Digital transformation and AI |

Digital transformation and AI

Digital transformation and AI |

Change management: Digital transformation and AI implementation

Margo Waldorf at Change Awards explains why change and employee resilience is key topics at all levels of management and how digital transformation and AI is raising their importance even further.

The human factor is a common denominator across all organisations and, simultaneously, the biggest wildcard that can make or break enterprises focused on large-scale change initiatives and transformations. 

For this reason, it is hardly surprising that adopting change and employee resilience becomes a key topic at all levels of the organisational management hierarchy. We have observed that technology is one of the major drivers for these changes; alas, its implementation does not come without its challenges. 

With the slow influx of AI applications and augmented reality systems, the ability of the organisation to be as agile as possible, resolve problems, and adapt to change is once again at the forefront of management thinking, as is ensuring that technology embraces the human aspect of change. 

Change management efforts, beset by several internal challenges, are again tested in the ever-evolving world of digitalisation and the need for continuous organisational agility. Across different industries, we observe some common barriers to technology-driven change:

Cyber-security and organisational culture

As the use of sophisticated technologies makes enterprises more complex to manage securely, cyber-security becomes not ‘an IT issue’ anymore. Each employee needs to become cyber-aware, and building that culture of awareness takes time and a significant and controlled effort on the management side. 

Successful organisations bring change management in to elevate the awareness of cyber-security, create customised training programmes and keep the employees updated on real-life cyber-attacks, as well as to run simulated ones. 

Changing human behaviour to become more cyber-aware has never been more critical than now, and organisations need to create a culture where cyber-security is adhered to. 

Intrinsic need for strong organisational values and ethics

Emergent technologies coming in at a rapid speed there are not only regulatory considerations that must be met, but ethical ones too. Organisations need to create an agile culture that will enable navigation in the ever-evolving regulatory landscape whilst focusing on ethics. 

There are important considerations particularly in fields like healthcare, finance and involving AI, and the conversation about the ethics and culture needs to be woven into internal code of conduct and translated into values, ethical leadership and culture.  

Impractical technical upskilling

Embracing change in a safe space that allows for making mistakes whilst learning is crucial for organisations that wish their employees to use new forms of technology. Businesses need to create different learning scenarios that are not built solely on the features and functions of the new system but are based on a deep understanding of the business process the technology is aimed at enhancing. 

There is an opportunity for organisations to create re-skilling, up-skilling or other learning platforms that will make people embrace the learning curve whilst simultaneously allowing them to work on real-life scenarios applicable to their business process. We have seen examples of technology implementations without explicit calling out of these scenarios, resulting in low system adoption rates and reverting to the old ways of working.  

Lack of understanding of human behaviour

In any new change, employees need to be able to connect to the purpose of the transition to understand the role they play within it. Employee-wide consultation to enhance the discovery phase and allow for the bottom-up design of the business process workflow in line with the opportunities or limitations that the new technology brings is vital for organisations wanting to strengthen their revenue and profits. 

Application of emerging technologies provides almost limitless possibilities, so ensuring that employees feel supported and guided through that process is crucial to making them understand the tools better and, therefore, be more effective in their roles.  

Implementing artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other emerging technologies is one of the most exciting areas one can be working in. The speed of change and innovation is here to stay, and organisations must focus on making employees embrace and not resist those changes.

The agility and the rate of adoption require organisations to tie change management to the improvements of the enterprise rather than keep it as a stand-alone solution utilised only once there is a need.

Misconceptions in Change Management |

Misconceptions in Change Management

Misconceptions in Change Management |

Not the only players on the pitch: misconceptions in change management

‘I have done everything I possibly could: I communicated, gamified, workshopped, patted on shoulders, explained and even begged… And you know what? Still nothing. I just do not know what else can I do to make this change stick’ – confessed a seasoned client of mine, a resolute change manager.

Does it resonate with you?

The landscape of change management frequently confronts its practitioners with a confounding dilemma: neither the project team nor the stakeholders within organisations grasp the responsibilities of the change professional. Drawing from my own experience, I have put together a list of common misconceptions for you to take away to your next one-on-one.

You are not the only player on the pitch.

Successful implementation and adoption of the new status quo is not the sole responsibility of the change manager. You facilitate, navigate, lead and experiment, but the leaders and impacted employees play a crucial role in implementing and sustaining change. They must be made aware of that. And preferably at the start.

Email is not enough.

This applies to any type of communication supporting the end result. As a change manager, you can be a comms expert. However, the message can come from someone other than you. It would be best if you utilised the intricate networks within and skilfully let the news disseminate. 'Who' says 'what' makes a big difference. Please take my word for it.

There are important considerations particularly in fields like healthcare, finance and involving AI, and the conversation about the ethics and culture needs to be woven into internal code of conduct and translated into values, ethical leadership and culture.  

Test and adapt. Continuously.

Change is not linear and is not easily aligned to distinct phases. You are responsible for continuously adapting, refining and checking in with your project cohort and, most importantly, with impacted colleagues. Do not follow any methodologies mindlessly. It will simply not work.

Our profession is responsible to initiate the dialogue and unravel these misconceptions. It may seem Sisyphean now, but collectively, we can catalyse the change.

Navigating change in 2024 |

Navigating change in 2024

Navigating change in 2024 |

Navigating Change in 2024: Trends, Challenges, and the Evolution of Change Management

The world of change management is exciting. With the field rapidly evolving, the diverse spectrum of change brought by the latest market trends continues to be the most exciting area to work in. I reflect on some of its key affairs and the impact these inevitably bring to the discipline and the world of the workforce. As we close 2023, an intertwined global risk landscape correlating various societal, economic, environmental, geopolitical, and technical challenges brings us into a state of polycrisis. In the West, beset by its own socio-cultural and political issues, organisations are gearing up for an economic slowdown and turning their internal efforts into large-scale change initiatives and transformations aimed at either scaling down, large-scale business model reorganisations or furthering the technological improvements of the enterprise. Agility, resilience, and adaptability are becoming critical factors behind those changes, and the pressure on implementation and the culture of continuous improvement is visible across many entities. The trend of truly embracing organisational agility is already here as organisations invest in fixed change management skills, fixed resources, and internal change management capabilities. It is encouraging to observe business leaders continuing to seek advice from specialists to unlock human potential and, therefore, open positive outcomes for their investments. The nomological psychological impact of changes on employees and, therefore, their ability to adapt to the new is the main subject of conversation at all levels of organisational hierarchy. However, as mentioned, change is everchanging, which implies that the concept of corporate change management, the discipline, and the profession must keep evolving too. As we observe new change management trends and directions of travel, and with that in mind, I would like to share my predictions for 2024 and beyond:

Emerging technologies: AI and augmented reality vs humans at work

One of the current and continuing trends is an overwhelming focus on large-scale change initiatives and transformations, with technology investments driving the change. With all the possible applications of AI and other emerging technologies not yet fully grasped, enterprises are focusing on enhanced productivity and the commercial benefits it brings. The hopes are high for digitalised business processes that promise an increase in individuals' efficiency and productivity. Yet, technology decisions cannot be made in silo or imposed on the workforce. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that change adoption and employee resilience become key topics at all levels of the organisational management hierarchy. The ability of the organisation to be as agile as possible, resolve problems, and continuously adapt to change is once again at the forefront of management thinking, as is ensuring that technology embraces the human aspect of change.

Advocacy for change skills at the leadership levels

The post-pandemic trend of layoffs and the 'great resignation' witnessed in sectors like hospitality, financial services, manufacturing, and retail indicates that large-scale change management programs are underway. With these at play, the change fatigue is unsurprising, whilst the need to sustain successful operations puts additional pressure on the management. Employee understanding of the 'why' behind the change is essential, but smart leaders also recognise the need to be at the forefront of change, creating psychological safety during the learning curve. It is encouraging to see those leaders connecting with employees and becoming passionate advocates for improvement programmes, as visible in the increase of senior leader nominations for the Change Awards. We will continue to see the board-level change management advisory and leadership personal change advocacy plans being developed.

Innovative companies create change management hubs

In the age of transformation, successful continuous organisational evolution warrants provision for internal change management capability to access experienced resources at the time of need. Change management expertise is being sought at the early stages of portfolio planning. A change management office or a hub working with the project management office to continuously support organisational performance aspirations is becoming a trend. Fixed skills, fixed cost, budgeted fixed resources, and change-enhancing capability provide a welcome offset against change fatigue whilst delivering aspirational agility and employee resilience. We will continue to see further development of change management capability internally, creating a sustained commercial advantage for entities wanting to improve their performance.

Embracing specialisation in response to growing complexity

As the complexity of change increases, we observe an exciting and natural differentiation within the change management practice. A one-size-fits-all approach is rarely applicable as practitioners' own experiences drive the localised approach in line with the program's needs. While there exists a foundational standard that drives the overall change approach, the trend towards more specialised assistance is gaining prominence. This shift recognises that not all change initiatives are created equal, and a dynamic, bespoke strategy is often essential. Change management is changing, and it is welcomed to further specialisations within the discipline, whether aligned with the nature of organisational endeavour – be it a technological transformation, operating model change, a cultural shift, or M&A activity – or tied to a broader people-centric strategy driven top-down, this move towards the specialisation marks a significant and positive trajectory for the discipline.

Evolution of change management: closing the gap to chartered status

Looking at the evolution of the discipline through the lens of established standards, two dominant approaches prevail championed by a select group of influencers. As the domain continues to gain momentum and we see the uptake across all sectors, it seems reasonable to contemplate a potential formalisation of chartered status. This evolution in line with professional maturation, prompts curiosity about the future trajectory. How will change management professionals collectively shape the narrative to steer it towards the esteemed chartered status? This moment presents a unique opportunity for unity within the profession, and it should not be overlooked.

In summary

Change management efforts, beset by several internal challenges, are again tested in organisations' ever-evolving environment. The digitalisation and the need for continuous organisational agility push the boundaries of the change approach and test the skills of the professionals. As for the trends – these evolve along with the evolving nature and the complexity of the environments in which organisations operate. The future is bright, for this critical discipline is here to stay and further the enterprise's ambition to implement strategic initiatives successfully. Welcome to the age of bilateral cooperation and partnership between the organisation and its employees.