As customer expectations rise and technology rapidly evolves, businesses must be adaptable and embrace change to stay on top. However, this goal is unattainable if your employees resist change. That’s why your digital transformation’s change management plan can’t wait.
Still, most organizations spend their early planning phases focused on securing funding and business intelligence, thinking, “We’ll tackle change management later.” But change management must be at the forefront of your digital transformation every step of the way.
The good news is that building a change management-infused digital transformation plan doesn’t have to be complicated. To break it down, let’s revisit the 7 steps to begin your digital transformation journey and explore how you can champion change management in each step.
How to Center Change Management in the 7 Steps of Digital Transformation
1. Define Your Digital Transformation’s Goals and Objectives: Complete an Organizational Assessment
Digital transformation isn’t one-size-fits-all, and neither should your change management plan. Before anything else, you need to identify your goals and objectives. From a change management perspective, this calls for an organizational assessment. Performing an organizational assessment will help you zero in on your areas of greatest need, which will help your digital transformation plans be as focused and customized as possible. It will also help you understand your organization’s culture and how it varies from department to department.
This assessment should collect quantitative data from anonymous employee surveys and qualitative data from employee focus groups. Consider questions along the lines of:
- How efficient are the processes that you interact with in your role?
- Are there any tasks or processes you dread during the work day?
- Do you feel that risk-taking is encouraged without fear of punishment for mistakes?
- How connected do you feel with your coworkers and employees in other departments?
- Do you have the proper equipment needed to do your job effectively?
- When changes occur in the organization, are you often left confused regarding the change’s purpose?
- Do you feel informed on issues that affect your job?
- How would you rate the communication across the organization and within your department?
- How valued do you feel in your current role?
- Are you provided with sufficient training when new processes or tools are introduced?
- Do you feel your creativity and innovative ideas are embraced and rewarded?
Then, benchmark your results with other similarly sized organizations to determine where your change management plan needs to be focused.
2. Build Your Business Case: Use Your Data to Wow Your Employees
Building a business case isn’t just a non-negotiable digital transformation step. The data it produces can also be a valuable tool for gaining employee approval. To turn your goals into objectives driven by value metrics, collect data relating to:
- Customer Experience
- Staff Retention
These statistics can go a long way in helping you demonstrate the urgency of your digital transformation, whether it’s to stakeholders or your employees. You’ll also want to return to this data throughout your digital transformation journey to measure progress. And don’t forget to broadcast your initiative’s progress, numbers and all, to your staff. For extra big milestones, find ways to celebrate your achievement (more on that later!) Doing so will keep digital transformation fresh in their minds and motivate them to keep pushing forward.
Use this guide to building a business case to get the ball rolling with some key starter questions.
The Guide to Building a Business Case for Digital Transformation
Use this guide to building a business case to get the ball rolling with some key starter questions.
3. Get Executive Buy-In: Involve Stakeholders Throughout Your Journey
Don’t just think of your organization’s key stakeholders as the people you need to sell your transformation vision to. In reality, their advocacy and unique perspectives can be an asset to your change management team. Interview your stakeholders to assess your goals and narrow down your transformation’s impact on staff and customers.
But their role shouldn’t end with your planning phases. You’ll want to hold regular steering meetings with these stakeholders, impacted department leaders, and your change management team to adapt your plan as you go. By involving your key stakeholders throughout the process, you’ll likely gain insights you otherwise would have missed. And depending on their positioning within your organization, their influence may even win over employees.
4. Build Your Digital Transformation Roadmap: Perform a Gap Assessment
As you build your digital transformation roadmap, you’ll need to identify obstacles to progress and determine strategies to overcome or avoid them. In the context of change management, your biggest potential obstacle will be resistance to change.
A vital part of getting employee approval and squashing resistance is helping them understand precisely how the change will impact their roles and, better yet, “what’s in it for them.” To determine this, you’ll need to fully assess how your changes will impact your employees. Perform a gap assessment between where your process is today and what it will be post-change. Answer questions like:
- Which groups will be impacted by our changes?
- How will their processes change as a result?
- What kind of training or reskilling will be most appropriate for each group?
- What initial questions or concerns might each group have?
- Are there any employees whose roles will be affected to the extent that upskilling is needed? What will that transition look like?
5. Involve the People Behind Digital Transformation: Engage Your Employees Throughout the Journey
Communicate Your Plan Clearly
The last thing you want is for fear and resistance to build from misinformed or underinformed employees. That’s why it’s so important to explain your digital transformation plans to your employees in an informative, thorough manner. Clearly state the reason behind the change in terms that they can understand. If possible, relate the change and its impact back to their jobs. It’s also helpful to share an estimate of the expected timeframe.
Specify Personal Impact
Here, you will use the insights you found from your gap assessment in step #4. Communicate how each employee’s daily work life will change. If your proposed changes eliminate a dreaded task, highlight this positive outcome. And if training, reskilling, or upskilling is involved, walk them through how this process will work. Don’t forget to emphasize how growing their skills will benefit them personally and professionally. This information cannot wait, as it can make the difference between staff panicking that they’re going to lose their jobs and staff feeling supported and even intrigued by their evolving roles.
Throughout your digital transformation and post-implementation, you’ll need to continue collecting feedback and motivating your teams. Otherwise, your teams may lose all their progress and fall back into their old habits. To get feedback quickly, try:
- Google Forms
- Ask-Me-Anythings where your leadership answers employee-submitted questions in a newsletter column, videos sent to employees, or a webinar series
- Polls within your communication application like Slack or Microsoft Teams
- Interview a sample group of impacted employees
- Dedicate an email address for employees to send feedback
Celebrate the Wins and Reinforce the Change
To keep your employees motivated, find opportunities to celebrate milestones along your journey. Based on your digital transformation goals, create short-term and long-term goals your employees can work towards. Help each employee understand what their role is in these efforts. Then, when you reach a goal, celebrate by rewarding your employees before moving on to the next milestone. This way, you can continue to gain momentum by building excitement and fostering a culture of collaboration among your staff.
6. Select the Right Vendors and Tools: Look for User-Friendly Solutions That Fit Your Needs
As you select the right technology to support your transformation, keeping your employees top of mind is vital. If your staff finds a solution difficult to use, they won’t use it, and they’ll find workarounds to get by without it. To prevent this, regularly refer to the insights gained from your organizational assessment and gap assessment during your research phase. You’ll also benefit from examining the experiences of other organizations like yours that have implemented the tool. It’s imperative to consider:
- How user-friendly is this solution?
- What kind of learning curve have other organizations encountered with this solution?
- Would this solution fit our users’ requirements and environment? Does it have the integrations we need?
Know that there’s no such thing as a single solution that fits all your needs, so you’ll likely need a combination of tools. As a result, you need to ensure that the solutions in question work seamlessly together.
7. Ensure You Have the Necessary Resources & Skills: Invest in Training to Instill Skills & Confidence in Your Employees
One of the top reasons digital transformations fail is the lack of skills. That’s why having a thorough long-term training plan for staff is so important. You’ll need to consider how your employees will learn to use your new technology investments, how you will keep them up-to-date on the solutions’ new updates, and how you will address questions.
Set a Training Plan with Intelligent Automation
Your digital transformation will surely bring new technologies and new or changed processes. Here, you’ll need to define a training plan for each one. In addition to training programs specific to your new solutions, you may consider incorporating intelligent automation technologies like AI and RPA. Both are highly useful in standardizing and streamlining the training process. For example, RPA bots can lead employees to learn through active, hands-on training, which allows them to retain what they’ve learned more effectively.
When your employees start interacting with your new solutions and processes, they will have questions. For many organizations, the volume of internal support requests is often greater than the IT team can easily keep up with. AI can be your first responder to these requests. For instance, you can implement an AI-fueled bot that guides staff to resources relevant to their questions like:
- Knowledge-base articles
- Recorded screen share walk-throughs
- FAQ documents
If the issue still can’t be resolved, the employee can then be directed to an IT member from your team. This way, your support team can focus their time on high-stakes issues, and employees won’t have to wait as long for resolution.
You can also establish forums or active documents where employees can drop quick fixes that they’ve developed that address common issues. This way, their peers can benefit from their peers’ discoveries, and you can promote a culture of innovation and collaboration.
Bring Your Entire Organization on the Journey
Unfortunately, you can’t foresee and plan for every curveball digital transformation will throw at you. But with a robust change management plan and team, you can enter your digital transformation journey as prepared for success as possible.
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