Applying Change Management for Learning
As an instructional designer, I often work on projects that are large initiatives or are taking a company in a different direction culturally. While my main role is to design and develop learning to support the initiative or new direction, from a performance consultant perspective I also listen for, or ask about, how my client plans to communicate the change — and the role learning will play in the change — to the company.
It isn’t enough to simply let employees know the change is coming; it’s also important to let employees know there will be training and support for them throughout implementation of the change and beyond. Just as a client’s communication department will market the change itself, the learning and development department can also help make the change a success by marketing the associated learning.
Get the Word Out
In some cases, these types of communications are built into the communication or implementation plan, and that’s a good thing. If not, I suggest they should be included. Here’s why:
- Demonstrate commitment. While leadership commitment to a change is imperative to its success, learning and development’s commitment to ensuring employees are provided with the appropriate learning support for the change is also important. Letting employees know early in the change process that learning will be provided demonstrates an investment in their ability to adopt the change.
- Keep everyone calm. If employees know a change is coming, for example, a new software program that will make work much easier, but they don’t know how they’ll learn to use the new program, anxiety can spread no matter how beneficial the program promises to be. Allay anxiety by building on the benefits and communicating what training and support employees will receive.
- Light the way. No one likes to be left in the dark. Providing a sneak peak of what learning will look like and how it will make the change easier will be a welcomed insight.
These types of communications don’t have to be lengthy or overly detailed. Think marketing. Succinct yet informative. And creative! How can you capture attention and inspire? Here are a few tips:
- Consider how to deliver the message. Is it a postcard, brochure, or email? A video, post on a webpage, interactive online activity? Whatever the choice, give it visual appeal. Draw the viewer in. And keep it short!
- Align with key messaging about the change from the communications department. Make everything associated with the change appear seamless to the employee.
- Briefly reiterate the reason for and benefit of the change. You want to make the connection but not repeat other communications.
- Build excitement for the learning associated with the change. That’s the main purpose of the communication. How will the learning help employees be successful? What’s unique about the learning? Is there a visual representation of the learning — a map, path, graphic? Show it!
- Explain what employees can expect to happen next. Will they get another communication? Should they register for something? Is there a link they can select or a QR code they can scan to learn more?
- Make them feel comfortable with the change because of the learning and support they’ll receive.
Need inspiration and ideas? Here are a few of the change management communications for learning that ILG has helped clients with:
- Interactive animation for American Axle & Manufacturing in which employees drive through a landscape, stopping along the way to complete activities and reveal information, and ending up at a new development portal. The purpose was to support the company’s shift from a “push” culture to a “pull” culture.
- Post cards delivered along with virtual reality (VR) headsets to promote a new VR training program for a medical technology company. The cards include a QR code to help employees get started.
- Post cards delivered to training managers at a medical technology company to promote blended learning as a way to jump start employee skill building in a shift away from a reliance on instructor-led training.
- Email to people leaders at an insurance client promoting a new approach to leading. The email included a branded graphical representation of the learning program.
- Video with an animated real-world example of how competency-driven learning works and an explanation of employee next steps to support the change to competencies at a medical technology company.
Next time you’re supporting an initiative that involves a big change, consider how learning will assist employees to make the change successfully, and then, get the word out!
Denise Renton is a freelance instructional designer and performance consultant. She has more than more than 30 years’ experience in the training and performance improvement industry.