Change is inevitable – so do it right

Digitisation is driving rapid changes within organisations, and business success is dependent on effective employee change management to help them cope with transformation.

Johannesburg, 22 Nov 2023
Charl Kleynhans, senior manager: Business Improvement Project Management Office, Altron FinTech.
Charl Kleynhans, senior manager: Business Improvement Project Management Office, Altron FinTech.

With all the talk of digital transformation, one thing that often gets passed over in the conversation is the issue of change management. For many years, this was not considered remotely important, owing to the mostly lengthy and static nature of technology adoption.

However, with the rise of the information age, followed by the rapid digitisation of businesses, this means that change management is a factor that can no longer be ignored.

Charl Kleynhans, senior manager: Business Improvement Project Management Office at Altron FinTech, points out that the one thing about change is that it is inevitable. In the modern digital environment, there is no business unit that can completely avoid change. After all, he says, success in this environment is determined by how well all the business units in an organisation work together to deliver value to the customer – this indicates that the whole business is ultimately impacted by digital evolution, and so the whole company needs to change.

“Remember that to remain relevant, organisations need to at least move at the same pace, or – ideally – stay at least one step ahead of digital technology, by anticipating what is to come. At the same time, your people are required to leverage technology properly for the business to succeed. Clearly, then, change management is a vital tool for ensuring your employees remain up to date with ongoing technology developments,” he states.

“Remember that when implementing any new system, you must involve your employees and get their buy-in from the onset. It is important to also ask their opinions – both before and during the introduction of the technology – so you can clearly understand what works well and what can be improved on.”

Kleynhans notes it is important for the business to recognise that change is generally something that needs to be enforced, to overcome the inertia that comes with any form of ‘comfort zone’. This, he says, is why it is necessary to get employees to be part of the journey, as they are ultimately the conduit that delivers on the organisational goals.

“In order for the company to develop and grow, change is inevitable. Therefore, how you undertake that change is crucial. The best way is to build trust with your employees, empower them through collaboration and communication, and, above all, don’t ignore any resistance – rather, try to understand why they don’t want to change.”

“Making them part of the decision-making process from the onset is critical, and also demonstrates that management needs to listen to understand. After all, the employees use technology every day, so you should demonstrate that they are valued enough to be involved in the decision. Driving such change through a top-down approach will almost certainly lead to resistance, simply because the employees are being ‘told’ what to do, rather than 'asked',” he explains.

The other key aspect Kleynhans highlights is that it is equally critical to show the benefits of the change. If you first explain the reasons for the change and follow this up by demonstrating to employees exactly how the change improves operations, it enables them to break free of their comfort zone and more easily adopt the new system.

“It’s worth remembering that you should have a team that drives change management within the organisation. They will be the ones to challenge employees stuck in a comfort zone and will serve as the crew that guides and ensures both the technology transformation and the change management required.”

He adds that there are several different change management methodologies that can be adopted. In fact, there are at least 13 different options for different sectors, much like there are various ISO standards for different industries.

“Probably the main reason employees tend to view change as an enemy is because when they are in a comfort zone, it helps them to feel in control of their environment, whereas change, of course, is unknown and out of their control.

“This is why it is imperative to get employees to understand that change is constant, and you have to be able to demonstrate the value that change brings. Thus, businesses should seek to develop a company culture where efforts around change are regularly discussed, and where employees can contribute – via forums, chat rooms and other means – to being part of the decision-making process. If you can give your employees the feeling that they are more in control, they will inevitably be much happier and more adaptable to change,” concludes Kleynhans.