As the pace of business increases and we find ourselves in an ever more VUCA world, change management becomes a critical focus for an organization to thrive amid growing competition. Certainly, leadership plays a key role in initiating, driving and delivering effective change, but for the most successful change management efforts, the learning and development (L&D) team must also wear many hats in support. Here are three:

Trainer

Intentionally and effectively operating in its classic role, the L&D team should drive the training strategy and implementation to support change management before a change occurs.

It’s human nature to go through a number of reactions during the change process. Providing employees with training around the change curve and what to expect when widespread change occurs will help them understand their experience (and to relate to their co-workers’ experience), moving through the process with awareness and a shared vocabulary.

Given that change is inevitable, training around the change curve should be part of a company’s core curriculum in order to have the highest level of benefit. But formal instruction to support change management shouldn’t stop there. Preparing employees — especially leaders at all levels — with skills they can lean on during change management efforts is an important component as well. Focusing on topics such as resilience, decision-making and, for leaders, coaching through change is a good place to start.

To amplify and ingrain the key concepts delivered in training programs, L&D should also provide a change management toolkit for employees. It could include recommending or providing access to books (“Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson is a good one), job aids, one-page summaries of key concepts, and/or microlearning opportunities. Whatever it looks like for the organization, the point is to create a set of resources that employees can easily refer to once change is afoot to build on what they learned previously.

Internal Consultant

Leveraging the organizational development expertise of your L&D team as internal consultants can be a powerful tool in the change management process. Of course, this process will look different at each company, depending on the makeup of the L&D team, the structure of the human resources (HR) organization and other factors. However, there are a number of areas where L&D professionals might be able to provide insight and support for the executive team, departmental leaders and key stakeholders:

    • Creating a vision for the future state.
    • Developing communication plans.
    • Identifying risk mitigation strategies.
    • Mapping out roles and responsibilities related to the change.
    • Coaching leaders through change.
    • Identifying change champions.

When acting as internal consultants, the L&D team can act as another source for holding teams accountable to best practices. For change to be successful, teams must be in alignment, from the vision to their roles and responsibilities.

Change Champion

Creating a platform for support through change champions is essential, and here again, L&D can play an impactful role. The training team often has a unique role in regularly interfacing with many departments, and successful L&D teams build trust and cultivate relationships with leaders across the organization along the way. The training team can champion the change throughout those networks.

Champions can show up in many ways:

    • Committing to company core values, which are (presumably) drivers of the change.
    • Maintaining flexibility to account for the unexpected in the process.
    • Remaining open and listening to anyone who is struggling to adapt.
    • Staying positive and focusing on the future.
    • Normalizing the inevitable feelings or reactions on the change curve.

Furthermore, the unique position of L&D can help identify other significant influencers who buy into the plan for change and exhibit these champion behaviors. Remember that not everyone with influence in the organization will be supportive, and that’s OK. As Mark Murphy writes in Forbes, don’t waste time on antagonists; rather, focus on the champions.

The road to significant change can be a long and strenuous one, and the process should begin proactively, providing support and adhering to best practices along the way. Be sure to lean on the many roles your L&D team can play to set up your leaders and organization for success.

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