Due to the coronavirus pandemic, digital transformation happened backwards. Organizations needed to quickly move employees into a digital environment to achieve the main objective of providing continuity. In other words, necessity forced a very speedy transition upon organizations.

Normally, change is a gradual process. It is built around the end goal, but is not defined by it. Ideally, change management is a process that should include multiple stakeholders from a company’s various business units. Communication and transparency should be the primary focus of any change strategy. However, the fact is that COVID-19 forced companies to enact a strategy that was untested, unreliable, and frankly, unwanted in some organizations. The up-side, however, is that we are now moving into a new cycle in the process of digital transformation — and companies have a newfound opportunity to get it right.

Many companies are getting a do-over as the pace of change is beginning to stabilize. Now, they have a golden opportunity to enact a change management process with more delicacy and intention, rather than flying by the seat of their pants.

Whether your organization is in the midst of transitioning employees to a hybrid workplace or is moving to an entirely remote workforce, you have the opportunity to build a healthy environment from the ground up. Here are five tips to help you implement a change management strategy in the digital era:

1.)         Get Buy-in

Change management begins at the top, meaning that C-suite executives need to be involved from the get-go. They need to demonstrate the clear reasoning behind the need to adapt to the new normal. All company-wide initiatives need champions to help secure buy-in from across business units and teams alike. Your leaders need to provide optimism to ensure a healthy culture by communicating effectively, listening intently and showing empathy for their team. This requires leaders to bring stakeholders together to define the requirements of new business processes, technologies and other factors, and to build momentum toward a successful deployment. They need to ensure that every business unit has a voice in the transformation so that no one feels left out of the process.

As you develop your change management strategy, identify various champions from within each business unit who can help promote the project.

2.)      Support Your Leaders

Being in a leadership role doesn’t make you immune to the stress that comes with change. Arm your leaders with the learning and tools they need to prepare for leading remote teams and supporting them through change. Learning strategies can include upskilling critical leadership skills such as empathy, communication, collaboration and supporting diverse teams. There are many off-the-shelf courses available that you can deploy quickly to fill skills gaps. As well, you may want to consider developing custom content to address unique skills you’re looking to develop. For example, business simulations to motivate leaders to improve their ability to conduct difficult conversations around specific topics unique to your business processes.

3.)         Define and Communicate Your Strategy

Part of gaining buy-in will depend on how well your change management strategy is communicated. Sending out messaging before you’ve set your strategy can create an atmosphere of secrecy and mistrust. In the end, trust is the foundation of any successful change management strategy. Be clear about why new processes or technologies are needed. Communicate this strategy to fellow leaders and people managers. This way, everyone will have a better understanding of their role and how they can support the business toward change success.

4.)         Set a Timeline

“Are we there, yet?” is going to be a common question asked as you plan any major change initiative. When communicating your change management strategy and plan, include a comprehensive timeline with specific key performance indicators (KPIs) for each step in the process. This can help to maintain momentum, energy and interest in the project. Weekly, monthly, and quarterly updates can pass along project success and show your team that progress is being made, which demonstrates change leaders’ accountability. Any updates given to people managers should be with the intention of passing along information to their team members. This way, no one feels left out of the loop and everyone is deeply involved in the change management process.

5.)         Don’t Skimp on the Training

To support remote teams, you may be launching new digital tools or cloud-based platforms. But in all the excitement to bring new functionality and capabilities to your team members, you may have forgotten the most simple thing: Do they know how to use it?

It may seem obvious, but you will need to ensure that everyone understands how to use the new or existing technologies related to your change initiative. Be ready to deliver critical training and upskilling to ensure a smooth adoption. Consider hosting a series of webinars where participants can get a walkthrough of a new platform or tool. They can ask questions that you can develop into a frequently asked questions (FAQs) document and recordings can be provided for onboarding new hires or for brief refresher training. Provide these resources in an easy-to-access format and consider delivering short tutorials in modalities such as video or microlearning to target key skills or tasks.

Every employee has a different level of technical acuity. Team leaders need to test the waters early on to determine how ready each team member is to adopt new technologies or processes. Learning and development (L&D) needs to be prepared to deliver learning programs specifically designed to address key concerns and basic tutorials on using new tools or platforms.

Now is the time to begin building and supporting a culture of learning — which means continuous learning. Every employee should feel free to ask questions and solicit feedback. They may need individual mentoring or access to supporting resources, so your change management strategy should include solutions for connecting learners to content.

Contact us to learn more about how we can work together to develop an effective change management strategy. Our team specializes in driving organizational change and we can support your learning requirements for leadership and management development.