No one ever said that change was easy! But following change management best practices will give you the best shot at great results from your change initiative.
Managing change is an essential prerequisite to successfully implementing it.
Without a plan covering what change(s) you’ll introduce, how you’ll do it, and by when, your efforts will lack the direction needed to guide your idea to success.
You also won’t be able to align employees on why the change is necessary and continue facing their resistance to the new vision. Plus, any short-term success will quickly fizzle in the face of unfocused attempts to promote long-term change.
But if you’re serious about becoming one of the 34% of businesses that have clear success with bringing organizational changes, be sure to manage the new vision instead of diving in without a plan.
Not sure where to start? We’ve got your back with this guide that covers change management best practices that guarantee success. As an added bonus, we’ve included lots of examples to help you succeed at change management.
Going into change management with the right mindset sets the right expectations from the get-go.
It also encourages you to create a realistic change process timeline. This way, the organizational change management staff involved in the process can slowly and strategically roll out steps to accomplish the new initiative. Moreover, employees will get a reasonable time to adapt to the change.
Always remember: old habits die hard. In fact, only 38% of folks like to leave their comfort zone. So instead of rushing things, give the implementation process the time it deserves.
Related: 10 Reasons Why Change Management Is Important
The key is to make sure the process isn’t so slow that everyone starts procrastinating on the change initiative. At the same time, allot ample time to the plan so you can convince employees in favor of your new vision and implement the initiative in stages.
At Runn, we advise new users to divide their change timeline into five stages:
Note that we don’t recommend closing out all old processes immediately after the new change imitative is rolled out. Instead, wait for its complete adoption before depreciating the old processes. This is uber-important for technological changes as it ensures old tools and processes are retired only after data and old users are moved to the new software.
An effective change management best practice that business leaders often overlook is that they don’t explain the need for the change. As a result, employees feel the initiative is being imposed on them for the organization’s selfish reasons — creating resistance.
The solution? Explain the ‘why’ or the reason(s) behind the change. This addresses their concerns, reducing their aversion to the initiative. It also makes employees feel valued as they understand the transformation decision isn’t being imposed on them.
Here are two ways to explain your ‘why’:
Either use external or internal data to explain your point. For example, explain that other businesses which have successfully executed the change you plan to make see an X% improvement in so and so.
At the same time, use internal data — for instance, X% of people took Y% more sick leaves where our normal trend is Z%, and the change initiative is planned to reduce burnout and improve your work satisfaction.
Share words from team leaders — even employees themselves — to explain the need for the change.
Let’s say you’ve been receiving complaints about burnout from employees and team leaders lately. Use it to explain the ‘why’.
For example, explain that, thanks to layoffs, lots of folks have been overworking — doing double the work than their capacity. To solve this, we need to implement a capacity forecasting tool (the change initiative) that’ll help project managers review each employee’s workload and assign new tasks only if they have the capacity.
Such an approach explains to employees that the new initiative is for their benefit. In fact, it’s a result of the concerns they shared with their managers.
Again, this helps explain the need for change. It also assists business leaders and management teams in creating change supporters in the organization.
What’s more, knowing the shortcomings of the old process helps you resolve employee concerns as they crop up throughout the change process.
The best part? Instead of giving generic reasoning behind the change plan, understanding the shortcomings and connecting how the new vision can solve each of them means that you can specifically explain how the change will help.
So an action step as part of these must-follow change management best practices: create cheat sheets featuring the drawbacks of the old process and the benefits of the initiative. Use it to make a convincing case for your new vision.
One of the hard and fast rules in business: the better you articulate your idea, the better you can convince others in favor of it. This holds true for managing organizational change as well.
An effective way to communicate your case about the planned change initiative is by using storytelling to motivate employees and create support for the vision.
The question now is: how can you leverage storytelling in change management? Use case stories of other companies that successfully implemented the change.
When switching to or adopting the use of new software, for example, coordinate with the tool’s team. Ask them to share the results that other similar businesses achieved by implementing their software.
Another one of the most important change management best practices includes identifying resources you need to dedicate for rolling out the new initiative.
These resources include:
Keep in mind, talking to employees and motivating them in favor of the change is more consuming than most time estimates. In most cases, you’ll need to talk to people individually to understand their specific issues and convince them.
Besides highlighting the resources you’ll need and the timeline you’ll follow for the organizational change, decide on the internal communications channels you’ll use.
A few to consider include: your company-wide email newsletter, email to specific teams and employees, business communication tools (such as Slack), and intraweb tools.
After you’ve noted down the channels, jot down what you’ll use each for. This way, you can create a streamlined communication plan that all management teams leading the change can follow. Here’s an example internal change communication plan:
This is going to be your pilot team or the team that will be at the front line of the change implementation.
If you’re introducing a new tool in your company to manage all projects, for instance, the pilot team will be the first to use the tool.
Instead of picking any random team to try out the change, though, pick one that’s the most open to the change process. In cases of technological change, this means starting with a team of folks who are open to trying new tools.
Work closely with this team on how their experience is. Ask them to record their initial reaction to the tool, how intuitive they’re finding it, and how it is improving their workflow. Tracking their experience is crucial so that they can share it to coach other people in their specific team and other employees in other teams.
Remember: 52% of folks use peer feedback to learn new skills on their job — making peer-to-peer workshops an important tool in your change management kit.
Alternatively, you can also identify employees who are open to change in different teams and incentivize them to give workshops and educate their teams.
Employees are often against a new initiative because it prompts changes in their routines and habits. It also takes learning new things and getting out of their comfort zone.
The best way to overcome this aspect of change resistance? Make the change easy to adopt — specifically as you roll out a new tool for company-wide use.
To this end, be mindful of selecting a tool that’s easy to use. The more intuitive a tool is, the better its adoption since it becomes easy to learn using it and including it in the workflow.
It’s also equally important you choose software that integrates with your current tech stack. Again, this helps with the tool’s implementation as it reduces work on employees’ plates — decreasing the friction caused by the need to jump from tool to tool.
Next, it’s important you collate and create easy-to-consume software resources in different formats. For example, put together a getting started guide in a PDF and video format. Create checklists to guide employees further.
Similarly, ask the pilot team(s) to create content on how they’re using the tool so others can learn from them.
You’ll also want the pilot team to share ways they’re using the tool. Sharing use cases is helpful for giving other employees inspiring ideas for how they can use the new software themselves.
In their book The Progress Principle, authors Steven Kramer and Teresa Amabile reveal the secret to engaging employees isn’t incentivizing them. Instead, it’s leaders and managers providing their people the necessary resources and support needed to do meaningful work daily.
Change management teams can use this key principle to their advantage. To do so, managers should demonstrate how the new tool will help employees make progress in their work.
But instead of making generic statements about how the tool works or what it’ll help them do, managers need to lead the change themselves by showing how they are using the tool.
For example, show what you’re doing with the tool in meetings. You can also create bite-sized clips featuring progress — for example: a short video on how adding holidays and employees’ expected time off dates in Runn gives an overview of who is available for work and when — saving you from overutilizing employees and taking on new work based on resource availability.
By sharing how the new software is helping you make meaningful progress in your day, you can better prompt staff to adapt to the change.
Pro tip: Instead of worrying about capturing big ways the new change will promote progress, begin with capturing small ways the tool supports progress. When you start implementing a change, small steps leave a big impact. They also indicate that using the tool is easy.
Keep employees involved from the beginning. Not only does this make them feel valued but it also informs them why the change is important and that the change isn’t business-centered alone.
With digital transformation, in particular, you can also involve employees in the decision-making process itself by asking them for their suggestions on new tools to explore. As you shortlist software, involve employees again by asking them to vote for their favorite option.
What’s more, you can source employees’ ideas on creating the change plan. For example, ideas on how to roll out the change and the resources they’ll need to learn about the new tool.
This type of change management model is technically called an open-source change process as it sources ideas from employees on how to implement that organizational change.
Gartner reveals the open-source approach to change increases the odds of success by up to 22%. This approach also increases the likelihood of achieving lasting success by up to 58% as compared with the top-down approach led by upper management which shows a long-term success rate of 34% only.
In short, creating a plan for your change process gives your implementation efforts direction. You roll out the change based on a strategic game plan, which improves your odds of success.
So make sure you work out a communication plan, the timeline for the pilot, full launch, depreciation of the older process, and a training and coaching schedule.
Work out the resources you'll dedicate to the entire process including who will be responsible for what and what educational collateral you’ll need to encourage implementation.
And don’t forget to involve employees throughout the process. When your people feel valued and understand the ‘why’ behind the change, they’re more likely to support you and welcome the change.
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