Technology has allowed us to stay connected during Covid. But when it comes to change management, technology is here to stay
28th August 2022
Over the last two years we have all become accustomed to change. However, the way that change is delivered differs from company to company. At MovePlan, we have seen a reliance on technology to help deliver change particularly when working with clients across the globe.
MovePlan’s Stephen Fountain, Senior Project Director, said change management became increasingly complicated at the start of the pandemic as companies grappled with fast-paced change that was forced upon them. But now, with time to reflect, some of the changes that happened because of Covid, particularly those related to technology, could be here to stay.
“At the start of the pandemic, it wasn’t simply a case of using video to connect with colleagues. We had to factor in communicating across time zones and languages and culture. That became a bit of a challenge,” explained Stephen.
However, he said MovePlan’s cross culture awareness enabled a smoother transition, along with working with clients in the technology sector. “That gave us a head-start,” he said, adding: “We adopted new methods of reaching individuals. It was a global change so we didn’t need to go through a process of getting people to buy into it, we were meeting people in that space and engaging with them from that position forward.”
Stephen said MovePlan has leveraged the technology already in use, such as Teams and Zoom, while embracing alternative technology such as Miro and Mural. These digital collaboration tools allow participants to ‘whiteboard’ ideas with sticky notes, comments, and live drawing to gather ideas in a meaningful way without relying on one person to write or record comments from a larger group. This has enabled MovePlan to deliver change for our clients in a more inclusive and efficient way, with many positive impacts linked to managing change virtually.
“Where we would usually do a face-to-face workshop with post-it notes and interaction, we leveraged those platforms to hold these virtually instead which was more helpful than replacing something face-to-face with something digital. It made it easier to take the information away and do more of the data visualisation with it,” Stephen said, explaining that the change of moving to a digital world has brought about benefits that may never have been realised if Covid didn’t happen.
“We used to have to enter all the data following a workshop. Now we have it ready to go to start analysing immediately. It has made it easier to share back to the client faster and back to the participant to give robust feedback and do those follow up sessions more frequently, which has led to a higher participation rate,” he said.
Now, with the gradual increase in events being held again in person, Stephen said there is still a place for virtual events to be run alongside these in a hybrid fashion.
He said: “We just did a face-to-face session but at the same time had someone host it in Mural because it’s quicker and easier. We use the technology to hold a hybrid session and we can welcome people in the room, but if people can’t make it, they can still participate wherever they are.”
Stephen said technology has also opened opportunities for new ways of working which create a better work-life balance. In Asia, many places are still not able to return to the office fully, and those which have reopened many still require masks to be worn, meaning many of our clients across the continent are adopting a hybrid model. Whilst this has been beneficial during the pandemic, Stephen believes it is a positive change that is here to stay.
“The office is no longer the only option. I can work in my bedroom, or by the pool, or even walking my dog. It has created so many opportunities,” he explained.
He believes the new virtual way of working enables people to engage at their own pace, rather than being forced to engage at a specific time, explaining: “You can’t have those casual conversations anymore but you can see virtual conversations and engage at your own pace. It has meant the participation and take up using these digital platforms is higher.
“As an example, we used to host town-hall style sessions which, before the pandemic, might have had 100 participants. We would have been limited to the size of the room. But virtually, those limits disappear. Recently, we held a session available to 700 impacted colleagues and we had 600 participate in the virtual event because it was easier to join and receive the content.
“There is a more general sense of ownership of people’s time. Every single thing in our days has become a choice and technology has enabled that to happen. Do I take this call while I do my laundry? I’m not feeling positive today so I’m going to sit by the pool and take this call. Before the pandemic, we all sat in offices with people watching us. If we came in late, that might be a problem. Now, people are planning their own time. I have a client who is saying no meetings on Thursdays, take time for yourself.”
However, Stephen said there is a downside of moving to a virtual world, which is less opportunity for casual conversations. “Everything is back-to-back because it’s all structured,” he said, adding: “That’s the downside. But technology has enabled us to connect and interact more freely. I can have a conversation while walking to get a coffee, it just needs to be scheduled. That’s why people are doing things differently and scheduling in to say let’s not have meetings on a Thursday.”
"Technology has enabled us to connect and interact more freely"
— Stephen Fountain, MovePlan
Whatever decisions companies have made when it comes to new ways of working, Stephen said the most important thing is to ensure employees still feel involved in the process of change. He believes technology has enabled those who may have previously stayed quiet to speak up, explaining: “We want to hear from employees whether the experience is or isn’t going well.
In the past we would get comments from those who were outgoing or confident. Those who didn’t feel comfortable speaking up in a crowd stayed quiet. Now, they can type their message in a chat, or even send a private message. It makes it easier for us when we’re running a town hall event. We don’t need to interrupt the presenter we can answer questions concurrently which makes the whole experience better.
“We find that the satisfaction at the end of these is much higher because people feel informed and feel it was a valuable use of their time. Their questions were answered and everyone has the chance to ask questions. At the end, we then have a list of questions and answers which we can share online. People feel more engaged with the process.
“From a change management point of view, it’s about the participation, the access to information as and when you need it, and the ability to have those feedback channels. That’s what people want. They want to know what’s going on, how to get involved, how it’s impacting them, and how to have their voice heard. They want to know what’s happening and not have it come as a surprise. That shift in technology is getting us closer – certainly during the period where that’s all we had to rely on – to doing that.”