One of life’s only guarantees is change — even at work.
In the office, though, change can be especially disruptive. It’s up to an organization’s leadership to make adjustments easy for employees.
And that’s where organizational change management (OCM) comes in.
Keep reading to learn what OCM is, what it isn't, and 7 tips for implementing it in your business.
What Is Organizational Change Management?
OCM is how business leaders prepare their teams for change and support them throughout the process.
Done right, OCM pushes employees toward success in their adjusted roles. It provides structure, even in a time of confusion, and helps employees grow into new positions with a clear idea of what’s next.
To that end, there are three levels of OCM:
Individual OCM looks at the impact changes will have on employees. We’re born to be adaptable, but a bit of support makes us even more willing to change. (People are resilient, sure, but we’re naturally resistant to the unfamiliar.)
Organizational OCM looks at how teams and departments will be affected by upcoming changes. A new project or setup will likely change how pre-existing departments or teams work.
Although the focus here is still on people, this level of OCM looks at how teams can be trained and coached as they adjust to a new work environment. Organizational change management guides team members to ease them into their new workflow.
Enterprise OCM ensures every part of the business is ready for the change. At this level, you're focused on making the whole business adapt well, not just specific individuals or teams.
What Isn’t OCM?
Some might confuse OCM for a communication plan or training program, but both of those tasks just scratch the surface of organizational change management.
OCM requires a multi-faceted approach that involves more than speaking about changes or providing one-time training to deal with them.
For example, OCM might require a leaflet to brief employees on the overall changes, as well as online training sessions tailored to the updates within their departments. Managers might need to go through a separate course so they’re well-versed in what’s next — that way, they can fearlessly guide their team through changes as they occur.
It’s also important to remember that not every OCM solution will be the same. That’s why it’s unlike any other training or communications solution — it will look different every time you have an impending change to prepare for.
Tips to Make OCM Effective
Knowing the definition of OCM is only half the battle.
If you're making changes in your business, it's vital that you plan ahead to help employees adjust. Here are seven ways to do it.
1. Assess the Change Against Business Goals
You can see the ways your business needs to change. But how does that switch fit into the organization's overarching purpose?
Compare any impending structural changes with the financial, ethical, and strategic missions of your business. You should have those objectives clearly defined before a change is even proposed.
Starting here is the perfect jumping-off point because you can figure out just how necessary your changes are. Plus, you can quantify the importance of your effort — to what degree should this change be implemented?
2. Create a Timeline
How will your change take place? When? Who will be affected?
Perhaps the most crucial step in the process is to draw up a timeline of how your new system will be implemented. Pinpoint the department(s) that will be affected by the change, and what they’ll need to adapt and succeed.
Once this is done, you’ll be well-prepared to share your plan with employees.
3. Create a Communication Plan
As mentioned earlier, OCM is more than a communication plan. But it's still important to be open and transparent about what's changing and why.
Now that you know you have the right strategy in place, take it one step further — figure out what the team will need to hear and when. Then, get inside of their heads and figure out what information they’ll need to know and the preparation they’ll require.
You’d be surprised how often communication isn't complete or provided in a timely manner. By giving people the information they need when they need it, you’ll significantly reduce confusion and frustration.
4. Train Employees as Necessary
Not only must you tell people what to expect, you need to arm staff members with the training they need to transition smoothly.
You might go with informal, conversational sessions, or you could opt for a more structured online training course. The training you choose depends on what skills people need and the best ways for that specialty to be honed.
Mentoring, coaching and one-on-one training are also useful options, especially when making dramatic changes.
5. Select Active Sponsors
Active sponsorship is often cited as the single most essential step in implementing OCM.
Look for sponsors among your leadership — a manager or director, for instance — and task them with championing the change. Their purpose is tri-fold.
First, they should be outwardly supportive of the changes being made and be the first ones to adopt them. This will show that they’re on board, which is essential for team members to see.
Second, active sponsors should inspire their fellow leaders and sponsors to stay positive. Together, the group will put on a united front and cheer on every step of the OCM process.
Finally, sponsors should be clear communicators, as they’ll convey information about impending training or structural changes to those who report to them.
Be aware, not everyone is a born sponsor, even if they’re already in a leadership role. You may need to provide training for active sponsors to prepare them for their new responsibilities.
Done right, your sponsors can be the most critical people in the process of change — employees will trust the messages and suggestions they provide because they’ll keep everyone motivated and excited about the changes, no matter how much training or work is required.
6. Provide Additional Support
Active sponsors can’t take on all the responsibilities that come with change. If employees are asked to switch departments or their positions become redundant, additional support may be needed.
In cases like these, you're bound to meet resistance. Make it clear that managers will be available to talk. An open-door policy before, during, and after a major overhaul can keep managers in touch with their team’s feelings, both negative and positive.
Before announcing these changes, try to brainstorm any questions or concerns that employees will have. Figure out how you can answer their questions before they come up. A solid, truthful answer is likely to calm any fears.
But the truth is, no one likes change. Be prepared to bring in counselors for those who have trouble adjusting.
7. Measure the Plan’s Effectiveness
There’s more to success than implementing your plan. Before you begin, decide what success should look like.
Perhaps it will increase revenue or productivity among employees. Whatever the end goal is, know how you’ll gauge whether or not OCM got you to that point.
At the end of the process, you’ll want to reflect on how well each step went. What did you do well? What could be done differently?
Ask for feedback from staff as well. What appeared effective from a managerial perspective might not have been well-received among the troops.
Time to Get Started
OCM is meant to make everyone’s lives simpler.
It helps leadership shepherd their staffers into a new era and push their teams to reach higher rates of success.
It makes team members’ transition simpler too, since they’ll know what to expect at every stage of the transition.
The advice we share on our blog is intended to be informational. It does not replace the expertise of accredited business professionals.