Change management best practices help companies realize ROI

Change can be difficult. When change is set in motion on a large scale, such as across an entire enterprise or department, managing that change is critical to the success of the initiative.

“Executing a successful transformation requires the support of leadership, a plan, and the time and resources necessary to see it through,” says Beth Thomas, executive vice president and managing director of Consulting Services at Sequent. “Otherwise, it’s impossible to realize the return on investment the transformation was designed to achieve.”

Smart Business spoke with Thomas about executing a successful business transformation.

What challenges do businesses face when trying to execute a transformation?

There are several pitfalls companies encounter when attempting to implement large-scale change. The more common among them are:

  • Executive sponsorship. There must be support for the transformation from the top. Executives rally support among other executives, managers and directors to maintain accountability for the change.
  • Vision. Companies that stumble through change often do so because they don’t have a clear vision or strategy to achieve their goal. It’s crucial to have a road map that outlines the processes and partners needed to implement change.
  • Resource allocation. Many companies fail to allocate the resources needed for the change. That can mean money, but it also means personnel. There should be representatives from all departments and specialties to provide input on how change can be implemented among the different departments.
  • Proper tools. You need the right technology or change will be difficult. For instance, if you’re trying to apply a system designed for manufacturing to the retail environment, change will be difficult if not impossible.

What are the steps companies can take for a successful change initiative?

Every transformation has it’s own personality. While there are basic, tried-and-true steps on the path to a successful transformation, you’ll need to customize the approach to fit your business. These are the best practices that work in many transformations:

  • Assessment. Review your resources and create a strategy upfront to understand what the change will look like for each area it’s impacting and have a plan for its implementation.
  • Alignment. Ensure your leaders are on the same page publicly and behind closed doors. They must take ownership of the transformation to inspire others to follow.
  • Engagement. You need a group of influencers to carry a consistent, positive message out to the entire company. This creates a community of support, which is essential for change to take hold.
  • Education. Helping each person understand what the change will mean for them and how they fit in to the new world matters. People feel more comfortable when they understand their role and responsibilities during and after the transformation.
  • Communication. If the truth of the change process isn’t communicated to your associates, they’ll make up stories. Misinformation causes anxiety, leads to disengagement and increases the risk of employees leaving. That retention issue is even more of a threat with top talent.
  • Support. Once a transformation is underway make sure people feel supported. Create a support network through which employees can get help or have their questions answered.
  • Sustainability. You want to ensure the transformation sticks and people don’t revert back to the old way once the initial thrust of change has ebbed. Create a program through which associates can be made aware of updates and improvements, and that ensures new hires are indoctrinated into the new way of doing things. This provides a means through which the elements of the transformation can be revisited to make sure the improvements are sustained.

Adapting these best practices to your company’s change process will result in a high level of success and practically guarantee ROI. Otherwise, it’s almost certain your transformation will fail.

Insights HR Consulting is brought to you by Sequent