Involving your employees in change is a critical step towards helping your employees adopt, understand and own the change. The most effective way to involve your employees is to create a change network.
A change network is usually designed to support the adoption of a specific large-scale change; however, a change network can also be leveraged as part of an organizational strategy to build change competency and support continuous organizational change.
Creating a change network that will support employees, provide leadership with real-time employee insights, and truly move the needle on change requires intentional focus and effort. It is not something to be managed off the side of your desk.
Keep in mind:
Know that you will need to start early. It takes time to define and build a change network. And once you have defined your network and recruited your champions, your champions need time to understand their role, make it their own, and come together as a team.
- Clarity: Get clear on what the problem is that the change is solving. What the desired outcome is and how the members of the change network will support the outcome. You will also want to address how investing in a change network helps achieve the benefits and ROI of the overall change.
- Designing the Network: The methodology, structure, and communication approach all need to be thought out. For example, how will you refer to the network members, champions, agents, or something that fits better with the company culture? Other considerations include determining how you will recruit the champions, outlining what you expect a champion to do and how you will continue to engage them.
- Leadership Buy-in & Support: This is an opportunity for the sponsor to continue to build relationships with the other leaders as they actively support the change network. Leaders will need to understand the context and the value of a change network. They will also want to understand the type of investment required (specific skills/hours, duration of commitment).
- Communication & Recruitment: Treat recruitment for your change network similar to how you would recruit for any other role. Determine the roles & responsibilities, skills, and experience required. All impacted teams must be represented within the network, so make the recruitment process accessible to all. Leverage the recruitment process as an opportunity to reinforce why the change is essential and to tell employees how they can get involved.
- Introduce the Change Network: Share the names of the champions with their leaders, the project team and the entire organization. Invite their leaders to acknowledge their new role. Invest time helping the project team understand who the champions are and identify opportunities for the network members to support the various workstreams.
- Skills and Knowledge: Invest in your champions. Create a learning plan that builds the knowledge and develops the Champions’ skills to be successful. The early focus should increase their understanding of their role and how the network members will work together.
- Nurture and Support the network members: It is essential to communicate regularly and maintain regular touchpoints as the person or team leading the change network. To support the network, you will also need to have identified who you will need to reach out to answer the network members’ questions.
- Recognize the Champions: For many employees, stepping into the role of a champion will be new. However, recognizing successes, big or small, is important in building motivation and desire. It is also a great idea to have their leader acknowledge their efforts.
- Reflect, Learn and Share: During each phase of change, reflect on how the network performs, whether the members have what they need, are engaged etc. Then, based on the reflections, share what you have learned and what you will do differently.
A well-designed network with engaged champions can reduce resistance and increase the speed of adoption. In addition, the connections and partnerships made within the network will continue long after the change is adopted. Thus, creating opportunities to break down silos and build trust between teams.