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Why Digitalization is Key to Change Management Models

Over the past decade, change became the new normal for HR leaders everywhere.

From workplace robots to mobile systems, health-monitoring wearables to connected devices controlling the office environment, and virtual reality recruiting to predictive analytics, both organizations and employees were overwhelmed by the pace of disruption–and the flexibility needed to succeed. 

In fact, the speed of technological change was one of the top 10 threats to organizational growth, according to the 2018 and 2019 PwC Global CEO surveys.

But it wasn’t just technology keeping everyone up at night. For the first time, there were four different generations in the workforce. Globalization led to the rise of remote work and virtual teams. Gig work exploded. (In 2016, McKinsey sized the freelance population at over 150 million individuals worldwide.)

Adapting to constant change

Starting as early as 2002, the annual SierraCedar HR Systems Survey revealed–year after year–that effective change management is the critical success factor for any HR technology initiative.

But as we emphasize in our HR Trends 2020 report, the traditional model for change management no longer works in a digital world. The new world demands more agile organizations, leaders, teams, and employees that can quickly adapt to and embrace change. 

In 2020 and beyond, a modern change management model will embrace digital tools, center on the employee experience, and be data-driven at its core. HR, with its understanding of human and social dynamics, is uniquely positioned to navigate the organization though this new tide of change management.

The following trends will emerge from this new model:

  • Digital will become key to adoption and communication. HR must not only champion new technologies that will advance organizations, but also leverage these tools in the communication, implementation, and enablement of changes organization-wide.
  • Evangelists from all levels of the organization will be empowered to support change. Change initiatives will not be successful if they are simply ordained from the top–they need to be supported by those who will be impacted directly at the lower levels within the organization. The more people who share a vision for change and are empowered to spread the word, the quicker the organization can move through disruption.
  • A culture of change management. According to Sierra-Cedar, organizations with a “Culture of Continuous Change Management” are four times as likely to be viewed by all levels of management as contributing strategic value, versus organizations that never use change management. The organizations that will succeed will have a continuous listening and feedback loop that enables them to iterate quickly on plans.

It is impossible to implement a truly modern and effective change management approach overnight. But with the right strategy and tools, it can be done. Follow these tips:

  • Implement a change management strategy based on data.
    • Start on your change management strategy today so you’re prepared for the next major disruption. Data on both your organization and your workforce will reveal what’s worked and what hasn’t with past change efforts. By using these data points, you can build a framework tailored to your organization’s unique needs, but also ensure it still has the flexibility and nimbleness needed to adapt to any scenario.
  • Deploy technologies that enhance your change management strategies.
    • Now is the time to find the technologies that will remove your roadblocks to smoother communication, implementation, and enablement. For example, when Bosch deployed people analytics, they used an internal social media platform to provide HRBPs with easy access to the tools and information they needed to learn the ins and outs of applying data analytics in business. Bosch also leveraged gamification to ensure what they learned was put into practice and created value.
  • Develop a continuous listening and feedback model.
    • Implement a strong communication system that makes it easy for employees to give you feedback on how changes are impacting their work. Leverage a mix of tech—online feedback forms, mobile pulse surveys, and digital hubs—and regular in-person meetings to stay on top of both positive and negative sentiments. Then, once you know what’s working—and what’s not—make adjustments to show your people they are truly being heard.

This topic appeared as “Trend #7: Change Management Goes Digital” in our HR Trends 2020 report. Download the full guide to get more tips related to this trend and learn about 9 other trends that will impact HR and work over the next decade.

Author Photo
Lexy Martin |
Lexy Martin is a respected thought leader on HR technology adoption and value achieved. Known as the originator of the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey, she now works at Visier with customers to support them in their HR transformation to become data-driven organizations. Lexy is Principal, Research and Customer Value at Visier.