5 Keys to Effective Change Management
Many security services organizations are evolving to capture actionable insights from data, embrace automation and enable more dynamic business models using digital tools and the latest security technologies. Of course, preparing for the future also means adapting to new ways of working. As a systematic collaborative approach for transforming a company's services and goals, organizational change management (OCM) tends to emphasize process; however, it is people who most affect change and are affected by that change, meaning any successful effort must center on engagement and authenticity.
I recently co-led a business transformation across Securitas North America and learned firsthand about the importance of effective change management. Our project consisted of a complete change in back office and field operational systems. The goal was to move to modern common platforms while optimizing the way we work, becoming more automated and nimbler to dynamically serve our clients and employees in an ever-changing world.
Change strategy starts with the individual as they make the transition from current to future state. Continual stakeholder engagement and transparency also support the journey, identifying what types of influences are needed and where. Building this strategy requires careful alignment of key change levers, including:
- Leadership that invites participation.
- Involvement of stakeholders to inform strategy.
- Communication that shapes new behaviors.
- Training that unites the organization.
- Metrics that will define success.
The goal of the change strategy is to design a process that provides stakeholders with an understanding of what’s changing, ensures they have the tools to be successful, and creates an environment in which they want to make the transition. All stakeholders should have a clear understanding of what is changing, how it affects them, how they might contribute to that change, and where to go for help.
Significant changes typically include the entire organization, executive leadership, field operations, and supporting services such as finance, HR, and IT. Strategy can impact each group differently; however, establishing strong alignment at the top creates transparency and helps mitigate visible differences between expected outcomes and ownership that might cause stakeholders to resist the change.
Take a closer look at each of the critical change levers that guide an effective OCM journey:
History demonstrates that success is usually not a straight path, nor is tech the only answer to fixing operational issues. Automating an inefficient or ineffective process isn’t a job well done. Focusing on transformation—not just tools—requires clear executive sponsorship of the change strategy and a forum where people are comfortable speaking up. Change leaders not only create an inspiring vision but advocate for that vision throughout the transition.
For security services organizations, collaboration and commitment can take many forms, including:
- Executive sponsor briefings and engagement in decision making;
- Regular individual and cross-team meetings;
- Advance review and creation of communications by key stakeholders;
- Change champions throughout the organization regardless of title or role;
- Additional support where needed; and
- Creation of a safe environment where people can share their ideas.
Stakeholder confusion, frustration, and avoidance can all be minimized by leaders who clearly explain the reason for and urgency to change, address issues with transparency, and who remain active in bringing people together.
During our large back office transformation project, HR, finance, and IT leadership made a point to show and emphasize strong alignment between the groups while always reflecting the “one team, one goal, one success” motto.
It’s not enough to explain why changes are coming. Change ownership is built by people with a hand in the project. Engaging peers, answering questions, and gathering perspectives encourages people to voice their concerns, share creative solutions, participate in the change, and ultimately champion it.
To increase involvement, Securitas created Centers of Excellence (COEs) within the business units. These groups led the implementation of change, made process decisions, and prioritized during the project, including the continuous improvement after go-live of the digital component of the transformation. This helped ensure ownership of the project was felt by the business and supported by IT. That way, the people closest to the business, clients, and employees were the ones driving the decisions. This ensured that the new solutions, tools, and processes being implemented were more pertinent to stakeholders’ real needs.
Companies on their transformation journey need the willful cooperation of stakeholders to effect real change. Practical steps to achieving a common connection and the contribution of ideas and opinions include:
- Preview and design discussions with user groups.
- Ensure the project is led and owned by the business or stakeholders; IT is a partner in the journey.
- Regular communications and briefings; create a transparent environment.
- Messaging must resonate with the individual.
- Conduct workshops and surveys inviting back office employees, field teams, and end users to contribute.
- Create a project charter or key principles to share and guide decisions.
Keep in mind that experience says only a small number of adopters will be eager to try something new—most people will wait until the benefits are clear and obvious before they act. However, the early involvement of enthusiastic supporters can be an accelerant to change. The model is similar to early adopters of new products and services among customers.
Effective change management is effective storytelling. A compelling narrative and regular cadence make each update more meaningful and the vision memorable. Regardless of the channel or method of delivery, organizations must strive to create communications that:
- Use one voice that is always on brand and on tone to create confidence through consistency.
- Lead with a positive perspective to paint a vision of the future that conveys genuine excitement.
- Are simple and relevant—only using short, accurate, timely messages tailored to stakeholders.
- Are apparent and authentic to plainly state the change without using jargon.
- Explain “why” by including rationale for key decisions and are honest about the impact.
- Clarify “what’s in it for me” so more stakeholders can see the personal benefit.
- Create a dialogue and offer opportunities for two-way conversation.
- Proactively anticipate issues to address questions before they arise and minimize pushback.
- Are measurable to help ensure messages are received and resonate with audiences.
Communicating early and often—then listening and responding to feedback, even adjusting plans accordingly—is necessary to gain acceptance and sustain it throughout the journey.
At Securitas, we found an omnichannel approach worked best, leveraging internal social media, videos, flyers, town halls, informal office hours, and in-person meetings. Everyone learns differently and has a preference for which tools or channels they interact with. Having multiple approaches helped us reach the most people. During a transformation, people still have their regular primary job to focus on, so repeating consistent messaging helps it stick and creates credibility.
Coaching people along the change curve is also critical. Training provides adaptive learning opportunities that make the transition smoother for stakeholders. As new processes and technology are introduced, a comprehensive training program will take into consideration myriad instructional methods:
- Role-based training helps employees synchronize their current and future behaviors and responsibilities
- Web-based and live training communicates basic change strategy to the wider organization
- Train-the-trainer approaches for shared services and field operations offer greater quality and consistency in delivering a curriculum
- Hold regular office hours with functional owners where people can attend and ask questions.
- Remember that informal training is just as important, such as encouraging the sharing of best practices among peers
- End-user hands-on use and measurement are the best way to ensure readiness. Consider using mock work weeks, go-lives, or end-to-end process execution. For example, during the Securitas project, we had guarding field operation teams work a week in the new system to compare outputs between the new and old systems, validating we had the same results. This confirmed system accuracy, proper use, and training.
What made the most impact to readiness for the Securitas project was simulated days or weeks in the new systems. This gave the end users a direct, hands-on experience and allowed them to ask questions when they got stuck. It also enabled leadership to measure their effectiveness and adjust training as needed. Training also gives stakeholders access to resources they need to field questions, address pushback and set positive examples. With this framework in place, organizations can begin to build out a change strategy that is also quantifiable.
Change awareness (do stakeholders understand the change?) and readiness (are stakeholders equipped to make the change?) are the primary outputs of most OCM strategies. There are many ways to track and measure the impact of change activities, including surveys, real-time dashboards, and Q&A sessions.
For instance, a qualitative input assessment of shared services and field groups that are currently navigating the change might ask questions such as:
- What are you hearing from leaders about the need for this change?
- Do you feel the rationale has been effectively communicated?
- What are you hearing from your peers about the project?
- How will you personally measure success?
- What do you see as the major risks for the project?
Repeating the survey at a later date can provide insight into changing attitudes or inform the next assessment of employee readiness, including these statements with which respondents can agree or disagree:
- It is clear what my department/branch must do to make the project succeed.
- We have sufficient resources (people, training, support) to succeed.
- We have a plan to get ready for the changes.
- I understand how my role will be affected in the future.
- The reason for change has been explained to me.
- Changes to business processes have been explained to my immediate team.
- Our present organizational culture can support the way we will do things in the future.
- I believe I will be ready for this change.
For many companies, change is a multiyear initiative designed to modernize technology and infrastructure and enhance employee interaction with the same. Leaders can improve support to teams and amplify the organization’s competitive advantage by allowing the organization to focus on tasks that create value and automate those that do not or are routine.
These initiatives seek to transform the way people work by enabling individuals to be more proactive with clients, strengthen their partnerships, and make better-informed decisions based on data. We cannot forget that the client is at the center of all change and that needs to be top of mind, communicated regularly to all stakeholders, and lived by every day.
An effective change management strategy—powered by people—can lead to a more seamless transformation and more engaged stakeholders.
Jeremy Brecher is the chief information and technology officer at Securitas North America and is a member of the Securitas North America division’s management and global IT leadership. Including ERP platforms, IT infrastructure, cybersecurity, and digital experiences, Brecher works to align back-office, operational, and customer-facing technologies to meet emerging needs in an ever-changing environment.