Here’s what I know about change management:

  • It’s critically important
  • Lacking and/or shoddy efforts are the #1 reason given when change initiatives fail
  • People commonly acknowledge these first two points, yet STILL don’t put the time, energy, or investment into getting it right
  • It doesn’t have to be so hard; you just have to truly understand its importance and prioritize change management as a part of your strategy

If you listen to the podcast, you have probably heard me state how perplexed I am at the immense gap that exists between the “talk” around the importance of change management and the “walk” or action put in to getting it right. The harsh reality is that this must change. There is far too much change happening at far too fast a pace for companies to continue to be able to manage change in reactive versus proactive manner.

Making Change Management More Proactive 

So, with that said, let’s move beyond rant to talk about five ways you could improve your change management effectiveness. These points were inspired by and some of them discussed in my podcast last week with Karin Hamel, Vice President of Services for US Digital Buildings at Schneider Electric. While Karin and I’s conversation centered around what it will take to build the workforce of the future, managing change is a key part of that – because not only is the pace of change not slowing, but the variables playing a part in companies’ initiatives are only growing more complex and interconnected. 

#1: Cut Corporate Speak

Communication around change is no place for sesquipedalian speech. See what I mean? I’m laughing typing this, but the point is valid – the more you focus on concise, relatable communication the better it will be received and digested. Keep in mind that your goal in communicating around change isn’t just getting a point across, but also building rapport and connection.

“Make sure you talk directly to the reader, your technician in this case, the real person, and cut the MBA talk,” says Karin. “That was something that I found I really needed some help with. It was helpful to have someone point that out to me.” And here’s a tip: if you don’t know how your intended audience speaks or what resonates, you aren’t spending enough time with them. 

#2: Focus on Collaboration over Communication

The next tip is to make sure you remember that change cannot be managed with communication alone, it requires collaboration. In fact, when you focus your efforts on collaboration over communication, you may find a good percentage of your change challenges alleviated. 

What I mean by collaboration over communication is that you should not be focused on simply delivering a message – or a mandate – and expecting your workforce to fall in line. Rather, you need to understand the value in collaboration – a bi-directional exchange of points that helps ensure everyone is on the same page, feedback is heard and acknowledged, and change is being not just begrudgingly accepted but embraced. 

#3: Help Employees Visualize Change

This is another great point that came from Karin. She has done some work with the Nour Group to help create a visualization of strategy. This visualization takes a plethora of detailed content, that can be consumed if and when it needs to be and simplifies it into one easy-to-digest graphical page. 

“The Nour Group helped us go through our whole strategy slide deck, that 40-page slide deck that we all have sitting in a desk drawer somewhere, on a thumb drive. We took that and boiled it down to one page, that’s a very visual, graphic document, that really spells everything out, walks your audience through the whole strategy, and takes away that corporate speak,” explains Karin. “We use this visualization, and then print it out on mousepads, use it as a backdrop. Having it in many different places, so that it’s really repeatable, like a drum beat continuously throughout the year. It’s something like a war cry. Everyone can rally around this visualization and identify themselves there.”

#4: Prioritize Ample Training and Upskilling

We know that resistance to change is largely fear-based, and in today’s circumstances where frontline workers may have some valid trepidation around how their roles are evolving, the role of ample training and upskilling in change management cannot be overemphasized. Maybe you’re asking your workforce to use a new technology – you need to ensure you bear the burden of not only selecting a strong solution, but providing however much training, however many types of training, your employees need to feel confident in that tool’s use. 

Perhaps their role itself is evolving, with new service objectives requiring a different approach and therefore different skills. This is a reality for many businesses today, and that causes a lot of overwhelm for your workers. If they know from the beginning that they play an incredibly valuable role in your company’s evolution, and that you are committed to providing them every upskilling opportunity it will take to make them successful, well – they may not fear the change so much. 

#5: Recognize Efforts and Impact

Consider this scenario: Change is introduced, and mandated. Employee accepts that if they want to continue in their career, they must adapt. They work through the change, learning whatever they need to in order to thrive in the “after.” Employer seems to not even notice the emotional, intellectual, and/or physical effort this employee’s change took and continues without so much as a “thanks for your hard work” until the next demand arises. 

I’d argue this is standard practice for many organizations, and the root of its faultiness is that it isn’t all too human. Your employees are people, and for many of our readers, those employees are the frontline worker that you are relying on to spearhead your company’s evolution from its historical incarnation to its modernized identity. Do they not deserve more?

They do. Change management would be far more successful if we focused on expressing appreciation for our employees’ efforts – if we showed empathy around how hard change is and recognized them for not only their willingness to grow and evolve with the business but for their efforts to learn and succeed in whatever the new normal is we’re introducing. 

You can take notes from Schneider’s approach. “We built up a recognition program around this strategy visualization document and our Hero program. As a technician, I can identify how I can contribute to our overall business ambitions by this kind of map. Then we have peer-to-peer nominations so that as employees contribute or deliver on one of the key outcomes, they can be recognized,” explains Karin. “We have a woman that runs this program for us, and we have great internal communication around it. We keep it all connected to our strategy and it runs throughout the whole year, and we’ve found it has been a great accelerant to create the kind of movement in the culture that we want.”

Sarah Nicastro
Author

Creator, Future of Field Service