When it comes to implementing a new learning management system (LMS), change management cannot be overlooked. When change management is not taken into consideration, you are left with employees who feel that change is a low priority, that the organization didn’t consider them and their feelings, and that they aren’t involved in their organization. This situation will lead to a lower LMS adoption rate.

There are three factors that are important to change management: management buy-in, strategic communication and an organization implementation plan. Each of these “secrets” is important, because it makes everyone feel safe to change.

Management Buy-In

Management buy-in is critical, because if a manager is resistant to change, his or her employees may inherit that attitude. The key is to understand the manager’s needs. Once you understand them, it is easy to increase manager buy-in by developing test groups during the implementation process. Using testing groups for manager buy-in can increase adoption rates, reduce launch day glitches, create a positive stir in the organization about the LMS and accomplish a lot of testing that the training department would otherwise have to do on its own. The result is that the managers become the biggest advocates for the new implementation process, and their employees will feel more encouraged.

Strategic Communication

Just because the project team believes that implementing a new LMS is good for the organization, the employees may not automatically see the benefits. The project team and management need to take into account the emotional response to change that will occur no matter what you do. The Kübler-Ross Change Curve states that people go through seven stages in their emotional response to change:

  1. In stage one, shock, the employees find out that there will be a change in the training and development process. It is important for the management and project teams to communicate effectively by answering the basic questions of whom the LMS change will directly impact and who will be responsible for the implementation process.
  2. In denial, the employees need to know why the change has to happen. In this stage, managers should tell the employees the advantages of changing LMSs. It is important to have creative alignment between the first two stages. Creatively conveying the importance of the LMS switch will help employees understand the necessity of change.
  3. In frustration, employees realize that they cannot change managers’ decision, so they try to come up with alternatives. At this time, it is important for managers to emphasis that the reasons for switching are for the benefit of the employees.
  4. In the fourth stage, depression, employees may be upset with the change, but they are starting to come to terms with it. At this stage, managers should be available to the employees; as they are starting to come around, they may have additional questions.
  5. In experimentation, employees have come to terms with the change. Let the employees experiment with the new LMS to help them understand its benefits and develop the capabilities of using it.
  6. In decision, the employees working normally and have a much more positive outlook about the new LMS. At this stage, managers should announce the release date.
  7. In the final stage, implementation, you did it! Your employee have fully embraced the new LMS and are now its advocates.

To help employees move through this cycle, answer these questions as part of your implementation planning:

  • What is an LMS? What will this change mean for internal customers?
  • Whom the change will directly impact? Who is responsible for steering the implementation?
  • When will you release the new LMS? When will internal customers see a change?
  • How will the LMS impact the organization? How will it change the way work is done?
  • Why is this impact needed within the organization? Why now?

An Implementation Plan

Whether you are surfing the market for a new LMS or you have recently purchased one, the implementation plan should be at the forefront of your mind. Using a white board to keep on track of events during implementation will help you have a much smoother process. Draw a rough outline of your project timeline on the board, and have a meeting to discuss key points of the timeline and the resources needed at each phase of the project. Keep the board in a highly trafficked or visible area, and encourage your team to provide input and suggest changes if they think the project could be managed better. Don’t worry if the board gets messy – it means people are contributing. Reevaluate the board and your progress weekly to stay organized.

There you have it: By keeping these three main factors in mind, you have learned the secrets of a smooth LMS implementation process!