aerial view of highway merging
PHOTO: David Barajas

Teams leading change management efforts in the digital workplace work hard to influence the hearts and minds of both stakeholders and users to truly embed the new tools and ways of working. In busy, time-stretched organizations where information management practices are poor and people still rely heavily on email, this can be a challenge.

It is always interesting to see how the winners of Step Two’s Intranet & Digital Workplace Awards are applying change management. These global awards celebrate outstanding achievements in the intranet and digital workplace world, and provide a snapshot of trends and good practice. Generally, change management tactics in this area are quite mature and we see common practices across each year, such as the use of champion networks, training, support resources, energetic launch days, roadshows and programs of iterative improvements all playing their part. In practice, teams need to take a multi-pronged approach to change management, applying some or even all of these tactics.

This year we saw how three important factors help — time, user involvement and clarity around particular use cases. None of these are a surprise and continue to be themes encountered from year to year, although we also saw some strong execution and intelligent approaches that made a difference.

Give Change Management Adequate Time

The expected timeframe for change is a critical yardstick for how stakeholders judge the success of a digital workplace initiative. Unrealistic expectations about adoption can cast a shadow over what might be a perfectly good implementation. It's not realistic to expect users to change their ways of working overnight without making more radical changes such as restructuring teams or processes. Instead, teams need to give the digital workplace adequate time to embed.

For example, at Polish community bank Bank Spoldzielczy we Wschowie, IT built a custom digital workplace focused on an intranet with very extensive functionality to manage and automate back-office processes. They worked on this over a number of years and much of the natural early resistance to using the tool evaporated as employees saw clear value and got used to relying more on workflow and less on emailing their colleagues. New employees coming in also see that the digital workplace is how things get done.

Related Article: How to Adapt Traditional Change Management for Digital Transformation Initiatives

Involve Users to Get Buy-In and Drive Legitimacy

The twin influences of agile methodologies and user experience has helped to drive user feedback as a common data input into the development of a digital workplace and its constituent tools. Involving the people who will use the technology is not only critical for successful digital workplace design and scoping, but is also a key change management tactic. It creates buy-in and advocacy for those giving their input, which can help drive some momentum around adoption. For those who haven’t given any input, knowing a digital workplace has been influenced by feedback gives it more legitimacy.

US financial services company Wells Fargo introduced a new portal homepage design based on microservices, with each homepage crafted around the specific needs of different lines of business. It based the project on extensive user research and input with interviews, surveys and workshops, but the team was also able to get extensive user feedback as they launched each iteration of the portal across different lines of business.

The portal has a new notifications feature that was utilized for the roll-out. Every day after launch for a week, users received a notification asking for feedback on a particular aspect of the new intranet, with the promise of being entered into a prize draw as an extra incentive.  This approach helped elicit 6,800 pieces of feedback over a five-day period, an exceptional result that simultaneously shows employees opinions are valued, gives rich data for improvements, and also gets users to explore the new homepage.

Related Article: Key Skills Every Digital Workplace Practitioner Needs

Provide Clarity Around Use Cases

Another key change management technique is to ensure there are tangible use cases to frame the business use of a digital workplace tool. Messages that show how a tool can help with a particular issue or with everyday work are far more likely to resonate strongly with an employee than more woolly statements about the need to collaborate and innovate. It is always good if teams can successfully articulate use cases either prior to launch or as part of ongoing change communications.

UK-based financial services group Lloyds Banking Group established clarity around use cases when launching a new collaboration platform called "Hive" based on Jive Software and also made each use case central to the onboarding process for early adopters. Part of the rollout included a pipeline process that prioritized onboarding for the groups who would get the most value out of the platform. The process helped identify convincing use cases and collaboration opportunities across the business and gave early access to those teams who had truly thought about collaboration and how their work could be done differently. This process not only ensured early value was being established on the platform, but also created a much greater desire for teams to use Hive and gave some momentum to adoption.

Since then the team has continued to apply imaginative approaches to change, such as a series of initiatives focused on experimenting with more agile approaches to work and collaboration, as well as the “Hoscars,” a set of awards for the best communities on Hive.

Related Article: Stop Focusing on Digital Workplace Adoption

Take a Multifaceted Approach to Change Management

No one single approach will successfully drive change in the digital workplace. Applying a variety of tactics, including some of the ones outlined in this article, will help embed new ways of working and improve adoption of tools. Most importantly, remember change is unlikely to occur overnight. Patience and persistence will help you in the long run.