The only constant in life is change—and it's difficult to embrace the unknown. That’s why the employee experience is essential to change management, when leaders are charged with supporting their teams through adjusting to new and different ways of working.
It helps to think of employees as customers. Customer experience teams evaluate the customer journey before, during, and after the experience of a product or service. Similarly, change management teams must assess the employee journey before, during, and after the implementation of organizational change—and both teams must define outside-in metrics to do so.
If change leaders can’t measure what’s working and what isn’t working from employees’ perspectives, they’ll likely see employee satisfaction drop, and customer satisfaction follow suit. Read on to learn what change management metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to focus on—and 7 tips for measuring success.
Change management metrics and KPIs
There are two levels to effective change management. Your employees make the changes in their work, and the company provides them with the processes, tools, and systems that smooth the transition. Measuring success in change management starts by taking a look at a few key performance metrics at both levels. According to Prosci, this can include:
- Employee readiness assessment results
- Employee engagement, buy-in, and participation measures
- Communication effectiveness
- Employee feedback
- Employee satisfaction survey results
- Training participation, tests, and effectiveness measures
- Usage and utilization reports
- Compliance and adherence reports
- Internal help desk metrics, such as tickets solved, tickets reopened, ticket escalations, issues by resolution area, as well as incidents and problems
- Observations of behavioral change
- Project KPI measurements
- Benefit realization and ROI
- Adherence to timeline
Change management performance measures
Measuring change success shouldn't be the final step in the change management process, but rather a best practice that is essential at every stage. Evaluating your efforts along the way allows you to be proactive and remedy mishaps and misunderstandings before they become actual problems—so you won’t have to go back and undo new processes, systems, or ways of working after you roll them out.
Here are 7 tips for measuring change management success from Dana Otto, Senior Manager, Change Management at Zendesk and Margaret Kelleher, Senior Manager, Change Management at VMware.
Dana Otto, Senior Manager, Change Management, Zendesk
1. Focus on two main outputs: awareness and preparedness
In the effort to shore up KPIs for the business goal of a change initiative, organizations often overlook what matters the most: their employees. You'll need to bring the people in your organization along to adapt to the changes and have a voice in the process.
This starts with having a clear and accurate understanding of how the change impacts employees, and what tools they need to successfully make the transition—or the employee experience and business targets will suffer.
Otto recommends a change manager focuses on two outside-in outputs: awareness—measuring if employees understand the change—and preparedness—measuring if employees have the knowledge and ability to make the change and sustain it.
Employee surveys or focus groups can help track how aware employees are of the change and if awareness improves—as it should—throughout the change process. Training participation numbers and tests, usage and utilization reports, and internal help desk metrics are performance indicators of how prepared employees are or were for the change.
For example, while there are likely to be hiccups along the way, if your IT team continues to see a massive spike in the percentage of incidents and problems after a new technology has been rolled out, that likely indicates that employees weren’t adequately prepared for the new tool or system.
2. Quantify qualitative data—if possible
To make insights easier to understand, analyze, and share with stakeholders, Otto recommends framing qualitative questions in employee surveys on a scale to quantify responses. “Measuring change management is one of the most difficult parts of the process because you’re measuring people and their emotions, which is hard to quantify,” explained Otto.
"You’re measuring people and their emotions, which is hard to quantify."Dana Otto, Senior Manager, Change Management, Zendesk
Data from your internal help desk, such as ticket surges or issues by resolution area, can also help quantify things like where employees feel overwhelmed.
3. Ask managers to hold their teams accountable
According to Otto, a major component of measuring change is assessing if people are doing their part to meet project goals. Since it isn’t realistic to expect change leaders to hold everyone in the organization accountable, Otto recommends asking managers to help ensure their teams follow through on their end of the change bargain.
Just like agents supporting external customers need relevant customer context such as a customer’s email or account type to effectively resolve an issue, agents supporting internal customers should also have the background information they need, such as if an employee reached out about the same issue before or what team they sit on.
And when sharing insights with managers, context allows them to see where the people on their teams are getting stuck. This can help managers better support their teams to implement the change.
Margaret Kelleher, Senior Manager, Change Management at VMware
4. Measure if the business is prepared for the change, before communicating it to employees
Kelleher explained that on an organizational level, change leaders will first need to measure if the business is ready to move from its current state to the desired or required future state.
“It’s first a matter of working with stakeholder groups, both internally and externally, to evaluate if the business is ready for the change project on the process and systems side, before rolling it out on the people side,” said Kelleher. Communicating a change before the business is ready can make people think you’re vacillating, which hurts morale.
5. Leverage technology to track if communications are impactful
Communication is vital to an effective change management strategy and heightens transparency and trust between a business and its talent during a stressful time. But this is only possible if those planning communications have their finger on the pulse of their employee audience.
Technology can help: “From a tech perspective, there are tools that can help measure if our communications are impactful, such as by allowing us to track if people are engaging with our messages or learning bites,” explained Kelleher.
For example, an internal knowledge base points employees to a one-stop resource where they can access videos or articles on new applications and processes and helps onboard them to the change.
“From a tech perspective, there are tools that can help measure if our communications are impactful."Margaret Kelleher, Senior Manager, Change Management at VMware
An additional benefit is that it allows you to measure your communications by enabling your community of employees to upvote or downvote the effectiveness of content. And by keeping tabs on the most viewed articles or videos with the least engagement, you’ll get insight into which types of communications are resonating.
The metrics coming from your internal help desk can also help you measure if communications are impactful. For example, if your HR team experiences a massive influx of tickets or backlog after implementing a new policy, this might indicate an underlying problem in your communications.
And looking at issues-by-resolution-area can help you decipher which specific areas of that policy call for more thorough communication.
6. Incorporate feedback early on
Expecting employees to adjust themselves to new policies, systems, or tools that they feel like they don’t have a say in can end up being counterproductive, especially for leaders and project team managers charged with keeping tabs on change management KPIs.
Providing formal feedback mechanisms to measure success builds empathy and adds a personal touch to the change process.
According to Kelleher, fostering a feedback loop between impacted groups and business leaders early on is vital to measuring change management success. “When change leaders get people involved in the process from the start, they feel like they are a part of it, and they’ll be less likely to resist it,” said Kelleher.
A change management team can glean valuable feedback through surveys, focus groups, or by paying attention to the kinds of issues that come up frequently in an organization's internal help desk.
Kelleher also explained that it’s crucial to follow up on feedback to show employees that they’re heard, such as a presentation on employee satisfaction survey results.
7. Measure if the change stuck
To achieve business outcomes, Kelleher explained that you’ll need to measure if people continue to incorporate the change over time. So don’t stop measuring once the change is in place.
For example, if the goal is to introduce an enterprise technology, IT support requests will likely peak during the change.
Requests should decline after the change has been rolled out as comfort levels increase, but if the new technology isn’t mandatory, a dip in ticket volume might be a sign that people are slipping back into their old ways of doing things. If the change isn’t sticking, leaders might consider reiterating communications or refreshing training materials.
Tracking the effectiveness of change management
To measure change management effectiveness, leaders will need to adopt an outside-in mindset. This means measuring if you achieve business goals, and just as importantly, how those outcomes impact the people in your organization—your internal customers.
Change requires employees to adjust to a new normal, and that isn’t always easy. It’s vital to support your team so they can continue to support your external customers, one another, and the organization.
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