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Common Change Management Mistakes of Digital Transformation

Ben Renner

Ben Renner

change management needs to be top down

change management needs to be top downMost digital transformations at an organizational level come only when it’s absolutely necessary, and change management tactics often reflect this. Many take proactive measures to gradually enact practices like employees working from home or using video and decision-support tools in benefits communications. But, for the most part, organizations aren’t incentivized to invest in things like video communications unless existing systems stop working.

Even proactive organizations that invest in new digital systems and tools before they desperately need them run into problems. There’s no point trying to solve ongoing issues with quick, temporary fixes. Many organizations learn the hard way that the only way to implement some employee communications programs, particularly those involving new technology, is to undergo a top-to-bottom digital transformation. To do that effectively, employers need quality change management initiatives that avoid some common pitfalls.

Overlooking the Individual in Change Management

Managers and company owners have to take a high-level view of everything they’re changing about their teams or organization. Unfortunately, this makes it easy to overlook the individual. And each employee has a decision to make: to go along with or resist the change. For digital transformations, individuals don’t have much choice in the matter. If the company changes how they sign up for health insurance, employees must learn the new system or go without insurance. But many still resist learning new systems and using digital tools when they’re used to doing things a certain way.

don't forget the human element of change managementChange management doesn’t happen at the executive level. It happens at the individual employee level. Everyone has to decide to change the way management wants them to. When introducing new, digital ways of performing operations employees have always done one way, you must come to employees on their level. Show them how the digital transformation will help them get more work done. Show how it makes signing up for benefits easier or more efficient. Transparency demonstrates you haven’t forgotten about them as individuals.

Focusing Solely on ROI

There’s nothing wrong with analyzing potential return on investment for decisions you make as a company leader or manager. The most successful businesses are those that capitalize on their investments more often than not, and sometimes that’s an investment in new employee benefits or the software used to sign them up for it.

The problem with focusing only on ROI, however, is that it can lead to authoritarian practices with no room for feedback or improvement. Shoving the ROI data in the face of anyone who criticizes a new system or some aspect of the digital transformation is not good change management.

ROI can be tricky to measure at times, too. For a massive change like a digital transformation, the returns may not be obvious or immediate. It’s easy to miss factors that increase ROI in the long term, like gradual improvement of employee enrollment in voluntary offerings.

A Plan with Too Many Details

Obviously, you need a plan to manage change as profound as a full-on digital transformation. But you can’t detail this plan out to a minute-by-minute account of how the transformation will proceed because there are too many variables that affect the plan. In planning every single detail, you might also prevent critical adjustments from being made. If there’s no room for deviation, you discourage employees from offering constructive criticism. It also implies that there’s only one “right” way—your way. You could waste as much time convincing everyone your way is the right way as you spend making the digital transformation happen (and with no guarantee of its success).

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The Common Factor?

What do these mistakes have in common? They underestimate the human elements of change management. Change is often messy but that’s because it’s such a human process. It can progress smoothly, but only if you account for the people implementing and benefiting from the changes.

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