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Empowering Employees as Change Champions: A Bottom-Up Approach

Organizations need change cheerleaders who will be part of their success and drive their transformations.

Change is inevitable in the business world — innovation requires transformation; otherwise, businesses risk stagnation. 

Yet, the road to change is mired in hurdles, as 70% of digital transformation attempts are unsuccessful due to employee and management resistance. A study from McKinsey & Company concludes that only 30% of digital transformations succeed, and even in tech-savvy industries like media, telecommunications, and technology, the success rate is 26%.

A top-down approach won’t cut it; executives must look to organization-wide solutions to fix this problem. That’s why change management, a framework to enable change effectively, is imperative for improvement-minded organizations.

These companies need dedicated change champions who will marshal constructive action and inspire enthusiastic adoption of new initiatives; these advocates enable and drive transformative change.

Gerent’s Director of Change Management, Keisha Ruggs, explains: “A change champion is an influencer; someone who not only sees the benefit of digital transformation but also persuades their peers to embrace those benefits. They motivate and inspire from multiple levels of the organization, and their impact is monumental.”

As evidenced by the statistics above, employee resistance is a substantial hurdle companies face when implementing digital transformations. An organization needs change cheerleaders who will be part of their success — these leaders are the way forward for transformation.

Empowering Change Champions in Organizations 

The best time to start nominating change champions is before an organization goes through transformative change — nominating change champions should take place before an initiative begins. Early nomination will maximize buy-in from change resistors and facilitate smoother transitions in the future. But how can an organization identify change champions and empower them to succeed?

Keisha Ruggs explains: “A change champion must be someone whom their peers trust, and to be honest, a lot of peers don’t trust executives. If executives want to see strong buy-in for transformative technology, they have to find that inspirational person who is trusted by peers — or risk employee resistance to change.” 

To usher in new initiatives, change champions instill trust in their peers and foster the collective mindset for companies to move forward. Here’s how to identify a change cheerleader:

  • Strong Communication. Change leaders should possess strong communication skills; they must bring questions and concerns from their team to upper management and communicate change initiatives effectively with their peers.
  • Peer-to-Peer Advocacy. Resistors must be heard and understood; change cheerleaders can instill enthusiasm and drive at the ground level.
  • Transparency. Frontline employees want to know how change will impact their day-to-day activities; change champions are open with their peers and lay out transformation plans for them.
  • Peer Trust. A change leader instills trust in their colleagues; this is necessary to marshal constructive transformation from the ground up.
  • Empowered leadership. Change champions are natural leaders empowered to act as liaisons between upper management and frontline employees; they should be included in meetings, clearly understand where to take concerns, and be provided with proper training.

Ultimately, a company wants their resistors to become enthusiastic adopters of change which, according to Keisha Ruggs, requires “...knowing where that anxiety and fear is coming from. It could come from a number of things, such as past implementations, a lack of trust in leadership, or simply fear of the unknown. Leaders need strategies to overcome some of those challenges.”

By empowering true change leaders in lower levels of the company, identifying and alleviating these hold-ups is possible — investing in authentic, company-wide change management marshaled by change champions.

Leveraging Ongoing Change Management Company-Wide

Change management is not a one-time goal; it’s an ongoing process. Companies should invest in reinforcement strategies that encourage continual change management. Some ways to incentivize positive behavior include:

  • Differentiated Feedback Channels. Meet employees where they are — some may need virtual training, others may learn best in person. Companies should vary feedback mechanisms appropriately (i.e., surveys, team-based discussions, real-time feedback, etc.) and encourage ongoing employee feedback.
  • Gamification. Create opportunities for friendly competition between colleagues; make change fun! For example, employees can engage in friendly competitions to see which teams implement the most uses of a new tool.
  • Reward Systems. Gift prizes (i.e. company swag, gift cards, etc.) to reward enthusiastic change adoption.

At Gerent, we know that going the extra mile garners results — being part of the change is what we thrive on. With a dedicated change management team and over 200 years of cumulative industry experience, we seek to help companies implement successful change management strategies.

Our goal is to start from ground zero. Most companies need change management, but they may not know where to start. By partnering with a technology implementation partner like Gerent, get the guidance needed to become a team of change cheerleaders.

For more information on how change management can benefit your team, visit our practice microsite or contact us today. 

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