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While change is necessary, it is also a scary thing for many - especially in the workplace when teams have routines and are used to doing things a certain way. No matter the type of changes your organization or association is seeking - operational, strategic, cultural, or otherwise - all change will affect your employees, members, and stakeholders. This is why having change management best practices in place can ensure successful adoption and prevent undue stress.  

In today’s fast-paced environment, organizations must continually adapt to survive and grow. Without change, those that are stagnant will quickly become irrelevant and obsolete as others in the market keep up with the newest technologies and processes. 

Change Is Good: 5 Essential Change Management Principles

These change management best practices can be applied to multiple scenarios involving change within your association, such as:

  • Hiring a new executive director or senior leadership role
  • Implementing new systems or processes
  • Making a technology shift, like adopting a new CRM or setting up a new membership portal
  • Moving from a physical location to virtual

Regardless of the type of change you are implementing, these change management best practices can help your organization smoothly navigate any shifts that come your way. 

1. Create a strong vision for change & apply a structured, clear approach

First things first - a clear and concise approach is key to success. Change management will fail without a clear plan to enact it. Action items, task owners, and timelines should be predetermined ahead of the implementation. Having guardrails and structure at the onset will help your project stay on track. As an added bonus, you can use your change management plan as a template for other changes your organization may want to adopt in the future. 

2. Communicate every step of the way

Change is uncomfortable, and that fact should be deeply acknowledged by association leaders ushering their organizations into new times. In fact, 62% of people say they don’t like leaving their comfort zone. Understand that employees are likely feeling uneasy, so keeping them informed will help quell their concerns and reduce stress. Be sure to clearly communicate: 

  • Why the change is happening
  • How the change will impact them
  • What to expect during the change
  • What to expect after the change

Leaving employees in the dark will only increase their stress levels and cause them to imagine worst-case scenarios. When managing change, clarity is crucial for employees. At the same time, this communication shouldn’t just be one-sided. Part of your change management strategy should be to ask employees how they feel about the change, what their concerns are, and if they have any suggestions. This applies to team members of all levels within your organization - everyone’s voice is important and deserves to be heard. 

3. Get help from ‘change champions’

Identify key leaders from within your organization to be the cheerleaders of the change. Whether it’s your marketing manager who is stoked about ditching the old, clunky CRM, or the customer service team leader who sees how much the change will benefit their day-to-day workflow, you want to have internal advocates to lead and motivate others in adopting the change. Enlist these champions of change to help you explain the need and benefit of the change - they can help tremendously with the often tricky task of getting other team members on board. 

4. Test out the change on smaller groups first

When possible, test out the change before fully rolling it out organization-wide. Of course, this won’t be possible for all types of change, especially emergency situations, but if you have the opportunity to test the change, do so with a smaller group before fully releasing it. This will help you identify and troubleshoot any roadblocks, as well as anticipate which questions you should be prepared for ahead of the full rollout. 

5. Make sure you have the necessary resources before implementing the change

You have to walk before you can run. Before making your change, ensure you have the proper resources available to do so. This includes having adequate budget and manpower to implement and facilitate the change. For example, if your organization decides to build a new association website, you need to make sure you have enough budget for design, development, strategy, optimization, and other necessary tasks for a successful launch. 

Additionally, having staffers who have dedicated time to coordinate with third-party vendors, educate internal teams on how the new site functions, and educate members on where they can find their most frequently accessed information is critical. If you don’t have the resources available, you will scramble throughout the process, causing balls to drop and team members to feel confused and stressed.

Even though there is much to consider for successful change management, don’t let fear hold your organization back! With proper planning and communication, your organization will be well-equipped to handle any kind of change. 

Emily Herrington
Post by Emily Herrington
September 20, 2021
Emily Herrington is a New Orleans-based digital marketer specializing in SEO, content, and pay-per-click advertising. She can usually be found at her desk obsessing over data and rankings, or in the kitchen covered in flour.