They say change is the only constant, yet change is never easy. I consider myself pretty open to change, but I still find myself fumbling around for a few days when Gmail updates its interface or someone tells me about a new shortcut I should start using.
If it’s hard for one person to embrace change, it’s even more difficult for a large group of people. Once a company decides to invest in a software upgrade, it’s very common for their leadership to assume their organization will fully adopt the change. The challenge in preparing any culture for change is that employees tend to cling to what they know, even if it’s not working well.
Change management is an approach used to guide all levels of an organization through change. For a company to be successful in rolling out new software, it’s imperative that they make change management and communication a priority. So how can companies prepare their organization for this change?
1. Communicate Early and Often
It’s a good idea to start by explaining the need for the change and what problem(s) it is solving. Employees are more likely to be ready for change when they understand why the status quo won’t work anymore.
Continue communicating throughout the entire process in a variety of formats. Don’t assume people know what’s happening. In the absence of information, people tend to think the worst. Make sure your message is consistent and frequent, and it will help dissolve that fear.
2. Involve Staff of All Levels
Identify stakeholders from each group, and involve them in the process early and often. People will connect to something they helped design and build. Ask each person to list a few items that are particularly difficult now, and then make an effort to have the first release solve one of those items.
3. Identify Advocates
Resistance is inevitable. It’s important for leaders to convey why the change is necessary, but hearing peers echo those words goes a long way toward acceptance. Empower a few individuals to make decisions, be beta users of the system, and train their groups.
4. Phase the Roll-Out and Provide Support
Break down the roll-out into bite-sized steps. There will be a lot of questions, so be sure to provide proper instructions and support.
Introduce the software to a small group or office first. If there are a lot of issues, this allows you to contain them to a small group and make changes faster. If all goes well, you have one whole group that can spread the positive feedback.
5. Gather Feedback and Iterate
Sometimes, all you need to build trust is to help everyone feel heard. One way to do this is to gather feedback via surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, etc.
Whatever the format, make sure you are collecting and measuring it, celebrating any wins, and open to making adjustments. Remember to communicate how you’re addressing the issues your team has raised.
Change management isn’t always easy, but having a strategy and engaging employees will go a long way toward helping people adopt the change. Applying these practices can give your organization a better chance of preparing your culture for a large change.