A successful change-management process is all about foresight. It’s a step into the unknown, so you need as much information as possible to figure out what route you’re going to take and predict any opportunities or obstacles that might crop up along the way.
What is change management?
Organisations are continuously evolving. Usually that evolution slips by most people undetected—like how new recruits will slightly alter a company’s culture—but occasionally it’s more deliberate and noticeable; that’s what we call organisational change.
Change management refers to how the whole process is handled, ultimately driving successful adoption and implementation within the organisation.
HR plays a vital role in the change-management process; without moving people smoothly through that process, there’ll be resistance when switching to new ways of working. So as a people function, HR needs to be a catalyst for change by understanding and addressing people’s needs.
Why is employee feedback central to the change-management process?
People sit at the centre of all change, so their input—ideas, concerns, questions and everything in between—gives you a strong sense of how change will land among your workforce. They will also tell you which elements of their current working lives you should protect and what they can do without.
People are more invested in a future they help to create, so letting people have their say is absolutely key to successful change. But that communication must be two-way. It’s not enough to just get people’s ideas; you need to tell them what you’re planning and make them a part of the process.
But how do you go about doing all this? Our People Scientists have worked on many change projects with our customer partners using employee feedback to guide their decisions and track sentiment. So we thought we’d share the change-management process they follow, in six easy steps…
1. Define what you want to achieve
This is your North Star. By figuring out what you’re aiming for early on, your entire change-management process will be much simpler—whether that’s using it as a way of making decisions (“Will this help to achieve our ultimate goal?”), or repeating it over and over again in comms so everyone knows what you’re doing.
When you know what you want to achieve, you then have to decide how you’re going to measure the success. Are there any standout KPIs you can use to measure improvements? What people metrics do you want to track? Spend some time deciding which would be most suitable.
But there’s more to it than that. Any change in ways of working hinges on the people who are affected by it. So you’ll need to hear directly from them. That means you should start thinking about how you’ll gather that feedback when the time comes with a listening strategy involving a blend of a modern tech approach and good-old-fashioned open conversations, like focus groups and employee forums.
🔥 Employee feedback top tip
Hive’s four flagship features will give you the variety of feedback you need to gather the richest insight for your change-management process.
2. Turn your goals into a compelling vision
Now that you’ve crystallised your goal, you need to make it shine so you can sell it to everyone else. Look at it from different people perspectives, taking different roles and seniority into consideration:
- Department heads
- Middle managers
- Front-line employees.
Then you can ask yourself what the key benefits for those people will be, and what might concern them. From there, you can work out how best to pitch the goals of your change-management process to the rest of the organisation to get them excited about the work you’re doing.
3. Get buy-in and commitment
With your compelling vision all worked out, you need to shout it from the rooftops and use it to get key stakeholders on board with the people side of the project. That will start at the top with your CEO and exec team, where you’ll want to explain the what, the why and the how—outlining the organisational benefits that’ll be most important to them. You should also try to get them to commit to contributing to the process, whether that’s financial or just in terms of being vocal and publicly championing the project.
From there, identify any notable influencers within your organisation and fill them in on the project, making sure to ask for their input and ideally involve them more heavily in it.
Finally, prepare a comms plan with content built around your compelling vision to be shared on a variety of formats and channels—roping in those execs and influencers to play their part. The aim will be to make sure everyone knows what’s changing, why it’s changing, and how it will affect and benefit them.
4. Listen and learn
Once you’ve communicated everything to everyone, it’s time to shut up and listen to what comes back. Run a small survey to find out what people’s initial thoughts are, and any concerns or ideas they have to make the change-management process even better (grab your copy of our change management question set for exactly that). You can also try some focus groups to drill down a bit more into the detail of how people’s thoughts and feelings will impact the change process.
Another great card to have up your sleeve is an always-on listening tool, giving people the option to submit their feedback at any point in time, outside of surveys, focus groups and employee forums. With Hive Open Door, for example, you can set up a category for feedback about specific topics, giving your people the chance to offer their thoughts, whatever they may be.
5. Take action
With your own original plan, alongside the input of the execs, influencers, project team and the entire workforce, you should now have everything you need to clearly map out exactly how this change will be implemented. And once all that’s been agreed by those involved, it’s time to roll it out.
The most important part of this step? Involve people in the change! The more involvement they have, the more likely they are to embrace it. And try not to be too precious about any elements of the change-management process; there’s a very good chance that some will need to be tweaked and others may be dropped altogether. But don’t take it personally and keep your North Star in mind.
6. Track and improve
Using the KPIs that you identified and the listening any strategy you planned during step 1, you can measure the success of the change in terms of output and employee sentiment. Remember that it’s normal for any change-management process to involve a transitional period that’ll probably come with some uncertainty and impact both sentiment and performance—but that’s why you’re there to listen.
A survey is the best way to start your listening. Try to create a small, bespoke set of questions that you can send out just to the relevant population on a regular basis so you can stay on top of how your people are feeling about the change.
This stage is all about keeping your ear to the ground to get instant, real-time feedback through a mixture of listening channels:
- Employee surveys
- Always-on listening tools
- Employee forums
- Focus groups
- One-on-one meetings
Continue this tracking and improvement for as long as necessary—until the change is no longer a change, but the accepted norm that works for everyone.
Change is a necessary part of evolution and when it’s successful, the rewards can be huge. But if it doesn’t come off first-time, then don’t worry—make some tweaks and try again. That’s just another part of a strong change-management process.
Not sure where to begin with a change-management survey? Check out our guide and question set to get a leg-up. 👇
8 Employee Survey Questions to Help You Manage Change
Successfully guide people through change with powerful employee insights