Why empathy needs to be at the heart of every change management strategy

When your organisation decides on a system upgrade or digital transformation, you’re asking people to make a big leap of faith as, inevitably, you’ll be forcing them to do away with many of their old, familiar work routines and imposing new workflows on them. A bit of empathy can go a long way to helping people come to terms with the change.

Carol Tyler, Global Senior Practice Director for Organisational Change Management at Infor, recently addressed the need for “practical empathy” in change management during a conversation with diginomica.

She highlighted how to change – particularly technological change – can affect people in more ways than you might initially imagine. It can make people feel threatened to the point where they feel like their job is at risk. Change management is about understanding those fears but also finding a way to quell them.

“I have a two-prong strategy,” Tyler said. “There’s the empathy part of the strategy, but then there’s the compartmentalisation of what needs to be done next. It’s the ability to lift out of empathy and go into strategic thinking. How do you take what you’ve learned and put it into a project plan that an organisation can digest?”

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is as much of a people project as it is an IT project, Tyler argued. Because if you can’t get people to evolve and think differently, the project is doomed to failure.

When asked to define the digital transformation, then, she starts by talking about people and culture, rather than technology. “My personal definition is the shift in culture both internally and externally. I should probably say, well it’s all about the cloud — and it is about the cloud, and everybody needs a digital strategy. But to me the definition is, shifting from the current state to a more interesting future state that can face both the customers and the internal people,” she said.

Finally, Tyler touched on the importance of taking an agile approach when it comes to the implementation of technology. While it’s crucial that the business has an end goal to work towards, the path that it travels along to reach it shouldn’t be set in stone – and prepare to be taken off course. It’s the not-so-old adage of fail fast to innovate faster.

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Here at Cognition24, we have the people, culture and change expertise to help your people embrace change – whether it’s a new technology system or a significant change in strategic direction.

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