We have all experienced changes in our organizations. The changes may have been almost unnoticeable, or then so significant that they had a strong impact on our everyday tasks. Minor changes may include updating email signatures throughout the organization and changing an operating model due to an error in the enterprise resource planning system. Major changes include, for example, a change in the organizational structure or the introduction of a new work time recording system.
At the same time, these experiences have shaped our attitudes towards change. Therefore, it is important how change is managed, communicated and implemented.
In this blog we discuss and give examples of the kinds of changes in which utilizing e-learning is worthwhile.
Why is email not enough in change communication?
The most typical way of communicating changes is using email. The message can also be reinforced by communicating it through the company intranet. This approach undeniably works for companies where email is a widely used tool. Email is actively followed and messages usually get the desired response. For companies where work doesn’t require following email actively, we cannot be sure that the message has reached its intended audience.
Change communication often has two challenges: reaching the target group and getting the message across. If the change is announced at a separate briefing, not all employees may be able to attend due to work or personal reasons. In the follow-up discussions, the same things will have to be dealt with again so that everyone has sufficient background knowledge to move the change forward. If the team is large, the discussions alone will require a lot of resources, and repeating things will take time away from deeper discussion.
Sometimes the message about the change can be delivered to the target group, but the content of the message, that is the change itself, remains unclear.
For example, if switching to a new work time recording system is done by sending instructions to everyone via email, it is quite certain that the implementing party will get a last-minute flood of questions about the new system and its use. This situation could be avoided by monitoring the situation at the level of the individual and reminding people of the importance of the issue. Everyone adapts to changes in their own time. Despite good instructions, some people may need personal guidance on how to use the system. For others, taking in a change may require more detailed discussion. However, it is easier to move the change forward when as many people as possible have the same background information. If the change process involves one-on-one discussions about the content of the change, they will be much easier once the background information has been adopted.
The strengths of e-learning are specifically measurability and monitoring. For example, a supervisor can track how many of his or her subordinates have completed the online training regarding the change. When the supervisor sees who has passed the test at the end of the training, they can communicate about the training individually, for example, reminding people to do the test or the entire training if they haven't already started it. This helps to avoid unnecessary messages – and at the same time, change proceeds in a controlled way.
For what kinds of changes can e-learning be utilized?
There are many ways to take advantage of e-learning. In practice, e-learning can be built around any subject. However, it cannot replace all the training and communication in such a situation, as interaction and one-to-one discussions are always needed to implement a change. Here are some examples of changes where e-learning can be of use.
Organizational change is something that has the greatest impact on the everyday work of employees. This can mean, for example, new tasks or reallocating tasks between teams. It can also mean many kinds of reorganizations that are often the result of a changed business environment. The bigger the company, the larger the group of people affected by the change.
Change communication plays a key role in organizational change. Information about the change needs to be communicated as well as possible to those affected: how the change affects their work, what changes are being made, progress in the change process and, most importantly, what benefits the change brings.
If organizational change is reflected in work duties, e-learning can deal with the new or changing duties, their content, and their importance compared to existing duties. The purpose of training is to communicate the basics of a change. After online training, the subject can be further discussed on the level of the individual, for example, in face-to-face discussions.
If the change affects more than one department, you can customize one e-learning course to serve people in different jobs. If the tasks are similar but differ in content, you may want to partially merge the content. For example, customer service and technical support tasks are often similar in principle, but their content is different. When starting the online training, the user could choose either the customer service path or the technical support path.
One option is to provide e-learning for those who are in charge of the change – for example, team leaders. Training can address how to communicate with your team and how to handle employees’ different reactions to change. Unless a supervisor has previously been involved in implementing changes, employees' conflicting reactions may come as a surprise. This kind of training is more useful in general, as meeting people is always the same, no matter what the change.
IT system changes
There range of IT system changes is extensive. A system that has been in use for a long time may be replaced because its features do not meet the changing needs of the company. The systems used for communication are probably the most common subjects to change. Larger change projects may involve a customer information system or an ERP system. These concern a large part of the staff and therefore require a great deal of training. Because users also have different roles, the need for training varies according to job description.
Again, it is worth tailoring e-learning to the needs of different target groups. Employees’ interests are always focused on their own duties. For example, those who work in customer service are not interested in the features of the new customer information system that facilitate technical support, and vice versa. When the training is tailored to the target group, their interest remains until the end of the training.
Another benefit of e-learning is that the training can be easily distributed to a large target group. Employees also do not have to sit through lots of meetings. Anyone can return to the content of the online training later if need be. This is the case when the team does not have a power user of the new system to contact in case of problems.
E-learning can include the implementation of the new system and learning key features. The training should emphasize the benefits and advantages of the new system. This makes the transition from a familiar and safe system to a new one easier.
Some strategy changes of a company may require more expansive implementation. Already changing the strategy can require a lot of preparatory work, because the change itself is more extensive than, for example, a system change whose effects are quite predictable. For example, if a company focuses on increasing customer satisfaction as part of its strategy, the change will affect the organization as a whole, as each employee's performance is directly or indirectly reflected in customer satisfaction. First of course, the change must be implemented in the customer interface, where its impact on customer satisfaction is most direct and strong. A change of strategy may require operational model reforms in customer service and sales, but possibly also in communications and marketing.
The size of the company affects the extent to which the strategy change is reflected in the personnel. In this case also, it is useful to be able to distribute the contents of e-learning training to even large target groups and tailor the training to the work tasks of the target group. Training is independent of time and place.
A strategy change can also be about streamlining processes. So, the goal may be to standardize a process. If a company does not have a single consistent complaint process, it may take an unreasonable amount of time to process a complaint simply because the process is unclear or is freely interpreted. Standardizing the process eliminates ambiguities and provides detailed instructions.
E-learning is an excellent tool for this. Training can be made interactive, and thanks to visualization, the process is sure to be remembered. The training can also be utilized for induction and orientation of new employees. If the process changes over time, the training can always be updated. For example, if there is an example of a complaint process with mention of people in charge, this information can be easily updated and the training will remain relevant for longer.
Not all changes are brought about by company needs, but they can also be caused by the environment For example, changes in legislation may require a company to respond. A recent example of this is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which set an exact framework for companies to process personal data. The change in the legislation required action from all companies and at the same time set a standard that must be followed in business.
A yet to be realized change has to do with Brexit. The breaking away of a member state from the European Union will affect companies operating internationally and their future activities. For some companies, it may require only minor changes in existing operational models. For others, Brexit can mean a change of strategy and even withdrawal from the market if legislation is tightened and customs duties are involved, for example.
Of course, e-learning is also suitable for handling legislative changes. Changes often affect a part of the staff, and sometimes even the entire staff, and that is why the best way to implement a change is through online training, especially when the law requires training for the staff. Employees are introduced to the matter with the help of course material, and the learning of the necessary things can be confirmed by completing a test at the end of the course.
What are the benefits of e-learning?
E-learning has many applications in change management. Online training can be used for change communication, providing background information for upcoming one-on-one discussions, providing basic knowledge of a new client system, or organizing training required by law.
The benefits of e-learning in change management can be summarized as follows:
- Training is easy to measure and monitor.
- Training is independent of time and place.
- Training is the same for the whole target group and gives equal facilities to everyone.
- The message is the same for everyone.
- Training can be tailored and updated to the needs of various target groups.
Is your company looking for a change management tool? Does your company need help in implementing a change? Contact us, and our experts will help you choose the solution that best meets your needs.