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These 5 Keys Make For A Smooth Absence Management Implementation

April 03, 2024   •   Insights

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“We are switching to a new _____ this year.”

This sentence may be enough to make any educator’s heart rate spike and palms sweat. It may even conjure flashbacks to that one school year — the one when the district tried to introduce a new learning management system or another software. And, well, let’s just say they’d rather not go through it again.

At some point in their career, every educator will likely experience a rough implementation of new technology, curriculum, or program within their organization. While the reasons why such implementations fail might vary, the outcome is the same: educators grow weary of new initiatives.

And yet, just as frustrating for educators is staying stuck with tools that are clunky, cumbersome, and time-consuming. This is especially true with platforms meant to make mission-critical processes — like absence management — seamless and efficient.

So when all the signs are there that it’s time to switch solutions, how do district teams ensure that such implementations go right? What factors support a positive transition to a new absence management solution — and avoid it becoming that horror story that educators look back on and shiver?

From Red Rover’s expertise in modern K12 workforce management practices and our experience supporting hundreds of districts, we’ve found five keys you’ll need to smoothly and successfully implement any absence management solution.

Before Implementation

Key #1: Crystalize your must-have requirements for absence management

Before embarking on a new project, it is essential to clarify your goals. These outcomes become the foundation for all downstream activities, a foundation which you’ll undoubtedly return to again and again throughout implementation.

The first step is to crystallize your list of must-haves — non-negotiable requirements of any solution that your organization needs. Note that these must-haves may not necessarily be specific features or processes, or even something brand-new to your district. In fact, your list will likely include existing workflows you want to preserve in any new or updated solution implemented. 

Collecting feedback from staff beyond the HR team ensures you have clarity on these must-haves across stakeholders. Conducting surveys, focus groups, or informal conversations with staff using your existing absence management processes are great ways to source this input.

Here are example guiding questions you can use with your team to crystallize your must-have requirements for a new absence management solution, in combination with staff feedback:

  • What parts of this workflow are most time-consuming for our organization today? For which team(s)? Roughly how many hours do these parts consume in a week or month?
  • Which processes cause the most confusion or frustration for our teachers? Our HR administrators? Our substitutes?
  • What aspects of absence management work well today? Do we want to retain any of them?

You can also try crafting “I” statements that represent each need for each persona, or user of the new absence management solution. For example, a statement from a substitute teacher might sound like “I need real-time notifications about changes to my assigned jobs.” 

The value of clarity on your must-haves cannot be understated. As an example, a district in Texas identified a massive pain point impacting their team when it came to managing long-term absences. Their old system forced staff to split long absences into multiple one-day absences, adding complexity and reducing visibility for substitutes to see and fill vacancies. This became a must-have requirement, and it guided Leander ISD to significantly narrow down their list of candidate solutions. Ultimately, the team selected Red Rover in large part because of the solution’s flexibility with long-term absence management.

Take a look at our simple guide for upgrading absence and substitute management systems for additional guidance in defining your must-have requirements.

Key #2: Align with the right team of vendor partners and stakeholders

Every implementation involves some degree of change management. Aligning core stakeholders around the purpose and outcomes of an initiative is a critical first step to lead the rest of the organization through change of any kind. 

Alignment also helps gain broader support for this project by integrating the voices and needs of all affected parties. Think: principals, substitute teachers, support staff, full-time teachers, etc. This is why gathering team input during the requirements crystallization process is so essential. Only then are you truly ready to begin sifting through candidate absence management solutions to determine which checks those boxes.

The vendor search is just as much part of this alignment process — a solutions provider is just as much part of the implementation team! 

Unfortunately, not every solutions provider is created equal when it comes to creating this alignment. You will benefit most from a partner who supports not only the first transition to a new absence management solution but also one that sustains that support for the long term.

Between the two most common types of solutions — K12 platforms and point solutions — the latter tends to offer the most straightforward transitions and long-term support to its partners. Don’t be fooled by the myths surrounding K12 platforms, either! Though the one-platform-many-solutions approach sounds easier, it is often convoluted, clunky, and full of hidden costs for educators.

For any implementation to go well, you’ll want a partner who can sustain high-impact collaboration and responsiveness beyond that initial transition to the new system. That’s one of the main reasons why Red Rover’s partners love us.

Watch this short video summarizing how Red Rover’s implementation process ensures partners receive support throughout the entire process, from initial planning to team training to ongoing maintenance. Still not convinced? Hear directly from your fellow educators around the U.S. about our simple onboarding process.

During Implementation

Key #3: Communicate, communicate — then communicate some more

Once implementation is up and running, your team should focus on maintaining clear, consistent, and ongoing communication, both internally and externally. Transparency is essential to sustain trust from all affected parties in the promises of a nascent solution; trust is the bedrock when implementations inevitably hit their “messy middle.”

Communication doesn’t just mean sharing updates within the district. It also means exchanging information with your solutions provider and vice versa. Here, responsiveness is crucial.

Here’s an example of the power of a responsive vendor: Glenbrook High School District implemented a Red Rover solution, in dire need of an absence management system that could support flexible block scheduling. Toward the end of onboarding, the Glenbrook team found a major scheduling issue in the platform and called Larry Foxx at Red Rover for help. Our team immediately set up a call to tackle it. 

At first, both sides were stymied, unable to figure out any solution. But two minutes after their Zoom call ended, Foxx reached back out: he found a fix through a simple drag-and-drop feature — one that was already built into the platform but was hard to spot. 

“I almost fell off my chair,” says Lisa Sly, Glenbrook’s Information System Specialist. “And in the next update that Red Rover released, I noticed that they had moved [the drag-and-drop button] so that it was more obvious.”  

From that one call, many partners using Red Rover benefitted. That’s the kind of responsiveness you want from a solutions provider during any implementation.

After Implementation

Key #4: Take time to reflect and revise

Realistically, implementation doesn’t stop with the first launch of a new solution, though this milestone is certainly one to celebrate! Instead, it shifts into an ongoing cycle of continuous improvement. Small, iterative changes ensure the solution addresses emergent needs and keeps adding value to your team.

Here’s a simplified version of such a cycle that you can adapt to your organization’s motions:

  • Collect additional feedback from your core stakeholders immediately after initial implementation. Try using surveys or Q&A time at the end of a training. Don’t forget to include substitute teachers in this step — their voices are just as essential as full-time staff!
  • Gather the implementation team to review this feedback and share their reflections. Identify lingering questions and top concerns expressed by teams.
  • Devise plans to address each concern and open questions — then enact them. Even small improvements, made in direct response to feedback shared, makes a huge difference for teams. Be sure to communicate with your stakeholders about the driving force behind these changes and how their input made an impact.

Rinse and repeat, as often as needed. You may find it valuable to move through faster iterations during that first month or year, at least until stakeholders become comfortable with the solution.

And — you’ll likely need support from the vendor to address stakeholders’ input, especially if the feedback involves making improvements to the solution itself! The best solutions providers are those with a track record of responding directly to customer feedback and concerns, as Glenbrook High School District experienced.

That’s why Red Rover commits to a high standard of partnership even after initial onboarding. Through our user communities and customer relationships, we routinely source platform feedback and cultivate a culture of collaboration across all of our partners. Together, all of us can learn and grow. Discover the Red Rover community for yourself.

Red Rover has been an excellent fit for our district. Particularly, they have provided excellent customer service both in their implementation and ongoing use. They have been great to work with and streamlined our overall substitute program here at Columbus City Schools. Our district has many unique needs, and Red Rover was extremely responsive and helpful in accommodating us.

Eric Ulas, Manager, Human Resources Administration

Columbus City Schools

Key #5: Keep up with interoperability

Modern workforce management solutions are constantly evolving. Improvements should be responsive to new requirements or emergent needs, like changes to a team’s payroll processes or updates made to state laws.

As adjacent HR systems change, you’ll also need to adjust your absence management solution. This is especially true when it comes to interoperability, the secure and seamless exchange of data between systems. 

Interoperability is the difference between wading through dozens of hand-crafted spreadsheets and easily accessing critical information between tools without manual intervention. It is critical to sustain an absence management solution implementation in the long run.

Point solutions like Red Rover are particularly nimble when it comes to interoperability. As our partners adapt new tools or change processes with other HR software, Red Rover ensures its solutions maintain integrity with partner data and exchanges. The result? Our solutions seamlessly connect with dozens of platforms, with more regularly added as our partnerships expand. Take a look at the full list of supported integrations.

Partner with Red Rover for smooth, streamlined absence management

Do you want to unlock the secret to smooth, streamlined absence management? Red Rover has the keys. From first-class implementation to collaborative customer support, we are the partner to bring your community into a better future with modern workforce management tools that work for you, not against you.

Request a demo if you’re ready to make the switch.

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