In this week’s blog, Krista Schaber-Chan, Managing Partner, Harbinger, and Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta, Founder and CEO, The Change Leadership, two fierce female Change Management leaders, discuss the future of Change Management.
How would you define the Future of Change Management?
Krista: Generally, the future of Change Management is change or die. Change is rapid, especially when compared to my grandmother who experienced many changes in her life span. While my grandmother endured significant changes such as the introduction of motorized vehicles, computers, and seeing a man walk on a moon, the difference now is that we see this level of change on a monthly or weekly basis. We all must accept it, embrace it, and get on with it.
Yvonne: In just a few words, I would say the future of change management is moving away from rigid models and approaches to being responsive, adaptable, and experiential. We will need to focus more on building skills and competencies in which we are agile and responsive in adapting our approach to leading and managing change based on the various characteristics of the change and organization. One where we move away from thinking of Change Management as a linear process, to one of that is dynamic and changing, hence the need for us to be situational on how we approach change.
2. What does the role of a Change Manager look like in the future? Are there any new skills and capabilities required for them to be successful?
Krista: Given the magnitude and pace of change taking place, there will continue to be a need for structure and rigour to support people through change. However, there has been a shift from ‘doing’ to ‘guiding’ and from being Change Managers to Change Thought Leaders. The role of a Change Thought Leader is strategic and is focused more heavily on coaching and enabling versus ‘managing’ people through change. It also requires us to build better relationships, strengthen people skills, possess foresight and emotional intelligence. To address this shift, Harbinger has worked to develop a series of Change Enablement courses, designed for those looking to upskill in this area.
Also, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes more prominent within the change management space, our roles are changing as a result. It is important for people to understand that despite how advanced AI has become, it is far from being capable to what we do on the ‘human-side’ of change.
Yvonne: The role of the Change Manager is changing from one of being the hero, who is coming in with their “superpowers” (i.e. models and methodologies) to being more of a coach, facilitator, collaborator, empathetic, emotionally intelligent, multidisciplinary, and more. These may sound like a lot of skills, but many of them can be wrapped into being a Change Leader. In our Change Leadership Accelerator program, we focus on the skills required to build change leadership competencies and situational change leadership, and how this can be applied to every stage of the change management cycle.
3. If the future of change management looks different, do we need to revisit how we ‘manage’ change? Do the methodologies many of us use today need to be refreshed or do they still hold strong?
Krista: Our methodologies need to be more holistic. We cannot support people through change if we do not communicate effectively, and if new behaviours are not learned. Change Management alone cannot achieve the desired results we want to see. When enabling change, our change management strategies must include communications and learning. Sometimes you will hear a Change Manager say, “Oh I don’t do anything with training; that is so and so’s job…,” all I can think is that you are not really managing or supporting change, because you can’t enable change or embed new behaviours without providing learning.
Yvonne: We need to revisit the way we manage change for sure. There is still a vast place for many of the methodologies we use today, as many of them are based on behavioural principles. What needs to change, is how we use them. We need to understand that these methodologies or models are ‘frameworks’ or ‘guidelines’, and should be treated as such, and not a one size fits all. We need a ‘pick and mix’ approach when using methodologies based on our understanding of the change situation and our audience/stakeholders, as well as adding change leadership skills.
4. What are the biggest changes or trends companies can expect to experience in the next three to five years?
Krista: There are a few that immediately come to mind. The employee market, the use of technology and digital advancements, and leading from the individual level.
1. In recent months we have seen a drastic change in the employee market. Employees now have more power and more say about when they work, where they work, how they work, and why they work. Employers have no options but to support that. Hiring the best people means less rigidity on where and when people work and more flexibility on accommodating employee preferences and what fits their lives. With all of that said, employers need to balance this by continuing to provide structure.
2. The use of technology will continue to increase, and with more hybrid workplace models being introduced this means security needs to be rethought and prioritized. There needs to be increased thought leadership on what security means today as everything digitally is out in the world anyway. We must ask ourselves what we are afraid of and what can we control? Security is about planning than being reactive to what is being put out there.
To expand on the topic of technology, fast-paced digital advancements have created a world where everything can be shared, leaked, or even changed. These digital advancements have led to an abundance of fake news and movements like cancel culture. It is surprising to find how easy it is for people to believe what they read, which isn’t surprising since we have become accustomed to only reading headlines. Unfortunately, these changes have made significant impacts on how information is collected and shared, making it crucial for organizations to focus more on protecting their brand and reputation.
3. There has been a shift over the past few years of looking at change from the individual level – which is the right thing and I feel this trend will continue until it becomes the norm. Individual contributors are speaking up and making their needs known, and while we should still consider the big picture the big picture is made up of many individual pieces. Leading and enabling change at the individual level will mean planning and providing curated experiences while balancing the objective of the change itself and the organization.
Yvonne: That’s a tough one, to predict anything in today’s ever changing business environment. But based on what we’re seeing, and what the trends experts are saying, we should see some of the following: a move to data driven (quantitative) change management, yes, change management can be both quantitative and qualitative. Leveraging digital tools and dashboards for reporting. Curated and experiential change management based on individual and grouped stakeholders needs, as opposed to generic offerings. Gamification as part of the tactics leveraged for knowledge development and training.
5. What role does change management play in the New World of Work?
Krista: The role of change management is more significant now than in the past. As I have mentioned earlier, the shift is less about the change management, and more about change leadership and enablement. Now we are seeing people within organizations leading change themselves which is fantastic. The accountability to make a positive work experience no longer lays solely on the organization or the organizations senior leaders, but the employees as well.
Another evolution I am noticing is the transition of change management from Human Resources to Operations, which makes sense as it is really about embedding new behaviours and processes.
Yvonne: There is going to be a lot of change happening with the new world of work as we move towards more AI, tech, and automation, as well as the workplace being shaped by socio economic issues such as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and the fallout of the pandemic. These are all changing the way we work, where we work, who we work with and the skills that are required. We will also see more new policies start to emerge as a result, such as the new Ontario Working for Workers Act, 2021, to ensure labour laws to “keep pace with the acceleration of new technology, automation, and remote work”. These changes need to be carefully managed to produce the desired outcomes; this is where the role of change management comes in. We will need to be proactive, responsive, and deliberate in how we manage change, as opposed to being reactive.
A big thank you to Krista and Yvonne for sharing their insights on the Future of Change Management. If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to connect with them on LinkedIn.
Krista Schaber-Chan Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta
Managing Partner, Founder & CEO,