Best Kept Secrets of Change Management: Investing in Training

Training, as you probably know already, is a big deal! So big, in fact, we’ve split it into two separate blog posts, catch our last post on “sticky” learning plans here.

Today we want to focus on why you should invest in training, while inspiring your team to actually take the training. Because as the old saying goes, before you can teach a person to fish, they need to know the importance of eating!

Even Olympians Have Coaches

We often find that users are enthusiastic and excited to sign up for training and attend, as long as they are given the opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, if users aren’t given the opportunity to sign up for training, we often see less enthusiasm around training.

All joking aside, the resistance to training in many organizations is not due to the attitudes or behaviors of end users. The big hurdle to offering training is usually getting the right project leaders and convincing those with the keys to the budget that training is worth the up-front investment and ought to be offered in the first place.

Many decision-makers employ the logic that because you have hired a strong team, they should be able to figure it out on their own. Indeed, some users probably would be just fine with this unguided approach.

However, we’d like you to consider the fact that even Olympians have coaches. Similarly, even the best and brightest on your team can and will perform at a higher level if given the appropriate support and motivation to keep growing.

With tight budgets, it’s not uncommon for the decision makers in your organization to have to stretch your dollars – we get it. Since so many of the new tech tools are designed to be intuitive (it’s one of our favorite selling points of G Suite) it can be easy to think that a simple way to hit that budget is to skimp on training.

But by omitting training, many of the most efficient features of new technologies will go unnoticed and underutilized because users aren’t provided with early support.

Chances are that at least once in your professional life you have had to learn a new technology, only to find out weeks or months later about key features that would have been great to know about back at the start! It’s such a bummer to think about the minutes (or hours) you could have saved if only there would have been the right learning opportunities for you at the right time!

Getting Buy-in

So, how do you get training for the team to be seen as a necessary part of your tech launch? It all comes back to winning over your stakeholders.

If they are metrics-minded, consider sharing stats about the value of offering training as part of your change management approach, leveraging articles like this piece from Raconteur (page 6). If the decision maker is swayed more on emotion, try sharing one of your own stories of success relating to training that links closely to the technology you are intending to launch. You may need to go the distance and approach getting buy-in from a variety of angles; just keep reminding yourself that the energy you invest now to get training in place will pay huge dividends!

The other part of getting buy-in is making sure end users take advantage of the training that you have worked so hard to provide! We could write pages on this topic alone, but a couple of our favorite hints are:

  • Tell the team WHY the change is happening in a way that focuses on what’s in it for them
  • Don’t just say it once
  • Don’t just say it one way  

The more you can appeal to the various personalities on the team and focus on the value of leveraging the learning opportunities, the higher your attendance and adoption rates will be.

Will mastering this new technology help the team provide faster service to your clients? Tell them about it!

Will leveraging a certain feature set of the new tool save them headaches in their day-to-day work life? Don’t keep it a secret!

Speaking of secrets, we’d love to hear from you! Got a best practice or hint on how you’ve succeeded in getting your organization’s “Olympians” the right coaching? Comment below!

Best Kept Secrets of Change Management: Define User Groups, AKA Seeing the Forest AND the Trees

By Nick Bathke

You’ve successfully created your Circle of Trust and you’ve navigated the dangerous waters of Executive Sponsorship, so what’s next? Let’s talk User Groups.

You can go into a project with the best communications plan, a great training series, and an effective marketing campaign and still find that some users are hesitant to embrace change or may be openly hostile about the change. What gives?

One thing you may not have considered is User Groups–including how to properly define them, and then tailor the communications, training, and marketing to them. Let’s walk through it together!

Forest, meet trees

Wise people will often say “don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees,” but in this case, we will encourage you to ignore that completely. Instead, we want you to lose sight of the forest and focus in on the trees. What does that mean?

Don’t assume you can lump all users into one group and communicate, train, and market to them as one. Each user group is a tree that we want to identify and define. If you’ve read this far, you’ve likely already started to think about user groups within your organization. If you haven’t, check out the list below to get you started:

  • Executives
  • Executive assistants/admins
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • HR

Easy enough, right? At this point, you can layer on more variables to further narrow down user groups. Does your organization have multiple locations? Do those locations sit in separate time zones? Are there multiple languages within your locations? You can see that quickly these questions can add up, but their importance cannot be understated!

What did we miss?

Why does it matter if you’ve defined these groups? Let’s run through a simple example to illustrate the importance of user groups.

You are in charge of change management for a new email system at a company with 400 users. Your plan includes a robust communications plan for end users, such as emails and digital signage. You’ve scheduled enough trainings over a large period of time to cover all users, and you worked with marketing to blanket the campus with posters and desk-drops.

But, the Customer Service team uses a special plug-in for their email that no other users need, and it’s imperative to their day-to-day jobs. No communications mention if it will be available in the new email system, and your trainers aren’t aware of how to use or install it. And, even though there are posters throughout the Customer Service area, none of them mention this vital plug-in.

You can probably guess the ramifications of this, right? The Customer Service team is confused (at best) or hostile (at worst) in the lead up to the email change. Even if you react to this quickly, the Customer Service team will still be wary of the change because a core piece of their workflow was ignored.

What’s the lesson? Taking the time up front to identify the user groups will save you headaches and heartaches once the change is underway!

There are many pitfalls in a change project, and you’ve probably encountered a few in your past projects. But we often find that many pitfalls link back to not properly identifying a user group up front. Once you have defined your user groups you can figure out if they have unique needs and avoid the project-stopping plug-in situation from above.

Have you gone through this exercise before? Any big successes or pitfalls you learned from? Let us know in the comments below how you work to define your user groups, we’d love to hear from you!

Best Kept Secrets of Change Management: How to Avoid the Loch Ness Monster of Executive Sponsorship

By Sarah Gasparick

Chances are that you’ve heard it before: you need to get Executive Sponsorship secured with a project early on to help it succeed.

It’s good advice. In theory, it’s so simple. In practice, it is often an uphill battle. Getting the Executive Sponsor (or sponsors) to actually be active and visible can end up being more like sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. There may be rumors and a few witness sightings of the elusive sponsor, but the bulk of users are left alone in the foggy wilderness with no clear footsteps to follow.

It is not uncommon to launch a project and experience a “honeymoon” phase with Executive Sponsorship. You think you have the commitment and buy-in you need from leadership. Everyone shakes hands and smiles. Initial phases of the project get rolling and everything is just rosy.

Then the honeymoon is over and there’s a battle on the home front over who needs to do the dishes – er, I mean – there is a battle over who needs to deal with a difficult project decision. As you look over to the head of the table all you see is an empty chair. Your email requests go unanswered. Even your strongest supporters within the project team start to waver. The fog begins to set in…

Leaving footprints and maps

Where did things go wrong? While there may not be just one right answer here, we invite you to ponder the idea that if you didn’t take time to invest in “marriage counseling” before the wedding – that might be the issue.

In the pre-launch of a project, it is a smart idea to set clear expectations with the Executive Sponsor so that you can clarify that you’re not just looking for a figurehead to invest 15 minutes signing a letter or making quick remarks of support in one meeting. If you are looking for well-rounded sponsorship, you need to spell it out and gain agreement up front.

Not sure just what to ask for from your sponsor? Map it out!

Think about the activities that they could participate in that would yield the greatest exposure and inspiration to end users and compel them to adopt the new tools. Consider the timing and time investment required on their end, and do what you can to make your request easy for them to digest and achieve.

Depending on your organization footprint, you may need to get creative and have the sponsor create a short video to incorporate into marketing, versus asking them to attend 10 onsite manager meetings. Asking them to sign off on all of the communications for the project would be unreasonable, but perhaps they can send the company-wide announcement at the launch of the project.

The key is to make sure that there is ample presence from the sponsor so that end users will know with confidence that they are walking on the right path as they invest their time and energy in acclimating to their new resources.

Avoid a “Nessie” project! Get your Executive Sponsor the exposure that the team deserves and you’ll be one step closer to happily ever after.

3 Collaboration Problems Every Company Faces

From project conception to completion, collaboration is the key to success for any business. Every company and team face its own challenges to achieve effective collaboration.

Technology has redefined how we collaborate, and the ever-growing marketplace shows countless applications for every use case possible. But the same core problems persist from a 15-person startup to a Fortune 100 company. Here are some of the common challenges faced by all:

1. Difficulty finding the right information

It can be a lot easier to find the hole-in-the-wall Italian bistro you visited 11 months ago than it is to find a spreadsheet from accounting from 11 months ago. People spend a considerable amount of their work day finding information, files, or trying to find the right person to talk to. Having a static intranet or email solution isn’t always the answer.  

An org chart looks good on paper, but in reality the department head cannot realistically be a CTO and COA (Chief of Answers). Knowledge is as diversified as tasks are. It takes time to find the right person to talk to, and to find the data that person sent you a while ago.

Solution:

Find a solution that allows you to search your file storage and email in the same search bar. Also be sure you’re able to search by person, date, or file type to find what you need fast. Collaborative solutions need to get you to the right person or file as soon as possible.

2. Siloed information and communication between departments

People tend to communicate with their peers in their own departments. By its natural course, information is siloed by department and by team. The expertise that comes from each department can be leveraged by other teams within the company, and each team could be significantly more effective as a result.

“If HP only knew what HP knows, we would be three times more profitable.” – Lew Platt, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard.

Solution:

This issue is a human tendency rather than a technological one. With collaborative systems making it easy to connect with anyone, there’s no excuse for not cross-collaborating. The fix is in creating a collaborative culture to support employees sharing their knowledge and research with other team members.

3. Difficulty adapting to new systems

When people don’t fully know the capabilities of their system it leads to ineffective employees and less productivity. This most frequently happens for new employees as they transition, and even happens company-wide when a company transitions to any new communication tools, processes, or systems.

Change is difficult when people do not feel comfortable. During the change process, some might not feel like they’re properly equipped, or might just be intimidated by the changes around them.

Solution:

Change management is strongly correlated with project success. Fostering an environment where people feel comfortable to learn is key.

  • Many studies show a significantly higher ROI for projects with change management
  • Others show a strong correlation between change management effectiveness and meeting project objectives, staying on schedule and staying on budget.
  • Still others find that leadership, employee engagement, and communications are prerequisites for successful changes.

Every company faces its own challenges. If any of these 3 common challenges are evident in your company, take action.

What is the biggest communication or collaboration mishap you’ve seen?