The answer lies in data

Change has defined the past two years.

We’ve been forced to pack up offices, switch to remote working models and redefine the very workplaces that employees once exclusively performed their duties from. It’s had a huge economic impact as organisations of all shapes and sizes operating across many parts of the economy have had to redefine ways of working.

Take digitisation as an example. During 2020, McKinsey tracked the average share of customer interactions which are digital across the globe, reporting that they reached 58% in July. This is significantly higher than the 36% reported in December 2019 and represents a three-year acceleration in the space of just a few months.

Change can happen fast. It can be a scary prospect for some, with new working environments, processes and tools to get to grips with.

Resistance among some people is almost inevitable. However, until we recognise and accept that successful change management boils down to people, initiatives will be prevented from quickly taking hold and delivering the desired effect.

What’s more, according to another study by McKinsey, seven in 10 change management initiatives fail purely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.

Powered by people data

The answer to this problem lies in data; or more specifically, people data.

As change management becomes a more prominent and pervasive feature of business transformation, we envisage more leaders leveraging their people analytics capabilities to manage uncertainties and refocus plans.

We’re already seeing this across different business functions. For example, in sales, people analytics data is helping managers to identify key sales leaders, build diverse and effective teams, and refine tactics for shifting those teams to new playbooks.

Elsewhere, finance department leaders are making data-driven people decisions to identify opportunities for reskilling, all the while staying nimble with one of the biggest items in the budget – their employees.

Whether finance, sales or elsewhere in a business, there are a number of key questions that need to be answered with data before change management initiatives can be enacted effectively.

What changes are on the horizon and how will they impact the organisation? Who do we need to engage across the organisation to ensure they understand the reasons for the change? Which employees are at highest risk of exiting the organisation? How will this impact our ability to execute this change? Are there pockets of resistance that need to be addressed? Where are the ambassadors who can help to get this change implemented?

Once these are answered, the process of developing and deploying change management should become significantly more seamless – chiefly because insight on people sits at the core.

Three steps to assist change management in 2022

Building on this, there are several other actions that can be taken to ensure change management puts people first.

The first centres around managing fear and uncertainty. While it is understandable that leaders may not have all the answers in the nascent stages of a transformation, as time goes on people will naturally expect a degree of certainty to emerge and solidify. Training managers how to use clear communication, expectation-setting, and listening will undoubtedly be critical.

Secondly, listening to and appreciating varying viewpoints stands side-by-side with supporting autonomy. Rather than just giving a sense that people are owning change management processes, an organisation should be able to make concrete changes based on its employees’ opinions. Various tools and crowdsourcing platforms can enable this gathering of ideas – ideas which may otherwise not have surfaced.

And finally, spreading enthusiasm through change ambassadors will also help to embed initiatives and ensure they are not simply top-down policies. Here, organisational network analysis can help organisations in analysing communication patterns. Those who enjoy collaborating and bringing disparate groups together to solve problems often make the best candidates.

We can expect 2022 to be another year impacted by flux and uncertainty. Within this context, putting people first should be a priority and will enable those necessary organisational changes to be developed and initiated more smoothly.

With the right technological capabilities in place, companies can bridge any gaps between people and business outcomes, determining whether their change management activities are having the desired impact and where they can correct their course.


Daniel Mason



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