There is no question that change is hard. Research conducted over the last two decades suggests that organizations of all sizes struggle with employees accepting change, and despite a more formal and intensive focus on change management programs, success rates are not improving.
As the pace of change – especially technologically driven change – continues to accelerate, organizations must find ways to become more agile, and that means accelerating the successful adoption of change. By leveraging the same technologies used to communicate with external customers across the change curve, organizations can shorten the time to acceptance and improve outcomes.
Step 1: Planning the Change
Every change starts with a planning process. During this time a small group of people work to plan the change, and often the rest of the organization is unaware of what is coming. To become more agile organizations can consider two key actions:
1. Shorten the change planning process using predictive/prescriptive analytics
Often the change planning process involves the collection and analysis of data to help make good decisions about tactics required to implement the change. To shorten the time required to gather and analyze information, organizations should consider how predictive/prescriptive analytics can automate decision-making and recommend actions more quickly.
2. Involve more people in the change planning process using crowdsourcing platforms
Typically in the change planning process a small group of people, usually leaders, identify goals and tactics to reach those goals. In certain cases (i.e., where confidentiality is not required), organizations could share the goals and use crowdsourcing platforms to collect ideas about tactics. The process could even be gamified to incent employees to participate in idea-generation.
Step 2: Building Awareness about the Change
Once an organizational change is announced, employees go into an evaluation period where they must collect information to better understand the change and determine what it means to the organization, their team and even them personally. During this phase communication is critical, but often organizations fail to communicate enough and don’t personalize the message for teams and/or employees. Employees can also be afraid to ask questions. To overcome some of these challenges organizations can:
3. Use chatbots to communicate and personalize the change message
Chatbots are being used widely by organizations like retail brands to provide consumers with personalized product information. These chatbots not only ensure that customers and prospects can access the information they want and need on demand, they also provide data back to the retailer about what the consumer is interested in.
If organizations can leverage the same concept and use chatbots to interact with employees to provide answers to ‘frequently asked questions’ or address concerns, they can ensure that a consistent message is being shared, and they can gather information about what employees want to know, which can inform future communications.
Step 3: Accepting the Change and Creating Change Advocates
After employees have had time to collect information about a change they either adapt their behavior and/or accept the change, or they passively or actively resist the change. During this phase technology can be used to:
4. Provide messaging to reinforce desired new behaviors and accelerate adoption
Digital nudges are messages sent out electronically through mediums like SMS text message or email, to encourage certain behaviors. For example in retail, e-commerce sites will automatically send reminders to consumers who may have started a purchase but not finished it.
This same concept can be applied to encourage new desired behaviors during change initiatives. For example, Boston Consulting Group uses digital nudges to remind employees about new guidelines implemented to reduce/eliminate after hour emails. When an employee tries to send an email outside of office hours they receive a pop-up message that alerts them to the ‘after-hour email’ and provides them with options like ‘mark email as low priority’ or ‘defer sending until next business day’. This helps remind the employee about the new desired behavior and can accelerate adoption.
5. Leverage advocates of the change to amplify results
In any change initiative there is a group of ‘early adopters’ who can be leveraged to champion the change with peers. Peer advocacy can be one of the most powerful and successful tools organizations can tap into to accelerate change.
Many organizations have recognized the power of consumer advocates, and ensured channels exist for those advocates to communicate with other customers or prospects. By taking a similar approach internally and using social media tools, blogs and You Tube channels organizations can amplify the impact of those early adopters.
Organizations are continuously investing in technology to improve their customers’ experiences. Investing in some of these technologies to support employees during times of change can not only shorten the amount of time required to successfully implement change, it can also improve the employee experience and strengthen the organization’s employment brand. In today’s digitally disrupted world where change is constant and the employee experience matters more than ever, these investments are no longer optional.