Learning and Development’s Role in Change Management

🕑 4 minutes read | Oct 01 2021 | By Becky Gendron

It’s often said that the one constant in life is change, and the past year has certainly shown us that.

But how should we address change in the workplace? Recent research by McKinsey suggests that the pandemic has had a profound impact on the skills workers will need to succeed, most notably the replacement of manual skills with technological, social, and emotional skills. To help employees navigate these new ways to work, organizations often turn to HR and learning and development departments to help in change management.

What exactly is Change management?

Change management is the processes and methods that organizations use to help their employees implement change in a way that leads to successful outcomes. It exists at an organizational level, offering support and guidance to ensure that individual employees are working together in support of a common goal.

Organizational Success Depends on Effective Change Management

When organizations decide to implement new programs, launch new products, or take steps to improve performance, many changes are needed. Employee job roles, organizational structure, and technology may all be affected.

Organizational change exists on several levels. Adaptive change usually requires only minor modifications or incremental adjustments, while transformational change often involves shifts in an organization’s mission, strategy, or structure. In each case, learning and development play an important role in giving leaders and managers the skills they need to help employees prepare for and implement organizational change. Training can teach managers to effectively communicate, organize, delegate, and solve problems which are all essential elements in organizational change.

Impact Change Management Has on an Organization

Here are a few of the ways that change management can help organizations succeed, and how learning and development contribute to successful change management.

Increase productivity and engagement: Organizations that implement change can increase the likelihood of success by ensuring that employees are involved in the process. Training can help develop a structure for senior managers and change leaders to share important information. With this information, employees have time to learn about the change, and then adjust and adapt so that they can continue to work at a high level with less disruption. L&D leaders can create processes to assess how employees are adjusting to the change and offer extra training and support when they are having difficulty adjusting to the change.

Launch new products and services: To be successful, companies must ensure that the path from ideation to production is as smooth and efficient as possible. Change management training doesn’t just help employees understand how to produce or deliver these new offerings, it also plays a key role in ensuring that employees buy into the reasons why new products are needed so they give their full support to the launch. Buy-in is essential to help keep employees engaged and be better champions for the new product and services. This will increase your chance of a successful product launch.

Accelerate growth: The pandemic has upended many norms and standards. When organizations transitioned to working from home, there was no time to waste. In many cases, these changes happened rapidly. The learning curve for remote work can be steep, and training was essential as employees navigated new ways to work, connect, and even collaborate online. A perfect example of this rapid change management transformation is retailers who had to immediately introduce curb-side pick delivery options which involved a clear guided approach to help with this radical change. Retailers who quickly trained their staff to offer curbside or in-store pickup options were able to meet customers’ desire for lower-contact shopping while also maintaining exceptional service levels.

Change workplace behavior: Implementing new standards and replacing long-held ways of doing things can present challenges for any organization, and there’s always a chance that some employees won’t adapt. Effective change management training programs can help employees understand the reason behind the change, give resources and support to help drive the change, and can help leaders identify issues before they become problems. The goal is to give leaders strategies to resolve challenges while minimizing disruption.

Change Management is a Continuous Process

L&D leaders have an important role in helping to facilitate continuous learning around change management initiatives. A recent survey by change management leaders Prosci found that organizations that supported employees following change with reinforcement and sustainment activities were 20% more likely to achieve project objectives than those that did not offer reinforcement activities.

From change management at the strategic planning stages to ensuring that leaders have the skills and ability to manage positive change, learning and development professionals play a significant role in the success of change management in the workplace.

To learn more about change management listen to our Bring Out The Talent Podcast: Get Comfortable With Change where change management consultant and author Anne Bonney discusses the important aspect of how to manage change.


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