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By Mark Diamond, CEO & Founder, Contoural, Inc.


While in-house counsel may have the authority to mandate new record retention and other information governance policies and processes, actually getting employees to follow them requires a strategy. Changing employee behavior from non-compliant "save everything, everywhere, forever" to "save the right information, in the right place, for the right amount of time" requires a thoughtful and targeted approach. Acceptable, sustainable and lasting change requires effective Employee Behavior Change Management.


What Is Employee Behavior Change Management?

Employee Behavior Change Management is a formal discipline that incorporates messaging, communication, training and audit to affect behavior changes from the current state to the desired one. Specifically, a change management strategy identifies employee behaviors that need to change, and takes a systematic approach to address these behaviors. Understanding the baseline behaviors, pain points and benefits will help ensure a successful implementation of the new solutions and processes and ultimately lead to compliance with legal, regulatory and business requirements. Designed to drive users toward new behaviors and to measure progress in achieving compliance, these activities include providing formal, consistent communications and training to employees, managers and executive sponsors throughout the change process.

A change management strategy should also include identification of key metrics. With the proper metrics, tangible project results can be tracked and communicated. For instance, sample metrics such as employee retention behavior, productivity metrics around document retrieval and management time, cost/storage related metrics around reductions in data/email stores, increased levels of transparency, and increased effectiveness in responding to records requests could be used to demonstrate the success of the overall program over time.


It is worth noting that most organizations employ IT change management strategies when updating or changing their IT enterprise infrastructure. These types of change management efforts typically involve managing and monitoring the impact a new application on the company's infrastructure. Yet, there is, sometimes, confusion between IT change management and Employee Behavior Change Management. While both take systematic approaches, they are fundamentally different disciplines.


The benefits of an IG behavior change management program include:
  • Drives user adoption - Drives program adoption by business units and employees
  • Communicates consistent messages - Identifies key messages that will resonate with employees (What's in it for me?)
  • Sells program as a win - Messages program as a win for all employees, not a compliance burden
  • Addresses all audience segments - Ensures messages and training are effective for all groups across the entire organization
  • Demonstrates compliance - Demonstrates compliance with requirements and company intent to follow policies


One key to success is developing effective messaging that will engage employees and encourage them to change their behaviors. Many traditional records management programs use messages that are too narrowly focused and only meaningful to in-house counsel or records managers.
Typical messages may include:
  • "We as a company need to meet legal and regulatory requirements."
  • "We have too many emails and files."
  • "This is a company mandate."
A more effective messaging strategy starts by identifying employee pain points around information governance, sensitive or private data and document retention, and then translates the pain points into appropriate benefits and messaging.
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The more time spent on understanding the motivations and benefits to help drive the change, the less resistance will be encountered down the road. Contoural research has repeatedly shown that across hundreds of companies across all industry segments, there is latent employee pain in nearly every environment. While the most effective messaging varies from organization to organization, the key to success is finding the pain and developing the right messaging to drive behavior change.


Communication and Training Plans

Designed to drive users toward new behaviors and to measure progress in achieving compliance, a communication and training plan describes the necessary communications and training content that will need to be delivered to employees during the program implementation. One of the first steps in developing an effective change management plan involves working with in-house communications and training groups to understand what kind of communications and training have been successful in the past for similar types of initiatives. Be sure to ask questions such as: What communication vehicles are most effective? What kind of platforms are available for conducting training? Do employees prefer classroom training? Should the training plan use webinars, computer-based training or other on-line training? A hybrid approach? Do executives need a "white-glove" program? What internal resources need to be involved for review and approval?
Be sure to consider all levels within the organization and any different requirements that may be needed to effectively reach them. An effective strategy not only considers what messages or content should be delivered, but also to whom and in what order. Different messages and training requirements may apply to different audience groups. The example below shows a typical audience segmentation approach.
Deliver different types of messaging (awareness building, how-to's, reminders, etc.)
For each of the delivery vehicles, include a description of the content and the delivery resource (i.e., email, in-person meetings, Legal Management Services, etc.) being used and an appropriate timeline. An organization should not have employees creating their own solutions, thereby subverting the policies and procedures that were so carefully and painstakingly developed.

The example below illustrates possible communication and training vehicles by audience segment.

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  • Managers: Managers would receive general program overview, a playbook for staff communications, Policy training and additional training on their employees' responsibilities and their own responsibilities as managers
  • Employees who create and retain records: General program overview, File Plan and Policy attributes, Lunch & Learns
  • IT Administrators who maintain record-keeping systems: General program and technology overview, File Plan and Policy attributes and solution execution training and technology-specific instructions
  • New employees: Additional training content for new-hire orientation materials


Program defensibility with courts and regulators comes not from simply having a written policy. It comes from demonstrating that the policy is being followed. An audit will either confirm employee program participation or identify program weaknesses that need to be remediated.


There are two main types of auditing procedures for Information Governance: Employee behavior audits and IT audits.
Employee behavior audits look at a sampling of employees within a group to determine if the proper behaviors are being followed. These could include:
  • Re-survey users to track behavior from initial state to future state
  • Metrics to track and report on compliance
  • Document classification usage for solutions such as email or file shares/SharePoint
IT audits programmatically look at IT systems and repositories to look at what content resides where. Typical areas examined include:
  • Are users still creating PSTs?
  • Have PSTs been moved?
  • Is SharePoint being used (rather than file shares)?


Sometimes in-house counsel feel that once a record retention policy is adopted and the technology to support the retention of records is in place, the program is ready for launch. Employee Behavior Change Management is often the most overlooked, yet the most critical, component of a successful program. These change management principles, when properly applied, will work in all types of companies, whether big or small, public or private. Employee behavior change management strategies will not only increase compliance, they also will help to put a kinder, more user-friendly and helpful face on record management and other information governance compliance initiatives.

With the proper metrics, tangible results and success can be illustrated and used to keep the initiative moving forward.


Additional Resource


About Contoural
Contoural is the largest independent provider of strategic Information Government consulting services. We work with more than 30% of the Fortune 500, and numerous mid-sized and small companies and provide services across the globe. We are subject matter experts in Information Governance, including traditional records and information management, litigation preparedness/regulatory inquiry, information privacy and the control of sensitive information, combining the understanding of business, legal and compliance objectives, along with operational and infrastructure thresholds, to develop and execute programs that are appropriately sized, practical and "real-world." Contoural is also a sponsor of ACC's Information Governance Committee. More information is available at
Region: United States
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