making (PDM) Professional .289** ideas 5.575** .755** . Wilson-Evered.225** 1 . Trans Accept Emot PDM Prof New ß R2 Adjust Leader Tech Satis growth ideas ed R2 Transformational 1 .263** .446** A standard multiple regression was conducted between support given for new ideas as the dependant variable and transformational leadership. * Correlation is significant at the 0.289** .573** . acceptance of technology.01 level (2-tailed).225** IT 3. Professional .461 . Emotional Satisfaction 2.HRIS Implementation Table 1. emotional satisfaction.436** .755** 1 . Participative .209* Growth .296** .206* satisfaction Particip.697** 1 .

36)p>. Second. a program of research including both qualitative and quantitative measures should be established to developed enhance theoretical models of technology change and innovation. Hingston. knowledge of systems and leadership skills. the climate variables we proposed contributed significantly to the prediction of support for new ideas. Professional growth was also seen to be a significant predictor however there appeared a negative relationship (ß=-. Discussion This study presents a rare attempt to conduct research during the implementation of two human resource information systems in a large organization undergoing a merger and rebuilding program.05. participative decision making and being well informed about the process of implementation and value of new technology all play a significant role in generating an climate open to new ideas during major change.001. researching the degree to which managers use and access to timely accurate data predicts improved organizational decision making.32 * Participative Decision Making -0. transformational leadership. Therefore.21 * Support for new ideas and change 0. 2003 7 .001.32)p>. climate.21)p>. The model accounts for 46% (44% adjusted) of the variability in acceptance of new ideas.21)p>. Whitman & Laing. Wilson-Evered. first to link climate data with project outcome data and in particular. Third. 2001). enthusiasm and positive feelings about the workplace.21 Predictors in Model Accounts for 46% of variance in Support for new ideas Professional Growth As predicted. the study confirms that professional growth.13)p>. The findings provide strong support for the contention that a climate supportive of innovation and change is shaped by the presence of a transformational leader who ensure opportunities exist for professional development and growth and active involvement in decision-making. The likely explanation of this artefact given the positive value found in the correlations is that of professional growth is acting as a suppressor variable (Tabachnik & Fiddell. Model of predictors of support for new ideas Transformational Leadership 0. Transformational leadership (ß=.13 * Emotional Satisfaction 0.HRIS Implementation Figure 1. future studies might question the relationship between leadership. Further research is needed in a number of areas. Employees are more open to change where there is effective communication and information about the systems and the emotional experience of employees is predicated on high workplace morale. and participative decision-making (ß=. Finally. were the strongest predictors followed by emotional satisfaction (ß=. to evaluations of changes in end user and line manages use of new practices. emotional satisfaction. user and line manager effectiveness and increased access to and use of management information.38 * Accepting new technology 0.05. Härtel.05 and acceptance of technology (ß=.

c) Diverse and deep interventions within the established change management strategy that emphasised participation. 1. thereby increase technology competency and self-efficacy. and how the systems will assist workforce planning. collaboration. development and dissemination of informative brochures. iii) multimodal multilevel surveys followed by feedback. v) line manager and user meetings. Information was reiterated about the nature and rationale of the new systems. Härtel. learning and empowerment of client groups and project staff. iv) team management structure Wilson-Evered. facilitation.project & district developed a complimentary approach. c) Team support systems included: i) information and communication systems (eg. iii) human resource systems and management policies. one to one on the job support. Group user session with expert. senior managers and frequent briefings with project Sponsor and Director. i) data download from HR system interfaced to excel format. These findings were folded into the communication and change management strategy of all project teams. the changes to work practices and business processes. system data integrity checks) training systems. Where this was not possible. 2003 8 . discussion and action planning. reward systems (eg. iv) user readiness assessments. internal project management. project approach promoted. Such sessions allowed staff to voice concerns enabled employees to take of their learning and development. facilitated and nurtured team development and growth. the computer network arrangement assisted the necessary communication and co-ordination of their work however.allowed for subsequent follow up with both trainer and trainee. ii) focus groups. 2. Teams comprising of hospital and project staff were integrated but not necessarily co-located although this was promoted. Information deployment and project ownership via extensive communication strategy supported by data enabled environment for monitoring and decision-making and operationalised through: a) Systems tests. HR/Payroll and team. test reports. promoting successes). Examples of enabling tactics include: i) line manager interviews and consultations. Whitman & Laing. Space limitations preclude description of the implementation methodology however in line with the findings of the survey crucial areas were the focus of intense interventions. especially as risks were spotted on the horizon. v) tracking testing results over time across the teams. combined project teams aligned to HR/Payroll groups. checklists and progress reports). and numerous modes of training were incorporated into the training and education strategy. Below we summarise some of the strategies used. In line with our finding about the importance of professional growth. training assessments. iii) trainee evaluation of the course contents . small implementation project teams that were responsible for undertaking the completion of certain activities for their team. ii) measurement systems (eg.HRIS Implementation Implications for practice The analysis of the HRIS Scale revealed results below the mean on several of the items. ii) objective measurement of trainer performance. user-involvement and training was targeted as an integral change strategy. iv) reports translated numerically and graphically for both HR/Payroll and senior management interpretation and project monitoring. Project Team structure: a) Teamworking strategies introduced to support a participative management approach. evaluation and improvement groups vi) coaching and mentoring project staff. work practices and business information flows. iii) analysis of end user performance and ability to follow up problem areas before go-live resulted in a sense of positive competitiveness within teams so that scores could be improved as implementation proceeded. face-to-face meetings were frequent. meetings such as sponsor. ii) on-demand data management to capture preliminary and test results before go-live. A subproject team was allocated to make explicit and communicate employee benefits expected from the new technologies because awareness of the benefits was particularly low across all hospital divisions/departments apart from two. Hingston. b) Training assessments such as i) assessment form completed by trainees at the end of each training session. Information was succinct and free of technical jargon to facilitate a clearer understanding of the implications of the new systems and disseminated to line managers in ace-to-face as far as possible. multidisciplinary user. b) Teams within teams . the implemented timeline for each division/department. A clearer understanding of the new systems was provided by the use of flow charts demonstrating changes to job content. multidisciplinary user teams representative of the HR/Payroll groups.

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