Change management strategies are vital for any new way of working, but it's especially important for IT leaders to get this right. IT projects represent major investments and traditionally have a high failure rate, so if you're not careful, it's easy to throw large amounts of money down the drain.
One key reason why they don't succeed is because end-users never fully embrace new technology. In fact, McKinsey estimates that as many as 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, and this is largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support
Therefore, tackling change management resistance needs to be a key part of any new deployment. Having a plan in place for this right from the start of your project will help ensure employees are ready for what's coming, understand why it's happening and know what will be required of them.
To make any transition as smooth as possible, it pays to bear these key factors in mind.
1. Identify reasons for change resistance
The first step must be to have a clear idea of the reasons why your users are likely to be resistant to change. By knowing what their objections will be before they raise them, you can prepare an appropriate response that addresses their specific concerns.
Common concerns and doubts employees may have about new IT solutions include:
- Mistrust or fear of the unknown
- Lack of consultation
- Threatening their current role
- Being required to learn new skills or unlearn old ways of working
- Failure to see the need for change
Make sure you talk directly to users and encourage them to be open about their opinions on the ideas, even before you've put forth any concrete proposals, and you'll be able to tailor your future conversations accordingly.
2. Keep it simple
It's vital that when explaining the purpose or benefits of a new IT application, system or process, you don't overcomplicate things. Most employees won't care or understand all the ins and outs of what it can do and how it works - they just want to know what's in it for them. Look to identify a few key topline points to emphasize when introducing the topic and make sure you're prioritizing messaging that highlights the ease of use. If people think new technology is too complex, they're unlikely to be on board.
3. Start at the top
The first people you need to convince of the merits of your new system are the most senior members of the company, especially the chief executive and others on the board. This isn't just because they'll be the ones authorizing the project and signing the checks; a company takes its lead from the top, so if employees throughout the business can see senior staff are engaged and have confidence in the change, this will filter down to all levels.
4. Maintain communication
People are much more likely to be resistant to change if they feel it's being forced on them without their input. Therefore, it's important to keep users up-to-date on the progress of the project at each stage, and to offer opportunities for them to have their say. If an end-user is able to spot a potential issue early, you can take their feedback into account and take steps to fix it before deployment. If you don't and wait until it's in production to gather feedback, it may well be too late to make the necessary adjustments.
5. Find champions
While employees will often gain confidence if they see senior management embrace the new technologies, they're just as likely - if not more so - to be influenced by the enthusiasm of their peers. Therefore, it's a good idea to identify keen early-adopters at all levels of the company who can advocate for the change and highlight its benefits. By turning these champions into a formal role, they can also act as an easy point of contact for any employees who do want to raise concerns or suggestions.
6. Have an engaging training plan
All your good work can still be undone at the final hurdle if people don't know how to use the technology or understand how it makes their job easier, and this is when a good training plan comes in. The worst thing you can do at this stage is to settle for a classroom-based presentation of the tool or a passive step-by-step demonstration of how to use it. Customize your training for different learning styles, offering a choice of options for different people. For example, make it interactive for those who like to get hands-on, or offer self-guided study for those who prefer to read through things at their own pace. Above all, don't forget to follow through with reviews or tests to make sure the messaging is sinking in and that people are actually using the technology.