My mission this week has been special and urgent: To help my client’s Workday HCM project team get a handle on reporting. Historically, clients have not focused much attention on reporting because they hear early on that Workday has “hundreds of standards reports.” That is true, but there’s a catch: Workday reports don’t work like, or look like, the reports users are accustomed to. It turns out that can be a problem.

Workday reportsMy client has a list of 140 PeopleSoft reports that need to be accommodated, but they had fallen to the bottom of the to-do list. Now, approaching Go Live, they need someone to take charge. I studied the list of reports: Employee demographics—who they are, where they are, their emergency contact information. Headcount reports—number of employees, fulltime or part-time, open positions. Budget reports—people costs for divisions or departments. The more I read, the more obvious it became that most of the reports were operational. They weren’t for HR; they were for managers—often the toughest and most critical audience when it comes to user adoption of systems like Workday.

Change management typically approaches managers as though self-service is a gift. “Great news!” we tell them. “You’ll be able to get whatever information you need, all by yourself.” More often than not, however, managers view self-service as suddenly having to take on tasks that HR used to do for them. Even worse, they must transition from PeopleSoft to Workday or from Workday to SAP or whatever system the organization is moving from and to.

I’ve been aware for some time that Workday reporting can be an obstacle to user acceptance, but I hadn’t thought specifically about reporting as key to manager adoption. It makes perfect sense: Managers need these reports to do their jobs. If the reports aren’t user friendly, managers are too busy to figure out why the reports don’t look or work the way they want them to—that is, like the legacy system reports. And if the new system won’t give them a report they’ve gotten for the past 15 years, they will stonewall the change. They will say the system is flawed and they will find ways to work around it.

This is bad news, because managers are the most significant influence on employee adoption. According to Prosci, managers play key roles as Communicator, Advocate, Coach, Liaison, and Resistance Manager. Not only will unhappy managers neglect these roles, they also will infect their peers and the people who work for them. Employees will absorb their managers’ negative attitudes about the change, even though the perceived shortcomings of the reporting capability don’t affect them directly.

One reason reporting may be overlooked as a change issue is that it isn’t clear who should be responsible for it. The project team is focused on getting things done, not on how people will use the system. The change team is involved in training and communication, organization and leadership alignment, and preparing materials for rollout. Reporting falls through the cracks because everyone thinks someone else is doing it, if they think about it at all.

Because it is a special type of change, reporting requires one of two kinds of investment: either addressing it through change management, or recreating the reports in Workday formats. A hybrid approach might involve analyzing the organization’s reports to determine which are unique and of high value and which are informational. Organizations might also include reporting as a topic during executives interviews at the beginning of the project, to help determine which reports can be standard formats and which must be customized.

Although rationalizing reports isn’t difficult, it can be time consuming. The combination of skills to do it well is uncommon, and the individual almost certainly will not come from the implementer. It requires someone who is familiar with legacy data and what the client was doing with it, and who is sufficiently at ease with the new system to make the translation. This “‘Reports Coordinator” should function as liaison and consolidator, collecting sample reports to see what information each area of the organization needs for essential reporting and critical decisions.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid a last-minute crisis may be to create a separate project work stream for reporting. We already have Integrations and Functional work streams such as Human Capital, Payroll, Benefits, Financial, and Procurement. A Reporting work stream that puts resources in place during the design/architect phase would ensure that reporting needs are considered early, not as an afterthought.

In any case, organizations planning for change management around reporting should do so within the usual framework, addressing the common reasons that managers resist change:

Cynicism that the change was necessary.

The business reasons for the change may not be obvious to managers. They may challenge the reasons stated or disagree that the new reports are an improvement. Make a strong case for the change and involve managers early to get their buy-in and feedback

Loss of power and control.

Managers could view changes in reporting as an infringement on their autonomy. Forcing them to use the new formats may be perceived as insulting their judgment and experience. Involve them in testing the new formats and incorporate their suggestions.

Surplus of tasks and responsibilities.

Managers may feel that the change imposes an additional burden when they are already under pressure. They will feel more appreciated and less overwhelmed if you acknowledge the demands they are experiencing to perform daily activities and implement the change.

Skill deficiencies.

Managers may be afraid that they lack the skills and experience to master the new reporting system, which will make it difficult to make good decisions. They may also fear they will lose their jobs. Assuring them of your support and providing the training they need will mitigate their fears.

Change is complicated and organizations can’t afford to have managers who are either uncommitted or hostile. Thoughtfully addressing reporting as a critical factor in manager buy-in will clear the way for them to embrace the change—and their role as change agent with the people who depend on them.