A change management strategy includes a plan and roadmap to implement the changes and reduce resistance. It also includes incentives to motivate team members to adopt the changes and a communication plan to keep everyone in the loop throughout the changes.
Managing change during digital transformations combats resistance and ensures that the transformation achieves the expected business value. Beyond using popular change management models, change leaders must build trust and empathy with the employees and managers.
Keep reading to find out how organizations get employees and stakeholders onboard their change initiatives.
What Is Change Management?
Change management in digital transformation is everything a company does to help its people adopt new technology. It is the process of helping people understand why they need to change to another system and how their jobs and business processes will change—then helping them kickstart and continue in the new way of doing things.
A digital transformation may not achieve the expected business value without a change management strategy.
If employees struggle to learn how to use a new ERP system, the support team will have more support tickets to help the employees through mundane tasks on the system. The employees lose valuable time not doing the tasks they’re paid to do — equating to lower productivity and return on investment from the workforce and the digital transformation.
What Is A Change Management Strategy?
A change management strategy is an approach that guides how a company helps the people move to a new system and use it to its full potential. It involves company culture change, clear communication, effective training, and ongoing support.
Why Is It Essential To Develop A Change Management Strategy In The Digital Age?
Resistance to change is the key reason we need a change strategy in digital transformation. And as organizations roll out an average of 5 major changes every three years, we need a strategy to transition people to new systems without disruption. Resistance can boil from employees with a low resistance to change, those with different perspectives or self-interest in the project, or a misunderstanding of what the change is about.
A change management strategy looks into possible resistance areas to address them before they cripple the digital transformation program.
Change management also deals with one of the biggest challenges to digital transformations – disengaged employees. Sometimes employees understand the need for change but don’t believe that the costs outweigh the benefits. And some employees are curious and embrace change, while others doubt their abilities or fear making mistakes.
Most importantly, change management can increase a digital transformation’s ROI by 143%. And even with the worst change management initiatives, organizations still capture 35% of the expected value.
Key Elements Of A Change Management Strategy
An effective change management strategy has a plan and roadmap, involves stakeholders and employees, effective training, transparency, constant communication, and incentives.
Transparency in change management means having open conversations about what’s going on, the choices management has made and why, how things will look after the changes and everything else that matters to the employees.
Instead of portraying a facade that management knows what they’re doing, how about being real? Meet the employees as humans rather than gods. The average person is pretty intelligent, and they see through the facade. They’ll naturally root for the changes to fail, passively or aggressively. In addition, when there’s no official information on important matters, there’ll be speculations and rumors.
So leaders need to be straightforward and clear with what’s going on, what they know and don’t know, the plan to fill in the missing information, what they expect, and how things will change. Honest conversations build trust and empathy between management and employees. And these lead to employee commitment and ownership of the changes.
Of course, some business information is better not divulged. For such information, then leaders can mention that they’ve deliberately withheld the information and for what purpose. Employees will appreciate the honesty.
But the biggest problem is that leaders often withhold information regarding the negative impacts of the change.
As Tribe Inc’s CEO, Elizabeth Baskin, puts it, “The mistake that so many companies make is to withhold information regarding negative impacts on the workforce. Equally offensive is sugarcoating the negative news with an artificially positive spin.”
When management is open about changes and possible problems, employees can help find solutions.
A change management plan documents the activities and roles to manage and control change when deploying the new system. It includes change management roles and responsibilities (who’s involved and at what level), change managers (who authorize or decline change requests), and the process for submitting, evaluating, authorizing, and controlling change requests. And to keep the change processes consistent, a change request is appropriate. And a change log to monitor all the change requests and change decisions.
The type of planning for change management depends on the company’s strategy. Some change management strategies include:
- Planned itinerary change strategy– where the company knows the goals and clear steps to achieve the goals.
- River crossing change management strategy – where the company knows the goal, but the steps to get there are unclear. So instead of planning the change in detail, the change team may opt for an experimental approach to find the best steps – e.g., running pilot programs for different paths to identify the best path.
- Hill-climbing change strategy – when you know the steps, but the end goal is unclear. So instead of defining a clear end goal, the team works with a few minimum viable products to build out a clear end goal as you go.
- Scouting and wandering strategy – when the company seeks change, but you know neither the steps nor the end goal. So the team will have to explore different ideas, for example, gathering ideas from employees.
- Escape the swamp strategy – when the company has to change, or it’ll die, like when facing a disruptive threat. So the company would make the necessary changes to escape the tragedy, even without in-depth evaluation.
A complete plan doesn’t just focus on high-level change aspects like communication. We need to think strategically, tactically, and operationally. Besides defining the change strategy, we also need to plan for resistance.
Companies can avoid employee resistance through:
- continuous training
- rewarding early adopters
- ongoing adoption support
- gathering employee feedback throughout
A Fully Fledged Roadmap
The typical change management roadmap includes these phases:
- Assess the current state (current change initiatives, their successes, failures, risks, and obstacles. Identify possible areas of resistance and their root causes)
- Define the future state (establish maturity goals, define future technical elements and people elements, future state metrics, and a vision statement)
- Design the transition on both people and technical sides (creating awareness, building knowledge, developing skills, etc.)
- Implement the “technical” future state.
- Implement the “people” future state.
When developing a roadmap for change management, CIOs recommend the following:
- Executive leaders should support the change process actively throughout
- Ensure that employees understand the reason for the change from the beginning and the expected benefits
- Use all possible communication channels to communicate with your employees throughout (receive and address feedback)
- Keep the roadmap flexible to adapt to changes as you assess employee engagement during the change (regular assessments)
- Be transparent about the change processes
Beyond the high-level stuff (town halls, newsletters, etc., explaining why we’re doing the changes, what changes will happen, and when they go live), we need to get to the nitty-gritty within the department’s workgroups and individuals. For example, how their jobs will change, team changes, performance evaluation, career progression, and how we’ll help them through the changes.
The four steps for communicating organizational change:
- Share a vision with the entire organization (where you are, what motivations drove the transformation, how things will look like and work after the transformation)
- Create and share a story of your change initiatives and how you intend to reach the goals
- Help everyone understand where the organization is going and each person’s specific roles towards that (empower everyone to become a change agent).
- Show the path that will get everyone to the future state organization.
Communication Tips In Change Management:
- Give the employees all the details of the changes
- Recognize the employees’ fear of being replaced and address it – emphasize the digital transformation is a chance to upskill to suit the current and future marketplace.
- Create an open, collaborative environment to encourage people to speak out, especially when they fall silent
- Encourage two-way communication for engaging conversations
- Use digital and one-to-one communication strategies (town halls, all-hands meetings, email, team meetings, videos, anonymous surveys, etc.)
- Keep communicating even after the changes are live – gather feedback and improvise
Employee & Stakeholder Involvement
Involve the employees, stakeholders, and process owners who’ll be impacted by the change in designing, deciding, learning, and implementing the changes. Gather their feedback as much as possible. And involve people who understand the technicalities of the transformation in the change management team.
Tips for engaging employees:
- Involve every affected employee as early as possible and leave no one behind. Have everyone at per to have enough time to analyze and adjust to the new ideas
- When making decisions about work units and responsibilities, involve each affected employee whenever possible.
- Have a measurement system in place coupled with rewards and recognition
- Gather employee feedback throughout.
- Address those who resist the changes directly and individually
- Provide full explanations for rejected ideas
- Managers should be open-minded to receive different ideas
- Only involve employees on issues within their sphere of understanding
- Communicate clearly which aspects of change are open to discussion and those that aren’t.
- Implement recommendations from employees
- Managers should give employees constant feedback on the status of change initiatives
Tips for involving stakeholders:
- Early stakeholder awareness is key to getting them onboard
- Have a strong case supporting the need for change
- Identify the influential stakeholders with an interest in the transformational change.
- Communicate the change’s vision continuously to the stakeholders
- Involve customers if the changes will affect the product or service (e.g., using focus groups, product tests, surveys, etc.)
- Involve all the key stakeholders in training and follow-up training
- Monitor stakeholders’ participation and performance to optimize over time.
- Senior leaders should initiate, lead and champion the changes
- Middle managers should facilitate the change processes and help employees understand the changes
HR may have to bring in new talents or upskill the current staff. Nonetheless, training should continue during the change process and after. Beyond being timely, it should be personalized to suit the knowledge, skills, and behaviors required to implement the change.
Quick training tips in change management:
- Detail who will conduct training, in what formats, and how often.
- Use a mix of learning channels to meet employees where they are (webinars, video tutorials, live sessions, conference calls, round tables, knowledge bases, etc.)
- Provide ongoing training and support (use a digital adoption platform to provide on-screen in-app guidance in real-time).
- Match the high performers to the most crucial change initiatives (or high).
Besides training employees to use the new system, we also need change management competency training in top-and middle-level management. Top management needs the training to be effective change sponsors and demonstrate commitment. Middle-level managers need the training to coach employees through their change processes.
An incentive program rewards change adopters to motivate others and improve performance. It targets metrics or desired behaviors to enforce them positively. Beyond recognizing achieved goals, also reward exceeded expectations. For example, rewarding 25% of base pay for achieving a goal and the possibility to earn up to 40% of the base salary for exceeding expectations.
Rewarding managers for achieved initiatives and top-performing employees boosts morale. McKinsey found that rewarding managers and employees is one success factor in change management.
- Align performance-based rewards with the overall business strategy
- Set the performance goals and their metrics (or KPIs)
- Communicate the expectations throughout the organization clearly
- Choose suitable incentives (money, recognition, awards, development opportunities, etc.)
- Monitor the program
- Adjust as needed
Whose Job Is It To Develop A Change Management Process?
The change process owner, the change advisory board, change managers, and change management teams work together to develop the change management process.
The change managers design, support, and lead change operations. They also evaluate the organization’s readiness for change, the change impact, and resistance areas.
The change process owner defines and supports the process for change management, evaluates and improves it, and reports performance to the change manager and change advisory board. They also communicate change guidelines to stakeholders.
The change advisory board assesses, approves, and rejects change requests. It’s made up of high-level IT strategists. They also evaluate failed changes and provide a forum for shared learning from the change processes.
The change management team comprises change approvers, change assignees and change requesters. The team manages changes within their department.
How To Effectively Measure Your Change Management Strategy
Change management measurements are typically surveys, assessments, tests, and observations of the change activities and business outcomes. So organizations use both qualitative ad quantitative metrics to determine a successful change management strategy.
Quantitative Measurements Include:
- Time taken to adopt the changes
- Number of people who have adopted the changes successfully
- ROI and benefit realization
- Adherence to the project timeline
- Employee engagement
- Support requests
- Error logs
- Training attendance numbers and participation
- Project KPIs
- User login volume
- Audit and compliance findings
- Transaction volume
Qualitative Measurements Include:
- Employee satisfaction survey results
- Employee readiness assessment results
- Communication effectiveness
- Training effectiveness
- Employee feedback
- Quality of work after implementing the changes
Implement Change Management With The Right Strategy
The right change management strategy depends on the overall business strategy. But the key elements of a successful change management strategy are effective communication, change management plans and roadmaps, adequate training, involved employees and stakeholders, and incentives. In addition, transparency throughout the change process builds trust and empathy with the employees, which increases the likelihood of success.
The typical metrics for measuring a change management strategy include user logins, support requests, adherence to the project KPIs and timeline, time to adopt the changes, and benefits realization.
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