There’s an emotional response that accompanies all change. The larger the impact to an organization or individual, the larger the emotional response risk and potential degree of resistance. When introducing change across an organization, it’s important to understand how the change could or will be perceived and then tailor the strategy to ensure minimal emotional cycles or disruptions.
Just remember, once mass resistance surfaces, it’s often difficult to sever the negative emotional tie. Understanding and keeping emotional response at the forefront of planning will increase the chance of a successful adoption.
When change is introduced, often the first questions asked are tied to the initial emotional response: “Why do I care about this?” and “How will the change impact me?” You must understand the unambiguous answers to these questions if you want to ensure success and drive adoption across your organization. Understanding these questions will also help identify emotional perceptions, based on the individual or impact to the organization.
“Why do I care?” should be an easy question to answer. The decision to roll out change is most often associated with business value. The answer to the question should be aligned with a business objective/goal and produce some type of measureable result.
A realized example of this is:
In the above example, the value was known by leadership well before the measurement (the action wouldn’t have been taken if the desired results weren’t expected to be positive) but not fully realized until after the rollout of the change. The measure is often tied to the effectiveness of the rollout strategy/adoption plan.
The impact of the change usually tends to have variation but can also easily be answered, depending on how management/executive engagement is factored into the plan. Think about messages from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at your company — everyone is listening and tuned in to what’s being communicated; most often, the message is impactful and aligned with the current direction of the company.
However, just knowing the answers to these questions won’t be enough. In order for adoption to be successful, it’s critical to have a plan that outlines executive sponsorship, how the change will be communicated, marketing efforts to evoke excitement, training and a post rollout strategy that keeps momentum elevated.
Let’s take a look at each of these success factors in more detail.
There’s nothing more powerful than executive sponsorship. Engagement by company leaders or executives is critical in achieving broad adoption. To get started, focus on promoting a positive user experience with an executive or company leader sending out at least one "why we are changing" message that aligns with the associated business values. Encourage executives and leaders to participate in activities such as a release party, other training or promotional events, and the most impactful, visibly adopting the change themselves.
When communications aren’t clear and concise, it often leads to uneasy feelings and vague recall. It’s important to articulate the details of change the right way, the first time around, to avoid confusion and negative response.
The first step is to develop a communication plan. The goal of a communication plan is to detail the key communications to properly inform stakeholders, department managers, colleagues, etc. of progress, milestones and actions. A properly executed communication plan will help prepare stakeholders and department owners/managers for upcoming milestones and provide a head-start for building competencies. Your communication plan helps build awareness and participation throughout the change cycle and eases the support burden by reducing confusion.
It’s also important to have all stakeholders involved early to assist with alignment of expectations and participation. For example, department owners will be accountable for hosting trainings, and end users will be accountable for attending the trainings. A communication schedule should also be developed and shared with key stakeholders to ensure key communication dates are known in advance and when participation is needed.
There’s nothing worse than having an amazing rollout only to discover that the general consensus among peers is lackluster because marketing was completely void. There needs to be excitement and anticipation that guides individuals toward positive response.
Imagine how interesting Apple products would be without the marketing efforts associated with each release. Apple is a leader in the electronics space regarding the way it markets new features and improvements. Think about the anticipation and marketing efforts around the latest iPhone —some examples of this are proposed feature leak months in advance, sold-out live release event, live webcasting that’s overloaded with hungry consumers trying to get a taste of what’s to come, and pre-sales that are almost unparalleled.
Although change in your organization might not compare to the iPhone, it’s still important to market the change in a way that will build anticipation and generate excitement across the organization. In order to be successful, you need to understand who’s affected (your target market), how you’ll position the change with positive response association, how you’ll use various media methods to communicate and how you’ll keep the buzz interesting with a mix of events or rewards.
Training is usually not a one-size-fits-all approach — roles, departments, permission levels and even generations, etc. need to be taken into consideration when developing a training plan. Different people across the organization are going to have different needs and digest change at different paces and in different ways. In addition to building a customized approach, it’s also important to plan beyond the initial how-to trainings. New employee onboarding and introduction of subsequent change requires another level of training to ensure continued adoption success.
Post rollout strategy is often the most overlooked, but it’s a key element in keeping adoption rates high and preventing the associated business value measure from declining. Set small post engagement goals to start (you don’t want to overwhelm your colleagues — adaptation/adoption ease is often the best approach), but remember engagement frequency is an important factor to keeping information at the top of minds.
Each of the above success factors is dependent — all must be successful in order for user adoption to be successful. Unfortunately, the beloved quote from “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, he will come,” rarely rings true when it comes to user adoption. If you build or change it, you need to have a plan that establishes a strong grip through the above-mentioned success factors and with positive emotional response.