Published: February 10, 2021 – Author: Shelbi Gomez

It is in our human nature that most of us do not like change.

It is hard enough to make changes when it is our choice.  Think about the last New Year’s resolution you made. Did you keep it? Research shows that 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions have failed to keep them by the second week of February.

Changes don’t only happen in our personal lives; change happens every day in enterprises worldwide. Gartner found the typical organization has undertaken five significant firmwide changes in the past three years—and nearly 75% expect to increase the types of major change initiatives they will launch in the next three years. However, half of the change initiatives fail, and only 34% are overwhelmingly successful.

Another study showed that only 28% of medium-sized organizations, and less than half (43%) of large enterprises, possess a change management culture. McKinsey found that change programs fail primarily due to employee resistance and lack of management support.

If we can hardly commit to the changes we promised ourselves, how much harder are changes like automation or new technology adoption when others thrust change upon us without input? Hard. The sobering truth is your automation changes and technology implementations are only as good as your organizational change management.

While there is plenty to say about change management,  I want to hone in on the importance of organizational change management and three things to consider to do it well to ensure a successful implementation of new technology.

  1. Involve the right folks from the beginning: Creating buy-in from critical stakeholders is extremely important if you want your change management project to succeed. When people feel included, they are more likely to be bought-in to the change. They are more likely to rally for others to support it as well. When looking for the right folks, remember to include a core group that includes management down to the frontline worker.
  2. Tell the “why” and “what’s in it for me” stories: People are less likely to adopt change if they do not understand the why behind the change. They will feel like you are secretive and hiding something. The more transparent you can be around the why,  the better. Equally as important is sharing the direct benefits to them and the organization by implementing the change. Like in any two-way relationship, listening is a critical component of addressing the concerns employees might have around the change. Take their qualms seriously, show empathy, and do your best to answer all their questions. Suppose they are afraid to use a new technology out of fear it will take their jobs or are not confident or understand the change’s real intent. In that case, they will sandbag the change rendering it unsuccessful and potentially causing the company to lose out on thousands of dollars.
  3. Make it fun: The thought of change or implementing a new technology might not be fun, but you can make it fun! Some things that we have seen be successful in getting teams excited include: creating a brand and story around the change, giving the change a personality, brand, or name, giving bots names, creating birth certificates, launch parties, and creating branded tchotchke’s or treats.

Our customer, Gilead, an American biopharmaceutical company, did these three items exceptionally well when they introduced their CFO 2020 program in 2018, which as comprised of finance, IT, and facility operations teams. First, they gave their process improvement framework an identity, Elevate, which aligned with the program’s purpose to raise something higher. They decided that automation was the best way to give their employees time back to do high-value work through the proof-of-value work they did before launching the program. They then took it a step further and named their automation EVE. EVE was symbolic as it stood for Elevated Virtual Employee and was also the first genderless, digital team member.

Beyond giving the program an identity and bot name, they also provided training sessions for the initial super users, who then became their automation evangelists. They created a website with consumable videos and training sessions around how to elevate the process framework. Beyond the collateral on the website, the website clearly articulated the vision, had case studies and testimonials.

In the first 12 months of launch, they had over 400 people attend training or sessions. This was not just a one-and-done activity either. The following year, they set new benchmarks, set new goals for capacity, had over 90 processes registered to implement automation, created their super-user training programs, and launched their first-ever EVE Collaboration Conference that included people from outside Gilead. You can listen to their first-hand story here.

There are countless additional examples of organizations and brands that have done change management exceptionally well. Remember, no one is a big fan of change. But you can do some things to make it less painful for those impacted, and, in the end,  the new technology or automation will work for you and not against you.

Not only is organizational change imperative to the adoption of your new technology, but it is vital to the success of intelligent automation. Those that have not done effective change management when implementing automations have not been able to scale their program. To learn more about change management as a stall point, listen to this Automation Airwaves episode on supporting adoption through change management.