Change management in the digital workplace: Nine tips for success 

31 October 2022 by

Implementing and managing the digital workplace usually involves launching new tools and channels, introducing new ways of working, upskilling employees and increasing adoption. Change management is integral to digital workplace success and has long been a key activity for digital workplace teams.  

Over the years, change management has regularly featured in DWG’s research programme as well as in our ongoing events and content programme. Various themes have repeatedly surfaced, along with some tried-and-tested tactics that digital workplace teams adopt to successfully embed change, covering communications, training, support, engagement, and more. In this post we’re going to explore nine tips for managing change in the digital workplace. 

Why is change management important in the digital workplace? 

There are a number of reasons why change management in the digital workplace is critical, including: 

  • driving the adoption and usage of the tools across your digital workplace to unlock value and realize return on investment (ROI) 
  • getting the most out of particular tools that need to be used in a specific way 
  • introducing new ways of working that are facilitated by the digital workplace, for example people working remotely  
  • helping to break old habits that hold employees back and limit productivity and collaboration, for example the overuse of email 
  • achieving wider strategic organizational goals, such as digital transformation 
  • driving a digital-first and innovative culture among employees, which helps to make organizations competitive.   

Let’s explore nine tips for managing change in the digital workplace.  

1. Use change management models such as ADKAR

Change management is a very mature topic with a huge body of work to reference. There are many books, articles, case studies, frameworks, methodologies, tools and tips to explore, a lot of which are available online. Using these tools and frameworks can help you to take a more structured and successful approach to managing change in the digital workplace; you don’t necessarily have to follow everything in a methodology, but can adapt it to meet your needs. For example, many digital workplace teams follow the five-stage ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement) model, which stresses embedding change in each individual. 

2. Manage your stakeholders

The digital workplace touches every function, department, division, location and region within your organization, and digital workplace programmes require a cross-functional approach, usually involving IT, HR, Communications and various lines of business. Making sure that different senior stakeholders right across your organization buy in to the digital workplace strategy and related projects is key to the success of your project, as well as in securing local buy-in.  

An important part of any change management effort will be managing stakeholders – making sure that their input is recognized, driving consensus across different functions, and ensuring the digital workplace is providing value for the areas of the business for which they are responsible. Stakeholder management is particularly important at the start of a digital workplace project so that everyone is working from the same page. It also opens the door to targeted change management initiatives at the local level.  

3. Leverage champions

Using networks of voluntary ambassadors or champions during the roll-out of digital workplaces and digital tools is a tactic that is commonly adopted by organizations and continues to work well. Local champions can help small central teams to roll out a digital workplace platform in a global organization, acting as local ambassadors, answering questions on the ground, collating and reporting back local feedback, and getting involved in testing. 

Champions are usually enthusiastic volunteers rather than being ‘conscripted’, and can help to launch tools to their peers with a local frame of reference and usage that is sometimes more relevant and effective than central, top-down, more generic messaging. Local champions usually get involved for a variety of reasons; it might be that they are interested in using technology, or because they want to be involved in something different, or that they will get recognition. Formal champions networks are often set up for the launch, but can also be used for ongoing change management.  

4. Incorporate user feedback as a change management tactic

The very best digital workplaces are highly user-centric, based on a deep understanding of user needs and pain points. Carrying out user research and using ongoing user feedback to make improvements helps put employees at the centre of your digital workplace. The feedback provided is not only highly valuable data but also supports change management. When employees feel listened to and see that their feedback has made a difference, it legitimizes the digital workplace tools introduced and helps to create advocacy and buy-in.  

Putting user feedback at the centre of requirements gathering and continuous improvement can prove to be a change management tactic in itself, creating the right positioning for the digital workplace and generating powerful advocates amongst users to drive usage and adoption.  

5. Use the tools you’re trying to promote

Digital workplace teams are often able to use the tools they are trying to promote in their own change management efforts. For example, if you are promoting the use of Yammer, having a Yammer group dedicated to asking questions, or using it to coordinate a community of Yammer champions makes sense. Being seen to use the very tools you are trying to promote makes change efforts more authentic and also familiarizes other change agents with the tools they are helping to promote.  

6. Go beyond adoption numbers

Metrics and measurement are a central part of measuring adoption and then driving further change. Often with the introduction of a new tool, the emphasis can be on driving up the proportion of employees using the new technology or site. While this is important, it doesn’t always mean that changes in user behaviour are truly embedded or that tools adopted are being used in the best possible way or in ways that drive real value. Having the right measures that go beyond just charting the numbers of people using a tool is critical; depending on the aims of your project, ideally these should indicate behavioural change or how a tool is being used. 

7. Ringfence your change budget

Change management is not always adequately budgeted for in a digital workplace implementation project; once delivered and in ‘business-as-usual’, there is sometimes not enough investment to provide change interventions to adequately launch a tool and then establish the ongoing support to drive adoption.   

Sometimes the reason for this is that the initial change budget has been eaten into due to overruns on other areas of the project, or is not regarded as essential, with funds being diverted to extra features that arise due to scope creep. When planning for a digital workplace project, ensuring you have an adequate change budget upfront, and also ringfencing this so it doesn’t get reduced, will help keep change management at the centre of your implementation.   

8. Target people who can then drive change in others

Usually, the most effective change management efforts are targeted to particular groups of users or stakeholders. Targeting groups who can use their influence to further embed change is a powerful tactic that can make a real difference. For example, training leaders and managers to use digital workplace tools can help good habits to trickle down through layers of hierarchy. Similarly, targeting influential champions to further embed change can pay dividends. Local communicators can also prove to be valuable change agents, particularly in using new communication tools. 

9. Plan for ongoing change management

The digital workplace is never finished; there will always be new tools to introduce and different processes to embed. Anyone who has implemented Microsoft 365 will know how rapidly the platform evolves, while user needs are constantly changing as well. Ensure your change management effort is ongoing too, reflected in training, support and communications.  

Categorised in: Change management and adoption

Steve Bynghall

Steve Bynghall is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in the digital workplace, intranets, knowledge management, collaboration and other digital themes. He is DWG’s Research and Knowledge Lead, a benchmark evaluator and research analyst for DWG.

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