4 Ways Southwest Key Programs Prepared Their People for Change

User Adoption

Change is never easy. So, when Southwest Key Programs, a Texas-based nonprofit with about 20 locations across the country, embarked on their UKG Dimensions™ implementation in early 2020, they immediately thought about how a new technology would ultimately impact their people.  

What is Southwest Key Programs?  

Southwest Key provides safe shelters for immigrant children and youth, as well as family services. The nonprofit chose Dimensions Timekeeping, Advanced Scheduler, and HR/Payroll, among other entitlements, to ensure they had an effective workforce and people management solution for their 7,000 employees. To make sure this decision resulted in success, they not only needed solid project management and technical skills, but they also needed to ensure strong user adoption among their people long term.  

“There was a heavy focus on the change management piece because they knew that was the key to their success,” said Kelly Bailey, senior user adoption consultant for healthcare at UKG. “It’s possible to build a beautiful solution, but if you can’t get people to use it, then you’re not getting an ROI.”  

For some customers, complimentary tools from the UKG User Adoption Resource Center or even the Customer Engagement Toolkit fully meet their change management needs, but Southwest Key wanted a more personalized and hands-on approach. For this reason, they wasted no time forming a change management team and kicking off their comprehensive user adoption project around the time their Dimensions implementation began.  

Now that they’re live and their user adoption work has wrapped up, I sat down with the Southwest Key change management team to discuss the key benefits of this program and helpful tips for other customers looking to take a deep dive into User Adoption Services at UKG. Read on and see what you might learn from their experience! 

User Adoption


Because they began the user adoption project early on, the team had plenty of time to develop a detailed communication plan with Bailey, their user adoption consultant, allowing them to make managers and employees aware of the new technology system and have ample opportunity to prepare for it. In addition to the core team, the nonprofit formed a change agent network (CAN), a group of directors and influential managers responsible for disseminating information about Dimensions to employees and other managers. Southwest Key developed a “Coming Soon” campaign involving teasers, posters, and flyers. CAN helped with the distribution of this campaign message. “[It] helped in setting people’s minds at ease and not getting scared,” said Julian Godina, project management office director at Southwest Key. “Change is scary, so it was beneficial to get that word out way early so they knew it was coming, how it was going to affect them, and what was expected of them, so there were fewer surprises. … I don’t know one person who said, ‘I didn’t know Dimensions was coming.’”  

Takeaway: Designate specific people to help communicate the ensuing change to employees.  


User Adoption Services at UKG follows the Prosci ADKAR® Model throughout its engagement with customers. ADKAR stands for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. With awareness well underway (as detailed above), Bailey and the Southwest Key change management team began working on building the desire to support change. They developed what’s in it for me messages for employees, administrators, managers, and other staff. “It’s sending a message that we’re trying as an organization to work smarter, not harder, because we used to do a lot of paper processes, and I know from an administrative standpoint, those can bog down people,” said Vincent Calderon, wellness director at Southwest Key. “I think this is the first step in terms of the organization moving forward with more automated processes.” 

Takeaway: Ensure people understand what the change means for them and how it will impact their day-to-day. 


With Bailey’s help, the change management team developed a detailed training plan for their hourly and salaried staff, managers, HR/payroll, administrators, and other employee groups. The plan outlined training deliverables, timelines, and more for each group, as well as the resources responsible for delivering that training (e.g., Southwest Key subject matter experts [SMEs], UKG trainer, or learning management system [LMS]). They also took advantage of the UKG Train the Trainer program for Timekeeping, Basic Scheduler, and Advanced Scheduler. UKG trained 12 Southwest Key trainers who then trained 700 managers, delivering 70 mandatory classes over the course of three weeks.  

Early in the project, Bailey conducted a change impact analysis to determine project risks and found that managers were the most impacted group. Consequently, strong training and overall change management for managers would be the key to a successful rollout for Southwest Key. “We only did instructor-led live training for managers because they’re the people with influence; they’re the ones who will tell them [staff] ‘you have to do this,’” Godina said. “If it doesn’t come from them [managers], the employees won’t do it. We did it so the managers know what’s going on, know how to use the system,” he continued.  

The change management team worked with Bailey to create training materials, video tutorials, and job aids. Through CAN, they learned some employees were feeling anxious about training. To alleviate these concerns, team members decided to provide employees with basic navigation and reporting materials sooner than originally planned. They also set up a tile called Coach in their Dimensions system for “post-learning support.” With Coach, users can find step-by-step instructions on everything from benefits to scheduling to payroll. If they’re unable to find answers through this resource, users can then reach out to the Southwest Key SMEs or HRIS team. “That’s something we’re trying to push back on the end-users to start exercising this self-service approach,” said Ibrahim Ikanovic, HRIS manager at Southwest Key. “We are providing the tools, we are providing the information, but it is on you [the employees] to access that information and work with the system instead of [immediately] reaching out to somebody and asking questions.”  

Takeaway: Build a training plan, but don’t just implement it and never look back — ask people what information they still need or feel they are missing. 


The Southwest Key team worked with Bailey to create a change management plan that included anticipated resistance and mitigation tactics (e.g., communicating expectations and training) for each employee group. They recognized the need to teach their managers skills to overcome employee resistance. For this reason, they added a mandatory tutorial to their LMS entitled “Leading Employees Through Change,” where managers learn that people must hear a message five to seven times before understanding it. Bailey shares that it’s important for the message to come from the right people, be consistent, and be repeated so that users already understand the impact before attending training. That way, training can focus on helping people learn the technology. The Southwest Key change management team also worked with Bailey to create and distribute talking points to effectively respond to resistance. They had the what’s in it for me messaging, PowerPoint presentations, and other materials on hand to resend to managers as needed.   

Takeaway: Anticipate that some employees won’t adapt so easily and equip managers with the skills to help navigate situations where resistance arises. 


Where are they now? 

Southwest Key went live with Dimensions in February 2021. As with any go-live, they experienced a few typical bumps in the road. However, thanks to strong change management initiatives alongside their work with UKG User Adoption Services, end-users were understanding about the road bumps and maintained a positive attitude. “By advertising so frequently, every two to four weeks, saying ‘Hey, this is coming’ and CAN members were reaching out … everything was coming out to them,” said Patrick Hellenbrand with the Southwest Key IT team. “It was a lot more embraced than it would’ve been had we not communicated that way.”   

When asked what advice they would give other customers considering User Adoption Services, Southwest Key suggests starting as early as possible, ensuring strong executive support, and trusting the process. “Without having that tried-and-true methodology yet, we really needed some guidelines on some best practices and ADKAR was really advantageous to us,” Hellenbrand explained.  

Although their time with Kelly Bailey has come to a successful end, the team recognizes that in a way, their change management and user adoption journey has just begun. They continue to meet regularly, updating training materials and job aids, and even plan to apply lessons learned from this project, as well as the Prosci ADKAR® Model, to other implementations! “It’s making the organization realize we can go through something like this and potentially do other projects like this in the future,” Calderon said.  

For more information on User Adoption Services at UKG, please contact your customer success manager and/or sales executive.