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    5 Tips for Overcoming Resistance to Change Management

    December 8, 2020
    9 minute read
    5 Tips for Overcoming Resistance to Change Management

    If you’re planning a digital transformation — that is, the adoption of digital technology to transform your services or business — bear in mind that these initiatives can often be met with resistance, especially within the world of commerce.

    One of the top challenges to successful transformation was resistance to change, according to the report, "2020 State of Digital Transformation," from Altimeter, a Prophet company.

    There are many reasons executives and employees alike fight change, necessitating a plan for how to overcome resistance to change.

    Members of your team may worry their job will go away. They may be used to how they work and scared they won't adapt to new processes and technology. Or, they may simply not understand the benefits of change.

    Regardless of how big or small your commerce-driven digital transformation is, you must acknowledge that change management is a critical element of your transformation initiative. It's not something you can leave till the end — you need to address it upfront.

    To help you approach any upcoming or ongoing transformations, here are five tips for how to overcome resistance to change.

    Tip 1: Ready Yourself for Resistance at the Start

    Traditionally, software implementation projects address change management at the end of the project. This delay is a bad idea for digital transformation projects, as the changes are likely to be more significant and widespread.

    Don’t assume that because your team (and even your CEO) are “all in” on your digital transformation strategy that everyone in the organization will be as well.
    Change is hard for any organization. You need to expect that people will resist to varying degrees. Accepting that fact and planning for it from the beginning is crucial.

    What Is the Best Approach for Overcoming Resistance to Change?

    One of the best approaches for how to overcome resistance to change is to create a transparent document or change management action plan early on. Ideally, this document has the following components.

    • List (at a high level) all the changes you know will happen and which teams or departments the change(s) will affect.
    • Then, for each team, list all the possible concerns they may have and how you plan to respond to the concerns.
    • As your projects move forward, this list may grow or adapt, so be prepared to review and update it regularly.
    • Continually use this list as a means of managing communications, concerns, and expectations.

    Tip 2: Identify Resistant Team Members and Root Causes for Resistance

    Many people consider themselves creatures of habit, and it’s likely there are at least a few at your organization. These individuals may not particularly care for change.

    While it's largely harmless (even helpful) to be around people who favor consistency, the existence of this mindset makes it challenging to implement changes that will benefit the organization.

    To help employees embrace change — or at least be more open to it — you need to identify where the resistance lies and why.

    As you start to work on your digital transformation initiative, such as implementing new software, like a commerce experience management (CommerceXM) platform, pay close attention to the team members affected and how they deal with the change.

    Do More Than Listen

    Providing an open forum to field questions and concerns can help you identify the root causes of resistance. However, you have to do more than just listen. Address these causes.

    An example of concern — in the case of a CommerceXM platform — is that too many people can directly add product content. Explain that enabling more people to add content directly will speed up the content development process. This robust workflow will be in place to ensure any product content changes are appropriately reviewed and approved before going live.

    Beyond listening and assuaging a few fears, you must actively address the concerns to show team members that digital transformation is necessary and to get their support.

    Often, your biggest challengers become your biggest advocates once you prove to them the change is beneficial and essential to your brand's success.

    Tip 3: Show Early Proof That Change Works

    Another great way to deal with resistance is to provide proof that change works. Digital transformation initiatives are rarely a one-and-done situation. Successful transformation happens over time, with a focus on completing projects in phases.

    Prove It or Lose It (Loyalty, That Is)

    So, here’s how to potentially tackle the “proof” phase:

    • Learn the most significant pain points of the business or team, and demonstrate how the change provides solutions.
    • Perform a guided walkthrough of a current challenge and show the team how things will improve.
    • Complete one or two smaller projects first that you’re confident will deliver success.

    The above tactics help get people involved and excited about changes, rather than hesitant. Plus, it’ll help win their loyalty for the changes to come.

    Tip 4: Set Clear Expectations and Create a Transparent Communication Process

    Communication. Communication. Communication. No digital transformation initiative will succeed without a thoughtful, well-executed communication strategy. Your communication strategy should address what to communicate, to whom, how often, and through what tactic.

    How to Best Communicate Changes

    To best communicate changes from the start, consider beginning with a company-wide meeting or a company-wide email announcing your digital transformation strategy. This email should come from your CEO to show that management fully supports the initiative. That email should also list some of the first projects that will happen.

    From there, you can host workshops to help team members affected by specific projects understand what’s going to change and how, as well as begin identifying and addressing any of their questions or concerns.

    Regular updates are also critical to maintaining support among executives and employees. Provide project progress reports, milestones, challenges, and other important updates via regular meetings, emails, or other critical communication channels. While providing detailed updates to certain team members is important, you should also offer high-level updates to the entire company.

    Tip 5: Implement a Training and Support Program

    The fear of new technology fuels a significant amount of resistance to change. Many employees may doubt their abilities to learn new technology or are otherwise against adaptation.

    However, identifying a technology advisor and implementing a training program (and subsequent support program) will show your employees that they won’t be left out to dry.

    What Is a Technology Advisor?

    An ideal technology advisor is someone who knows the new technology or software program well and also has a thorough understanding of how it compares to older technology initiatives.

    This advisor should have a clear picture of how technology will change the way people work. They should be able to speak to these changes in a way that will help fellow employees or those affected understand.

    Not only will the technology advisor be critical to the communications team, but they will also lead the training program. If necessary, your business may benefit from appointing multiple technology advisors.

    Why Is a Training Program Necessary?

    A training program will teach team members how to work with the new software and provide tangible evidence that you’re there to support them through this change.

    Of course, you’ll have varied training courses based on how employees will use the latest software and how their existing processes will change.

    For example, when implementing commerce experience software, you’ll have a training course for employees who create and manage product content and another one for employees responsible for managing channels.

    So, How Do You Continue to Overcome Change?

    In addition to training, you should also set up and maintain a support program to help employees as they adjust to the new software and processes.

    The support program is another way of showing your employees that you’re there for them as long as necessary until they adjust comfortably

    This program may not be permanent, but it's critical to ensuring successful adoption in the early stages and for how to overcome resistance to change long-term.

    Digital Transformation Needs a Change Management Plan

    Digital transformation can be a hefty — but extremely beneficial — undertaking for organizations. Of course, your organization may have an easy time acknowledging that transformation is necessary.

    Acknowledging that changes need to occur is one thing, but getting your executive team and your employees on board might be entirely different.

    Using these five change management tips can help you gain the support of your team early and secure loyalty long after the successful adoption of any transformation to come.

    Watch our webinar, “Moving at the Speed of Commerce: Introduction of Salsify Commerce Experience Management,” to learn how CommerceXM can help you to move faster than your competition and optimize every digital touchpoint for discovery, conversion, and brand affinity.


    Written by: Barb Mosher Zinck

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