When embarking on any change, whether large or small, focusing on people is essential. Employees need to be partners in the change process to understand the reasoning for the change and buy into it, and they need to receive effective training to know how to change. Creating a change readiness plan will ensure your focus is on the fact that people need to change behaviors and guiding them from their current state to their intended future state.
Build a Robust Communication Plan
One of the most critical steps in any change process is planning for strategic and impactful communication. Identify when communication needs to happen, who needs to receive messages, who the communicator is, and how it will be delivered. You might consider a monthly update message and announcements at certain key milestones. For messages that are less critical, an email announcement may suffice. However, if the message is more important or could raise concerns, consider delivering it in person.
Two of the most important pieces of a communication plan are ensuring a mechanism for stakeholders to provide feedback and setting expectations for how the change will go. Feedback ensures two-way communication that mitigates concerns and answers questions rather than stakeholders making assumptions. By setting expectations early in the change process, people will not be surprised or frustrated. For example, if you’re implementing new software and you know that there will be some technical glitches and a learning curve to overcome at go-live, be sure to communicate that to users in advance to manage their expectations.
Create Stakeholder Awareness and Buy-in
To begin engaging employees in the change process, we must first create awareness for the change. Focus on key messages around why we must change, the risks of not changing, and how the change benefits the organization and all stakeholder groups. If stakeholders understand how this initiative directly benefits them, they will be more likely to buy into it rather than resist it.
Involving stakeholders in the change process will make them feel like their opinions are considered and they are partners in the process, rather than feeling like the change is happening to them. There are many low-effort, high-impact strategies to consider. If you’re selecting new software, consider holding focus groups with representation from across the organization to gather feedback on what employees want to see in a new system. If embarking on a major project, do a project naming contest to involve employees in positive branding for the initiative.
Provide Strong Training
Training is the most critical component of any change. Whether it’s new software that employees need to learn how to use or a new process they must follow, if people don’t receive proper training, they will not be successful in adopting the change. It’s important to understand how employees learn best and try to meet them there. Consider offering tips in email communication leading up to training. This can create excitement for the new tools and processes and start the learning process in smaller steps. Provide training documentation to help users when they go to execute the new material on their own. Finally, offer refresher sessions after the change goes live. Have a lunch and learn session every other week that focuses on one topic. If there are questions that arise, consider sharing FAQs. It’s likely that if one person has a question, others do too.
Plan for and Mitigate Resistance
The common reaction to any change is to resist it. Resistance can derail successful change, so it is important to expect it and plan for it. Start with examining the different areas of your organization and how the change impacts them. If there are any groups that are likely to be distressed by the change process, focus on getting one person at a time bought in and eventually create a coalition for the change. Communication is key in managing resistance. Empathize with the individual, listen to their concerns, and work together on a plan forward to create greater success in reducing resistance to change.
Projects can be long and arduous, so it is important to focus on small strategies to keep momentum going and get to the finish line. When creating your change readiness plan, plan for milestone celebrations along the way. It could be a breakfast at kickoff that sets an exciting tone or a happy hour at the halfway point of your initiative. Don’t forget that a simple thank you to those who are involved along the way can make a tremendous impact.
Ensure the Change is Fully Adopted
Whether it’s a project reaching the final stage or new software going live, the change process does not end here. When planning for change readiness, you want to be sure the change lasts. Plan to audit for adherence to the change. Consider building adoption of the changes into employees’ performance plans. Create a culture of accountability where leaders are setting the tone for the change and holding their employees accountable to adopting it.
If you ensure full adoption of change, not only will you be successful in this change, you will create a culture of change competency. Employees will know what to expect in any organizational changes and they will be quicker to adopt changes.
Contact Hartman to Build Your Change Readiness Plan
If you are embarking on a significant change, Hartman Executive Advisors can help you create your change readiness plan. Our subject matter experts will support you in guiding people through change to ensure a smooth transition and realize your return on investment.