4 change management tips for remote workforces

By Veronica Raulin | Head of Change Management

The workplace is no longer a “place.” Many companies that implemented “temporary” remote-work plans in the immediate wake of COVID-19 lockdowns are shifting to permanent workplace flexibility models as they struggle to attract and retain top talent amid historic labor shortages.

One thing that has remained the same for managers and leaders is the importance of effectively managing change to achieve strategic organizational initiatives. As organizational leaders well know, change management is challenging even when everyone is in the same room, let alone when employees are separated by miles, states, or even continents. While the fundamentals remain the same, organizational leaders need to make some adjustments to their strategies.

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Employee buy-in is key to a successful change, and clear and effective communication is key to obtaining buy-in. For employees to feel invested in a change, they must feel like they’re helping make it happen instead of having it happen to them. Clear, transparent, and frequent communication is crucial to address workers’ fears and to dispel rumors (yes, the office rumor mill keeps churning even when the office has gone virtual). Remember that communication is a process and not a single activity.

Effective communication in a distributed work environment involves the same challenges that existed when the whole team was working in the office, but with distance creating an additional barrier. Because a great deal of human communication is non-verbal, leaders must significantly increase the frequency and quality of communications with employees. 

Be as upfront and detailed as possible in your communications and stay away from emails when talking through initial details. Sharing information at the beginning is better accomplished in a space that allows for conversation and the reading of non-verbal cues. Keep employees apprised as the change initiative moves along, and solicit their feedback through online surveys and focus groups, paired with weekly videoconferences. Make yourself available outside of scheduled sessions for quick chats or video calls. And, if you get the feeling that someone is uncomfortable with the change itself or with the rollout plan, seek them out to understand what their concerns might be rather than letting it fester.

2. Provide employees with virtual social spaces

When all employees are located in the same space, change management strategies lean heavily on spontaneous in-person conversations to build support organically. A remote environment prevents managers and employee advocates from championing change at the water cooler or in the hallway. But that doesn’t mean we can’t create a similar setting with our remote teams.

Replicating social spaces in a virtual environment is just as important as ensuring that employees can access their work files and apps. Internal communications and social intranet solutions, such as LumApps, enable organizations to build “virtual water coolers” and foster community among both remote and co-located workers, enabling spontaneous communications between change champions and Doubting Thomases to happen. 

Additionally, by providing an “official” company social space, organizations establish a single source of truth that employees know they can trust and rely on, which helps mitigate harmful rumors and conjecture about the change initiative. 

3. Prioritize onboarding, learning, and development

In digital workplaces, and especially in distributed workplaces, onboarding is no longer a single, isolated event but merely the initial stage of a continuous employee learning and development process.

Build a virtual learning environment that sets up workers for success in both the current change initiative and those coming in the future. Break down learning activities into short, video-based modules, supplemented with written tutorials for employees to quickly reference later. In addition to required learning modules, give employees access to extracurricular lessons that enable them to develop new skill sets and hone their current ones. Along with all of the “just in time”, self-paced resources, remember that your employees may have questions or need clarification. Consider supplementing your resources with human interaction such as a Q&A session or quarterly refresher training open to all employees.

Make learning and development social! Enable employees to leave comments on course modules, which provides trainers with valuable feedback to improve learning materials. Provide employees with virtual completion certificates or badges that they can share on the company social intranet, which keeps employees engaged, fosters the same community that exists in in-person classrooms, and promotes the change as a positive experience.

4. Choose the right change management partner

Change management projects are difficult. A successful initiative isn’t solely about getting the new technology online and training everyone how to use it, but achieving long-term value from the investment. An experienced change management partner will not only ensure that the change process goes smoothly but also assist your organization with transitioning to an organizational mindset that leads to tangible business and financial returns. By helping you manage your employees’ experience through training and change management best practices, a change management partner will simplify your change initiative and ensure that your new technological tools are a catalyst for productivity. 

Let SADA help you make lasting change with maximum impact

SADA’s change management experts will work with your team to develop an effective change management strategy that will help you maximize your investment and transform the way your employees work by empowering them to confidently embrace new technologies, leading to increased productivity, innovation, and collaboration. Using a holistic approach, SADA’s team of project managers, consultants, and engineers will work together to assess your IT environment and develop a customized plan that addresses both your business processes and technical needs, empowering your organization to evolve and be an innovative leader in your industry. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation assessment.

In addition, we offer a variety of helpful resources to guide you in your cloud transformation journey including:

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