If you’re making a big change in your organization — like a reorg or sweeping changes to your company tech stack — chances are you can’t simply announce the change and let everyone figure it out by themselves.
Change is more complex than that. There’s a reason half of major company-wide initiatives fail, and only 34% are clearly successful, according to Gartner. That’s why it’s important to plan, communicate, and monitor these changes closely. In other words, you want to manage the change, not let it run its course. That’s where change management comes in.
What is Change Management?
Change management is an organized, structured process designed to transition individuals, teams, and entire organizations from their current state to a new one. Change can be disruptive or difficult to navigate, so change management aims to ease the disruption and smooth the transition for everyone involved. It's the roadmap that guides companies through complex shifts, helping them adapt to new systems, strategies, or goals.
But change management is not just a process — it's a mindset. It can help you forget the fear of change, and recognize it presents opportunities to drive innovation, competitiveness, and growth. By adopting this frame of mind, organizations can better respond to shifts in the marketplace or their industry, keeping them agile and ahead of the curve.
A Seven Step Change Management Process
Embarking on a change management process is not something to take lightly. This transformative journey — while potentially rewarding — requires careful planning and execution. And the bigger the change, the more carefully you’ll want to tread.
- Assess the Need for Change
Before making any drastic changes, it’s crucial to understand your “why.’ What’s driving the need for change? Is it the technology you use? The culture? Are there areas where performance could improve? Are you struggling to keep up with industry trends? The answers will be unique to your company’s circumstances and needs. No two businesses will have the exact same reasons or motivations for making changes.
To figure out the “why”, consider talking to different stakeholders — employees, leaders, even customers — to gather their insights and perspectives. Try collecting data, soliciting feedback, and analyzing the current state of your organization to identify what’s driving the change.
Then, share the insights with your team. Change is disruptive, and can be hard for people, especially if they don’t know it’s coming. It’s important that the entire organization understands the changes in the pipeline, and why they’re needed.
- Define Clear Objectives
“What’s the end goal?” This is probably the most important question in change management. You’ll want to have a clear idea of what you’re moving away from, and what you’re changing to and why.
Once you’ve established the objectives for your change management process, communicate them to your team. Try to make sure everyone knows the end goal, so they have plenty of context for the change that’s to come.
- Build a Change Management Team
You can't walk this path alone. Assemble a cross-functional team with diverse skill sets to help navigate the change. This team can include representatives from all levels of your organization. Their collective knowledge and experience will offer valuable insight as you move forward.
- Develop a Change Management Plan
Think of this step as drawing the map for your journey.
First, you can craft the vision of what the change will bring about. Then, create a strategy and plan to achieve it. This vision should be clear, compelling, and easily understood, while the strategy should detail the steps to realize this vision.
Once you have a strategy set, you can develop a more robust plan. Your change management plan outlines the resources, timelines, and actions required to achieve your objectives. Take into consideration all the possible challenges and prepare contingency plans. You may also want to assign tasks to specific people, ensuring everyone knows their part in the journey.
- Communicate the Change
Once the vision and plan are ready, communicate them to all stakeholders. You can facilitate discussions, answer questions, and gather feedback. This will help you understand the unique concerns and motivations of each group and address them specifically.
For example, consider asking your change management team and key stakeholders to share their feedback on your plan. Their insights could help you spot things you’ve overlooked, or smooth potential obstacles in the process. After all, many minds are better than one.
The way you communicate your plans and the coming changes can have a big impact on how everyone feels about it. So don’t just send a few emails and call it done. Regular, clear, and honest communication is key to reducing anxiety and resistance. It encourages buy-in, making everyone part of the process.
Customize your communication strategy for different groups within your organization. You may want to hold face-to-face meetings, host question-and-answer sessions, and gather feedback through surveys.
- Implement and Manage the Change
Now it's time to implement the change. This will vary greatly depending on your specific situation. What’s consistent, however, is the need to manage the change carefully, ensuring it's on track and addressing any issues that arise.
You may need to provide support, training, and encouragement to your team, as there may be resistance to the changes being made. Try to monitor progress closely and stay flexible. If it looks like something isn’t working, you can adapt your plan as needed.
- Review and Consolidate the Change
Once you’ve rolled out your changes, what’s next? It may feel like the hard work’s done, but it’s not time to rest yet. Regularly review the results against your objectives to see if you’ve achieved your goals. Ask yourself: What can you learn from the process? How can you use this feedback to fine-tune your approach for future change initiatives?
Don’t be afraid to optimize and iterate if you spot things that aren’t quite working. If it feels like certain aspects aren’t meeting your expectations, tweak them. Try to engage with your team to understand how the change is affecting them and if there’s anything you can do to improve things.
Support Employees During the Change Management Process — and After
Change can make employees feel unsettled and uncomfortable at work. This makes it important to look for ways to support employees during times of transition that go above and beyond clear communication.
An employee wellbeing program is well-suited to help employees through any anxieties. From meditation courses to team workouts to subscriptions for nutrition apps and personal trainers, modern workforce wellness programs can help your staff feel and work their best day-in and day-out. They also save organizations money by helping with talent retention: 77% would consider leaving a company that didn’t focus on their wellbeing.
If you want to learn more about how to set up your own employee wellness program, talk to a Gympass wellbeing specialist today.
- Gartner (n.d.) Organizational Change Management. Retrieved July 6, 2023 from https://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/insights/organizational-change-management
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.