Change Management Skills Required for Success

Dustin Moore | November 12, 2019

Change in the workplace is necessary for running a successful business. Changes in business can have myriad benefits for your organization, including improved efficiency, better-served customers, and even more opportunities for growth and success.

Making updates to your workflow to take advantage of new technologies, automating and streamlining processes, switching from one software employees use daily to another — these types of changes are all normal, natural byproducts of company growth. 

However, change can also be difficult to adjust to, for employees and employers alike. Large or frequent changes can cause confusion or discontent, and even minor changes can be unpopular or lead to pushback. 

Embracing new technologies, in particular, is a common pain point for employees, and if this is handled or implemented poorly, it can do more harm than good for your business. For this reason, the way you manage change in your organization is just as important as — if not more important than —  making decisions that better align with your vision for your business. 

As a business owner, there are certain skills you must have in order to manage change effectively and successfully. Embracing a smart digital adoption solution can simplify the process of change management by helping with its technical and technological aspects, giving you time to focus on interpersonal issues and cultural conversion among your employees. 

Knowing common or popular change management strategies can make it easier to manage any employee resistance to change. Here are five of the most significant change management skills you need to have to ensure changes go over well in your organization, work for both you and your employees, and benefit your business as a whole.

Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills

Implementing changes requires critical thinking and analytical skills if you want them to have their intended effects. You need to assess who will be most affected in both the short- and long-term. You have to use these insights to inform the focus, scope, and specifics of your strategy; it will even help you determine how and to whom it is communicated. For instance, while switching to a new timekeeping program could affect all employees in an organization, the HR and payroll teams will be the ones using this software the most, will feel these changes more intensely, and need the most support.

Making changes blindly or without consideration for who will be affected will likely only result in employees who feel resentful or disgruntled. Upset employees can have devastating repercussions for your business, and as their employer, you have to do what you can to minimize their frustrations. While you don’t need to avoid moving forward with your desired changes simply because your employees dislike them, you do need to think carefully and critically about the impact it will have and how you can ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

Communication

Communication is, arguably, the most important skill you’ll have to master as a business owner. It’s crucial to virtually every aspect of what you do, and especially to change management. The way you communicate with your employees about these changes can influence every aspect of the process, from how the news is received to navigating unexpected hurdles to settling into a new normal. 

One of the biggest reasons change tends to make people feel uncomfortable is the fear of the unknown. If your employees don’t know what will happen in light of these adjustments to their lives at work, it can make them uncomfortable, stressed out, or even fearful of their futures at your organization. 

When discussing any changes you plan to implement (or ones that you already have), be clear and detailed about what your employees can expect and how it will affect them. Further, deliver the news to them in the mediums they’re most comfortable with. Tech-savvy individuals may prefer a straightforward email, while others may favor talking to you in-person. Change initiatives that aren’t communicated effectively are much less likely to garner employee support and enthusiasm, and are much more likely to fail altogether. 

Planning and Preparation

In a similar vein, you should have a detailed plan for how these changes will take place, your reasoning for doing so, and the effect or benefit they’re intended to have for your organization. Without a plan, your ability to think critically or communicate well is all but useless. Effective change management requires company leadership to be fully prepared, with a thought-out plan, that is communicated clearly to your employees. 

Part of that plan should include instructions and documentation to provide structure to employee training and new processes. This also empowers your employees to teach themselves, answer their own questions about using new applications or programs, and learn the real-world nuances of the new software on their own. Using an application documentation solution to create those materials in advance of any digital changes will make adoption much easier and faster. Additionally, it creates a record of all the important documents you and your employees will need to facilitate troubleshooting and solve problems long after the initial transition.  

When it comes to planning for change, your job is never truly done. Before anything else, you need to assess how ready your employees are for this change. Then, you have to deal with the difficulties of deciding what changes to make, the best ways to implement them, any challenges you may face while doing so, and how to help employees settle in to this new normal — and, at a certain point, when it’s time to make new or additional changes. 

Teaching and Training

When crafting your change management plan, you have to think about how you will re-train and educate your employees before, during, and after change implementation. Any necessary training that coincides with the change must be carried out early on. Learning new technologies can take time, and your employees will need a chance to figure out what, exactly, they need to know in order to use these tools efficiently in their daily work.

Even the strongest leaders, planners, and communicators can struggle with employee training and development. However, that doesn’t mean you should forgo re-training or education altogether; in fact, doing so will better prepare your employees for this change and help build their confidence in their roles. Training your employees can also help with your business’s productivity and performance overall, especially if you make use of a productivity acceleration platform to facilitate and accelerate their learning. 

Knowledge of Change Management Strategies and Theories

There is no single “best” or “right” way to approach change management. In fact, there are myriad change management models, strategies, and theories that have been developed over the years. Many of these models have been implemented with great success in organizations of all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to adhere completely to these change management approaches, but knowing some of the most popular, tried and true methods can simplify the process in your own business.

  • Enterprise Change Management Capability: This refers to your company’s ability to manage change across your entire organization. To improve your enterprise change management capability, you may maintain a set of policies and processes about how to handle change, make sure of new technologies or technical infrastructures for change-facilitation, or have procedures in place for initiating changes.
  • Organizational Change Management: This approach looks at change management in an organization from the top down. It involves looking at company-wide processes, structures, or programs that may need to change, and works to better manage cultural changes within your business. Under this framework, you would strive to improve how your employees adapt to change for their success, as well as the success of your business.
  • Individual Change Management: This approach is, essentially, the opposite of organizational change management, as it involves looking at change management from the bottom of an organization to its top. It focuses on supporting employees, keeping them motivated, and giving them the tools and training they need to respond to change successfully.
  • Change Curve Theory: This model explains the various stages of personal or individual transition that stems from larger, organizational changes. Utilizing this theory, you can look at how your employees may react to changes. With these insights, you can give them more support, education, and resources to adapt to the changes.
  • Lewin’s Change Management Model: This model describes the different stages that come from organizational changes and maintains that employees (or the business as a whole) must experience these different stages before they feel comfortable with change. Again, this can help you understand how your employees may react to changes, and therefore provide you with additional information and context so you can better support them.

Learning about change management theories can help you understand the best ways to do so in your own organization. Each of these approaches has useful, but different, theories about change management, and not all of them will work in the context of digitally updating your business. Take what you will from each of these approaches to change management and make them work for you, your employees, and your organization.

Each of these different skills works together toward the common goal of managing organizational change effectively and successfully. Make use of all of them frequently — as well as any available tools and programs — to successfully manage change at your business, train your employees on new digital adoptions and processes, and take your company to the next level of success.

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