How to handle the human side of IT change management

IT leaders probably know better than anyone that when a business undergoes changes big or small it can be met with resistance from the workforce.

As human beings we are often uncomfortable with change, we fear it, we’re sceptical about it and we worry about how it’s going to affect us – even if in the end the outcome is to our benefit.

The challenge IT leaders face is that the landscape they operate in is forever changing and implementing or undergoing changes of some sort is a constant part of day job.

Sometimes IT-related changes within businesses are met with active resistance and not just among the general population of a workforce but from the organisation’s leadership teams as well.

For IT managers, resistance to changes from the top and among the wider workforce can make a situation uncomfortable and make it difficult to see through changes that are designed to be beneficial across the board.

Understanding people’s concerns

The key to overcoming resistance to IT transitions within businesses is to understand where people are coming from and the details of what they’re really worried about.

So as an IT transition leader, when you’re aiming to address people’s concerns, it can help to ask yourself, ‘What does this change mean for them?’

And also:

  • Could these planned changes disrupt the way they work?
  • Are they going to have to get trained in a new way of doing things?
  • Is a part of their job becoming automated?
  • Could they be fearful that redundancies are on the horizon?

IT leaders should aim to be as aware as they can be of the concerns that people have about the changes they’re introducing.

It’s easy for IT experts to focus entirely or almost entirely on the technical aspects of the challenges they face but the human elements are vitally important as well and addressing them with a proper plan of action can be crucial in ensuring the overall success of an IT transition.

Here are our 4 Top Tips for dealing with the human side of an IT change programme:

1 – Work closely with HR

Your executive team wants its workforce to maintain productivity through any change programme and the best way to ensure that happens is to communicate and engage well with the people affected by the change. Having the potential impact on individuals at the forefront of your thinking during any change programme is crucial.

IT leaders should always work closely with HR in these scenarios to make sure that issues people have with the changes are fed back to the people managing the process.

A key goal early on should be to create a communications plan that explains what’s happening in clear terms but also gives people the opportunity to put forward their views on what’s going on and ask any questions they have about the project.

2 – Be upfront about the potential impact on jobs

Companies want their employees to work smarter and get more done in less time. The workforce knows that if jobs can be streamlined through automated processes then there is a high probability that redundancies could happen.

Where possible, it’s important to let people know what’s likely to happen with regard to their jobs and any potential redundancies in advance of a major IT overhaul being initiated. Doing so can offset many of the concerns that people have about new plans for IT upgrades and keep employees focussed on the potential benefits.

3 – Delegate with purpose

It’s really important to recognise that you as an individual will not be able to manage all aspects of an IT change programme so you’ll need to delegate and make sure you have people around who are well placed to make their own contributions to the process.

The best time to delegate is in the early stages of the project so that you are building a team which has knowledge of the project from the start. This gives the workforce a sense of the importance of the programme and they’ll have different people to engage with on particular issues.

By delegating effectively as early on in the process as possible you as the project leader should also be able to manage and maintain your workload much better.

4 – Maintain positivity

Any change programme can be stressful and confusing at times for everyone involved. It’s important as the leader of the programme that you maintain a positive attitude and remain upbeat about the way it’s all going. This will have a knock-on effect on your team and how they present themselves to the rest of the business.

You should aim to be more encouraging of your team members than you might ordinarily be because you’ll need them all to keep pulling in the right direction and to have a positive, problem-solving attitude throughout the life of your project.

Winning hearts and minds

In the end, what’s perhaps most important for IT change managers to realise is that the human side of things can be every bit as essential to success as technical proficiency or technological knowhow.

If you can keep that idea firmly in mind then you’ll certainly give yourself a good chance of achieving your goals and winning the trust of both your bosses and the wider workforce along the way.