As a consumer, I have often felt “taken care of” in the midst of change and disruption. For example, Alaska Airlines sent me SMS alerts to indicate my upcoming flight was delayed; Capital One sent me timely, targeted and actionable updates when it acquired my bank; a Nike employee had a shirt driven over from a nearby store when they didn’t have the one I wanted in my size.
We’ve all heard of organizational transitions, however, where employees had vastly different experiences. At best, internal change management efforts involve, inform and train employees for change, but rarely through these changes do employees feel engaged, understood, or inspired.
Let’s improve these transitions by applying insights from digital (using technology to connect people with people or people with information) and customer experience or CX (giving customers an experience that keeps them coming back and inspires them to share it with others) to make change management better. Here are four ideas to get started:
- Create and Use Employee Personas – Understanding the psychographic profile of customer groups is commonplace in marketing, but rare in change management. When managing a major internal change, it isn’t enough to segment affected employees (e.g. managers vs. line employees)—you have to understand how they think. Your communication and engagement strategy should look much different for an employee who has been using the same process for 20 years vs. an employee who may be more change-adept but is flooded with 5,000 emails each week. Creating (and using) employee personas as a framework for targeted engagement and messaging will help employees feel understood and accommodated through the change.
- Identify and Leverage Influencers – Internal influencers—employee leaders we trust and follow—are rarely in senior management, likely aren’t on your project team, and may not even be in your project’s sponsor network. To find them, conduct a social network analysis: find out whose posts on the company blog get the most comments, who early adopters on past change initiatives were, and ask who employees look to as an advisor during change. These data points will lead you to the true influencers whose support will pay dividends—get them on board early and recruit them to help iteratively refine your rollout strategy.
- Collect and Leverage Change Management Data – How will you identify these influencers and early adopters? How will you know where your primary pockets of resistance will come from? How will you know what engagement strategies work best for each group? The answers to these questions exist within your organization, but they are unlikely to be catalogued or immediately available to a new project team at kickoff. With a small amount of coordination, change management offices, project management offices (PMOs), or change leaders can quickly accumulate high-value insights for new project teams.
- Personalize Your Engagement – Rather than dispensing messages from an ivory tower and expecting them to “cascade” down the org chart, create tiers of engagement and match up stakeholders to a tier, allowing them to change their tier if desired (your top engagement tier might include SMS alerts at key milestones, newsletters, swag, workshops, and an ongoing project-themed competition or game). Survey workshop participants ahead of time to see what is most pressing and tailor the agenda accordingly. If you have the budget for it, build a project app with key data and messages leaders can access at a moment’s notice. By personalizing your engagement and making it customizable to employees, they’ll feel more invested and pay more attention.
Failed change management efforts can result in angry employees and cancelled projects—we’ve all seen it happen. Let’s set a higher goal for our change management efforts—not simply to “not fail,” but to excel by helping employees feel “taken care of.” Leveraging these best practices from digital and customer experience will help us do just that.