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How Do You Build an Effective Change Management Process?

change management process

How does a change management process work? We have written before about change management as a concept, but breaking it down further into a process is essential. More importantly, how do you actually do it?

In this article, we will explain it all. We will cover the most popular change management process models, examples, and templates you can use. In addition to statistics about change management and recommendations for how to make it as seamless as possible.

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What Is A Change Management Process?

Generally, change management is the art and science of managing change. Wikipedia defines it as ‘a collective term for all approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change.’ 

At Personio, change management processes help our customers adapt their HR processes to become more digital. Over the years, we have discovered that an effective change management process fundamentally involves three things:

  • People: Helping them adapt to change.
  • Processes: Making change as smooth as possible.
  • Technology: Automating change to make it last.

Why Do Change Management Processes Matter for HR Professionals?

To answer this question in more detail, take a look at our helpful page about change management. In summary, remember that change is not an end in itself – it’s a process to help people move towards a goal.

For example, in order to store and use all HR documents digitally, HR leaders might have to encourage employees and managers to change their processes. The change is ‘store CVs in a central location, not in a filing cabinet,’ but the broader goal is ‘go digital.’

Change is also different from transformation. Transformation is about making much bigger, broader change possible – across the whole organization. Sometimes change can be as small as asking people to recycle.

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Who Is Responsible For Making Change Management Work?

While HR often plays a critical role in making change management possible, it’s important to be clear: is HR responsible for success or enablement? The answer is usually the latter. 

While C-level executives should be accountable for managing the changes themselves (and the results this change brings), particularly for bigger projects, HR can be responsible for ensuring their company follows a strong, stable, well-thought-out change management process.

(You might like to download our change management guidelines for HR to find out more).

How Does an Effective Change Management Process Work?

In essence, to get people to change you need to go from one ‘state’ to another. Going through that process can be a challenge. Kurt Lewin, for example, describes people as needing to ‘unfreeze, change, and refreeze.’

Another model, by John Kotter, illustrates eight steps typically involved in the change management process:

  • Create a sense of urgency (make it important)
  • Build a guiding coalition (gathering people to lead change)
  • Form a strategic vision and initiatives (describe why and how to change)
  • Enlist a volunteer army (you can’t do it on your own!)
  • Enable action by removing barriers (make it easy)
  • Generate short-term wins (help people see progress being made)
  • Sustain acceleration (if it takes too long, they’ll get bored and frustrated)
  • Institute change (make it impossible to go back to ‘the way it was before’)

However, of the most popular models these days – and possibly the easiest to understand and implement – is the ADKAR model. ADKAR is, quite simply, the acronym we’ve spelled out below:

  • A – awareness of the need to change
  • D – desire to support the change
  • K – knowledge of how to change
  • A – ability to demonstrate skills and behaviors
  • R – reinforcement to make the change stick

The people who came up with the ADKAR model – a group called Prosci – also provide a helpful three-phase process for managing change. They suggest that you begin by preparing for it, then manage the process, then reinforce change.

It may sound simple but, as in the case of any successful project, the devil is in the details so we’ve provided an example of how to get employees to complete their leave requests early to illustrate this point… 

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Change Management Process Example: Booking Annual Leave

Using the ADKAR model and the three-phases of change, here is an example of how to build an effective change management process in your organization…

Phase 1: Awareness

In Phase 1, start by preparing for change. Prosci says we should ‘identify anticipated points of resistance, define our change management strategy, prepare our team, and develop our sponsorship model.’

In this example, let’s begin by getting Awareness. We might already know that employees don’t like completing leave requests, because their managers haven’t required them to do it in the past. They also don’t see how it’s helpful to the business to do it far in advance, and they think it is their right to take leave whenever they want. 

So, they’re likely to resist the change or ignore a request to put their leave information in earlier.

Phase 2: Desire and Knowledge

In Phase 2 we should manage change, possibly by creating a ‘resistance management plan’ and then take action and implement the steps.

In the case of encouraging people to book annual leave sooner, there probably isn’t a need for a complex strategy, team or sponsorship model. Let’s keep things simple. 

For example: let’s create a Desire to support the change. The CEO could simply send an email to all employees explaining that booking leave in advance isn’t just helpful to the company. It also helps plan when to have important company meetings and make sure there are always the right numbers of people available to serve customers. It’s also important for people’s health and wellbeing that they take all their leave.

They could share Knowledge about the importance of encouraging staff to take annual leave. Point out that the average employee takes just 62% of their allowance in the UK, this is bad because it costs the country around £77.5 billion a year in lost productivity due to mental and physical ill-health, often caused by stress.

Phase 3: Ability and Reinforcement

Then comes Phase 3. This is the time to demonstrate how people are able to make the change, and then reinforce this behavior. By collecting and analyzing feedback we can diagnose gaps, manage resistance, and then implement corrective actions and celebrate success.

For example, we might find that, despite our CEO’s email, people still are not booking holiday in advance. It might be because they don’t have the Ability to do it.

By changing the tools that people use to record leave to have a single sign-on that is approvable on an app, for example, it might be possible to reduce resistance to booking leave.

But people still might not book, because they want to have the option to change their minds. Giving people the Ability to change leave up to a certain period of time in advance might help encourage people to commit to booking it (even if they have to change it).

Then Reinforcing this behavior by mandating it – if necessary – can make this behavior the new norm. For example, employees might be told that they will lose certain perks if they don’t book their leave in advance – which will certainly change their behavior. In extreme cases (probably not necessary in this example) leaders can actually tie change to people’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), so they won’t get bonuses unless they change their behavior.

(You can find three other change management model scenarios or examples to help transform your business in this blog post).

How Can You Tell If A Change Management Process Is Working?

Organizations that are more resilient are also generally able to handle change better. For example, as we discuss in this blog post about four key strategies to build resilience in your organization, ‘resilient companies approach situations not as challenges, but as opportunities for optimization, growth, and success.’

Companies who are able to use employee data for strategic decisions can also test certain changes on a smaller scale, get results, and then roll them out to a broader audience in a more agile and data-informed way – as we explain in our blog post on the path to successful HR transformation – four key elements for success

In addition, HR teams in the UK who work with digital solutions to support their administration and reporting are also better able to master crises, according to a study conducted by Bitkom and Personio. They also tend to be strategically better prepared for subsequent recovery.

Change Management Processes Made Simple

While change management processes can be complex, they don’t have to be. The key is simply to give the change a bit of thought. 

People need enough time to make the change happen, a reason to do it, and a way to make it as easy as possible. While McKinsey & Company say that, “70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support,” even the most complex change – even complete digital transformation – is possible when it’s planned well and people feel like they’re supported along the way. 

So if you’re ready to change your HR processes and go digital, consider discovering Personio today. We know a lot about effective change management processes, and we’re very happy to help you through your own journey.

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