HR’s Guide to Digital Change Management

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HR’s Guide to Digital Change Management

Technological advancements are increasingly altering the ways businesses and their employees work. Organizations focusing on continuous improvement will embrace this progress to stay competitive and boost productivity. However, they must manage the digital changes skillfully. Let’s have a look at digital change management and how HR can drive it.

What is digital change management?
What are the stages of digital change management?
Challenges of digital change management
HR’s role in driving digital change management

What is digital change management?

Digital change management is the process of applying change management principles in the context of digital transformation. Change management navigates the course of adaptation and helps people welcome, accept, and execute change. 

A digital transformation initiative is bound to underachieve if it isn’t implemented well. You can’t just install new tech and hope your employees will receive it well. Digital change must incorporate the varying expectations and priorities of numerous stakeholders. 

This is where change management and HR come in. HR needs to help create a mindset within the organization of being open and receptive to digital adoption. When employees have the resilience and tenacity to harness new technologies and ways of working, their effectiveness is enhanced. We’ll dive into HR’s role in leading digital change management later in this article.

What are the stages of digital change management?

A change management plan lays a foundation for effective digital change and guides leaders through the transition phases, helping employees adapt along the way.

Here is an overview of a six-stage change management process adopted from the 7Summits Way

1. Prepare

Before you get into the logistics of the digital change, it’s crucial to have a realistic picture of current workflows and what’s productive or ineffective about them. Then you can decide what needs to happen to take your operations where they need to go. Preparation activities should include:

  • Listening to team members about how work actually gets done.
  • Considering your business goals and change readiness.
  • Assessing the current digital maturity of your organization and which areas you need to prioritize.
  • Identifying executive stakeholders to build advocacy.
  • Creating a vision for the change with goals and strategies.
  • Ascertaining the types of hurdles and resistance that you will need to face.

2. Define

You need to be clear about the requirements of the digital solution, what it needs to achieve, and how it will be an improvement. The following actions can help you in this stage:

  • Interviewing stakeholders to think through the impact on the current reality and what would have to change.
  • Identifying who will be impacted and how this will change the current way of working.
  • Determining the resources you will need.
  • Finding individuals who have the right expertise and are effective communicators to lead and facilitate the process.

3. Design

This phase is where you take all the information you’ve gathered and assemble a thorough digital employee experience and training plan. It should include:

  • Goals that the change will support.
  • Scope of the project by naming what it will and will not include. 
  • Skills that need to be built to embrace the digital solution
  • What the success metrics will be.
  • Adoption strategies.
  • Accounting for unknowns or potential barriers that may arise and have plans for preventing or mitigating them.
Digital Change Management Stages

4. Build

Now it’s time to make the change happen and implement the solutions with a pilot program for a small user base to get their feedback and input. Here are some ideas for this part of the process:

  • Set initial targets that are easily achievable to celebrate wins early on. 
  • Schedule regular meetings with leaders and developers to collaborate and monitor the progress. 
  • As employees begin to learn the new processes, remind them how the change will be beneficial when fully implemented.
  • Incorporate employee feedback into a viable solution and roadmap of what future enhancements will entail

5. Launch

Here is where you make a full introduction of the solutions to a broader audience and scale. Actions that management can take during launch include:

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  • Progressing from a project management mindset to a program management one.
  • Putting all the digital adoption strategies that empower employees to execute the changes in place. 
  • Presenting frequent communication to reiterate the organization’s vision and remind everyone why the change matters.
  • Using positive reinforcement to connect employees to the changes and welcome them as the new normal, so the new processes stick. 

6. Monitor adoption

Even if the digital transformation has gone smoothly, you must review your organization’s progress and analyze the results. This can provide valuable insight that can be considered for future change efforts. Ways to monitor the adoption include:

  • Gathering feedback to find ways to increase adoption and assess whether you are meeting the intended goals and objectives.
  • Determining the root causes of any resistance and devising ways to address them. 

Challenges of digital change management

A digital workplace initiative is a complex experience, and there will be some barriers along the way. Trying to handle situations you weren’t expecting can be stressful, but anticipating and preparing for some of these obstacles will help you respond proactively and minimize risk.

Here’s a look at some challenges you may encounter:

Resistance from employees and leadership 

Humans have a natural tendency to want to maintain the status quo and resist, or even fear, what is unfamiliar. Hesitance to change can be found in every part of an organization.

Executives need to be supportive sponsors of change, and they have the power over the budget. Even if their buy-in is there at the start, it can wane over time if they don’t see the payoffs. This can set a lukewarm tone that affects employee engagement.

For employees, resistance can stem from the lack of trust in the leadership and an assumption that the disruption in their routines will actually make their job harder. It may also be an emotional response connected to the fear of failure and technology taking over their roles.

Additionally, department heads may think their systems work fine as is and don’t consider the broader needs of the organization. 

Digital skills gaps

Due to a competitive talent market or existing position duties that haven’t relied on technology, some employees might lack the digital skills they need to adopt new tools and behaviors.

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Depending on the organization, you may not be able to just assume that all current staff will easily accept or learn the skills necessary to function in a digital capacity. Some employers may have to offer extensive training throughout the digital transformation.

No definition of success

There must be an understanding of what the organization wants to achieve with digital adoption. If you don’t know where you’re headed, you can’t know when you get there. Employees need to be able to visualize the direction they’re going to stay on track with the new tools. Otherwise, they can lose sight and resort to using former methods. 

Lacking a clear vision of what you’re striving for can make it tricky to implement and track metrics that will define the success of the digital change. 

Communication breakdowns

Communication with all stakeholders is at the center of successful digital change management. People need to know what’s going to happen and what to expect when it does. Sometimes there is a great deal of emphasis on communicating with customers but not enough with employees. When communication fails at any point in the process, it can cause frustration and delays. 

Consistent messaging from leaders and the change management team about goals and progress is crucial to preventing uncertainty. In addition, there must be channels for leaders and team members to share their ideas and needs with upper management. Otherwise, there is the potential for rumors or the wrong information to spread.

Speed of change 

Managing a change process can feel like a juggling act. Without a good tracking system and harmonized processes, it’s hard to keep up with multiple, simultaneous projects and all the changes that continually occur within the world of work.

Employees can also become fatigued by dealing with constant change, which can affect their engagement and performance. If you fail to address this, it can impact the project’s outcome. 

Technology expanding jobs

Technology has created novel tools and workflows, dramatically shifting the way people work and adding new dimensions to their responsibilities. Sometimes this can feel disruptive, even though automation is meant to simplify work. 

If your focus is to get new digital tools up and running as fast as possible, it’s easy to omit important steps in the process. Not providing adequate training or reducing testing and transition time is more likely to end up decreasing productivity since employees aren’t fully ready.  

HR’s role in driving digital change management

Contemporary HR has proven its value as a key strategic function that brings competitive advantages to organizations. This allows HR to take its place in handling a great deal of responsibility for managing digital change. 

It’s the people behind the technology that make it work. Every organization needs to create a favorable environment to support its employees, which is what HR is all about. 

Let’s review six areas where HR can steer digital change:

1. Creating a digital adoption strategy

Every stage of your digital transformation efforts must include methods for adopting digital change. The goal is for employees to fully embrace and use all the features of the new tools with ease.  

HR should outline the digital adoption strategy that includes:

  • An awareness of users and their needs.
  • Defined responsibilities for every level of the organization. 
  • Training and ongoing support in multiple formats. 
  • The pilot program and implementation. 
  • Techniques for inspiring users.
  • Tracking of usage and user progress.  

2. Positioning digital solutions in the organization through effective communication

People don’t take to transformation just because they’re told to. Employees want to know the meaning behind the new tools and how the technology will affect them. It’s HR’s responsibility to showcase and explain the benefits and value of the digital solutions in a way that speaks to the workforce personally. 

It’s important to include how the change should have a positive impact on each of these:

  • The business as a whole: Engage employees by tying them to what the company is trying to accomplish and how it will set you apart from competitors.
  • The workplace: Describe what will be different about the work environment and how things get done.
  • The employees: Give details on how their tasks will become easier.
HR and Digital Change Management

3. Removing barriers to adoption

As we’ve already mentioned, there are always obstacles to digital adoption, such as fear, resistance, skills gaps, etc. HR should strive to overcome these barriers by creating an environment of openness to learning and sharing new ideas. 

Employees should feel like they have a voice. You need to listen to and alleviate their concerns. Achieving employee buy-in is possible with sufficient training, transparent and two-way communication, and a clear message about the significance of the digital initiatives.

4. Promoting behavioral change and building resilience

Digital change is more than just switching the tools you’re using at your organization. It’s about changing the behavior of the people and helping them think about and do work in a new way. 

Executing behavioral change doesn’t happen overnight, but investing in helping employees gain a new mindset will improve productivity and reduce resistance and resentment. 

HR should focus on fostering the following qualities of a thriving digital culture:

  • Innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Agility
  • Courage
  • Data acumen

As your organization adopts digital change and new ways of working, you are creating a resilient workforce that will be better prepared for the next adjustment or transformation that is likely to be around the corner.

5. Managing risk

Digital transformation introduces potential risks as the organization implements unfamiliar technology. Left unmanaged, these threats can impact your business functions and legal compliance. 

HR should pay specific attention to these perils. Consider ethical and privacy issues, as well as temporary loss of productivity and other situations of uncertainty. A digital change management plan should include the governance and capture of metrics needed to mitigate risks.

6. Practicing what we preach

HR needs to lead the way and start with building their own skills and ambition for technology before they can help the organization transform. It’s far more effective for HR to promote a digital dexterity plan if the team has already seized the opportunity to apply new tools. Setting this standard will inspire other departments to follow.

Ultimately, employees will realize technology’s benefits when they utilize and tap into digital HR solutions, such as HR apps, chatbots, and digital service delivery.

Final overview

A successful digital transformation isn’t just announced and then enforced. To be well-accepted across the workforce, it must be deliberately communicated and thoughtfully developed. Organizations that want to succeed in the digital era have to ensure effective digital change management.

HR plays a key role in managing the transformation from within, speeding up the technology adoption process of their employees and ultimately changing the way they work.

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