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Successfully Leading a Team Through an Organizational Change Initiative

You received an announcement that there will be an enterprise change initiative. This action will be a drastic change for your team. How will you help navigate the change with your team? What is your role?

Know more from Jessica Scanlan, Organizational Change Management Manager, Microexcel Inc.

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According to research by Gallup, employees are more engaged, less burned out and know what is expected if their supervisor is visibly supporting the change. Similarly, if the supervisor is not supportive of the change, they are more likely to be disengaged, burned out and not clear on their roles. Clearly, managers and supervisors play a key role in the successful adoption of a change their employees are experiencing.

Sponsors, the Project Managers Office (PMO) and Change Managers should be communicating the global messaging and receiving feedback. However, managers are expected to make sure that the message is communicated down to their employees. Employees are then prepped and ready to learn and adopt the new processes, tools and attitudes surrounding the change.

How do you do this?

You’re already busy. Navigating change with your employees is an additional expectation above and beyond your regular duties. Still, remembering these key steps will earn you some quick wins for a successful change, while building a foundation for a stronger, more cohesive team.

  1. Communicate a tangible Why
  2. Practice empathy
  3. Provide support
Organizational Change Initiative

1. Communicate a tangible Why

The PMO and Sr. Leadership should provide you with a rallying cry or an underlying why for widespread change such as:

Moving forward together
Increasing profitability
One company, one future

While communicating these messages is essential to creating excitement, unity and buy-in, they are not necessarily meaningful to individual teams or employees. It is key to recognize that each team and each employee may experience different changes to the tools they use, the processes they complete, the expectations of their role, etc. Outcomes and goals will also look different and can be more meaningful to your team:

Cut payroll processing time in half
More time freed up to build meaningful relationships with your clients
Automate invoicing for greater efficiency

If this isn’t provided to you, work with your PMO and Change Manager to determine the uniqueness of your team’s role in the change and how their jobs will change for the better. Remember to focus on both the ‘why’ and ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me).

Once defined, continue to reiterate the tangible Why at meetings, 1:1s, emails, etc.:

Change Strategy: “Together we will accomplish …”
Benefits to the company: “This change will help us…”
WIIFM: “Here’s what you will gain…”
Outcomes: “When we are fully integrated…”
Commitment from Leader: “Here’s what you can count on me to do…”

2. Practice Empathy

The next key step is to pause and think about what your employees are going through. Change is different for everyone. If you were to ask a team of 10 employees how they feel about change, you would receive at least 10 different responses.

There are so many reactions to change. Employ team meetings and schedule 1:1s to discuss the changes they will be going through and how they feel.

Think about your team. There will be those that are excited, those that are fearful, and even those that may bail. Listen, answer questions, and offer support.

Best practice tip:

Create a list of all essential employees, high risk employees, and those that may strongly oppose the integration. Determine a plan for them that may include:

  • 1:1s with direct managers
  • 1:1s with Sr. leader/President
  • Team Meetings for teams that fall into this category
  • Discuss job stability, other opportunities, training, and sharing the plan with them

3. Provide support

Just like you, your team is busy with their day-to-day tasks. They will now be spending extra time learning new processes, new tools, new roles, and adopting a new mindset. Be present and available for them. Discuss contingency and support plans. Make sure your employees can complete their current responsibilities, while navigating the change.

Sponsors and leaders will have their own communication plan; however, you should tailor your communication plan to your team. Your plan should allow you to be available to answer questions, offer support, and receive feedback.

Sample team communication plan:

Audience Key Message Sender Method Feedback Loop
A/P Team Kickoff project Team Lead In-person meeting In-person meeting
A/P Team Inform and reassure team of upcoming changes and related events Team Lead Weekly meeting In-person meeting/open door policy
A/P Team Discuss specific reporting structure changes Team Lead 1:1’s Discussion
A/P Team Training schedule and support office hours Team Lead Email/timeline Response/open door policy
A/P Team Training schedule and support office hours Team Lead Team Happy hour Celebration/Recognition

Sample Weekly Meeting agenda:

  • Debrief/reactions about acquisition/changes (hopes and dreams format)
  • Upcoming trainings
  • Org chart changes
  • Scheduling 1:1s to discuss specific reporting structure changes

By focusing on the key steps to support your team through change, they will be ready to face it together. After all, this will not be the first or last hurdle you will face as a team. Keeping the communication open, creating a space for safe dialogue, and supporting your team in tangible ways will only make your team stronger and more efficient.

Jessica Scanlan

Jessica Scanlan is an Organizational Change Management Manager at Microexcel Inc. She is dedicated to empowering employees in the face of change. She has experience implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX, WebApps, COINs and Ceridian applying change management, business analysis, communication and vendor management skills and tools. She is adept at implementing new processes, defining project goals, aligning stakeholders, and preparing end users for success. Jessica provides consultative support for clients looking to enhance their business efficiency and lead successful ERP implantations and adoption, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, cultural and behavioral changes, and new organizational operating models. Jessica is a certified PROSCI Change Management Practitioner.

Posted in SAP