Half of all change management efforts fail, and an additional 16% are only partially successful. For an organization investing significant time, effort, and resources into implementing a change, failure could be devastating. But effective change leadership can significantly boost your chances of success. That is why hiring the right change management leader is crucial.
A Gartner survey found that HR managers were already aware of the importance of leadership in organizational change. Organizational design and change management would be a top priority for 46% of HR leaders in 2021, while current and future leadership was a top priority for 44%.
Effective leadership is just as crucial for technological change. Without proper training and guidance, employees may fail to fully adopt the new software, which means your company would not see the benefits or ROI you expected. A change management expert’s responsibilities would include overseeing training and ensuring complete adoption.
Knowing you need a change management leader and actually finding one are two different things, but we put together this guide to make the process easier. Follow these tips to find a manager who can help your business not only adjust to organizational change but thrive as a result.
Look for These 9 Traits in Your Change Management Expert
Finding the right change management leader for your organization hinges on identifying the candidate with the right experience and personality traits.
According to the same Gartner survey, skills and core competencies were a top priority for 68% of respondents. To find the best fit for the job and the company, HR managers are looking for people with the right traits and skills, not just candidates who fit a profile.
1. Open Communicator
A change management leader should be focused on transparency and prioritize open communication throughout the transformation. Look for someone familiar with or willing to adopt change management communication best practices, such as providing details of the project to employees early on and communicating each step in the process before implementing it.
Employees and managers at all levels need to understand what is changing and why. Communicating each aspect of the change before and during implementation is a vital part of the change management leader’s role.
Your candidate needs to understand the effects that seemingly small changes or issues can have on a project. They need to be focused and detail-oriented enough to monitor these concerns and address them immediately.
For example, employee adoption can make or break the implementation of new technology in an organization. If employees are not using the new technology, then your company is not realizing the benefits of seeing the ROI you expected. Part of the change management role would be to track adoption rates and dig into why adoption might below.
Details are vital, but a leader also needs to look at the big picture. They should be able to talk to employees about expected outcomes for a project, explaining the ultimate goal of the change rather than merely telling team members the specific actions they’re expected to do.
Also, a forward-thinking manager will choose technology and training techniques that are adaptable. That way the training continues to be useful both during and after the change process and can be used for current and future employees.
For example, Whatfix’s digital adoption platform (DAP) automatically adapts to new releases and updates for tools like Salesforce. A strong change management leader would understand the benefit of adaptable training technology and be able to look ahead to how it would benefit the company in the future.
By keeping the longer-term goals in mind, a change management leader can see how individual actions or problems are affecting the transformation as a whole and find long-term solutions to those issues.
Look for a candidate who is willing to take ownership of the project and make the choices necessary to keep it on track. If day-to-day decisions always have to come from higher-up, it slows down the whole process and causes the change to take longer than planned. An indecisive change management leader will also be less able to address bottlenecks or employee concerns quickly.
A change management leader will have to deal with new developments every day. They should be able to immediately adjust plans to address concerns as they arise, such as employee complaints or technological problems, before the issues spiral.
The coronavirus pandemic has clearly illustrated the advantages of flexibility, especially within the leadership responsible for implementing company-wide strategy changes. According to Gartner, only 19% of HR managers believe their employees can quickly adapt to shifting priorities. If the change management leader cannot adapt quickly, they will likely have even more trouble getting their team to do so.
6. Open to Feedback
Your candidate should be willing to seek out and implement feedback from all levels of the organization. The best way for them to see the effects of the change at each stage is to talk to employees and managers who are experiencing these effects firsthand.
If your organization’s change is technology-based, your change management leader will need to talk to employees regularly to ensure they are using the new software, and to gauge where team members might be getting stuck.
By gathering feedback, they can determine what concerns teams have with the project and can then address them right away. This will help the change leader achieve widespread buy-in for the change by encouraging employees to be active participants and ensuring they feel heard.
A good leader should understand that change can be difficult and should be willing to coach employees throughout the process. An empathetic change manager can see when people are struggling and can help them before the employee becomes so frustrated that they give up on the new technology or refuse to embrace the new processes.
8. Familiar with Change Management Models
Knowledge of different change management models will help the candidate prepare and implement change strategies for different levels of the company. A few of the more commonly cited models include the ADKAR Model, Kotter’s Theory, and the Kübler-Ross Change Curve.
The candidate’s familiarity with different models will give you some insight into how knowledgeable they are about different approaches to change management strategy.
See our full explanation of 10 Proven Change Management Models.
9. Experienced with Cross-Functional Teams
Each section of the company will experience different aspects of the organizational change, and the change management expert needs to be able to help all of them. If they have managed cross-functional teams in the past, they may be better equipped to juggle the varying types of issues that will arise across departments.
This experience is especially useful if you plan to build and have the person run a change management team because these typically pull at least one member from each department included in the change.
Identifying these as necessary traits for your change management leader will help you narrow down the field of candidates and look for someone who can effectively implement new technology and processes throughout the company.
Include These Types of Questions in Your Change Management Leader Interview
You can tell only so much from a resume. The interview process is key for determining how well a candidate would fit into your company culture and whether they would implement change the way your organization needs. Incorporate these elements into your interview to help evaluate how a candidate would perform in the role.
Ask questions about the interviewee’s experience in change management. Discuss what they’ve learned and how it will help them in this job.
Since training and reskilling are significant aspects of organizational change, especially digital transformation, ask the candidate about their experience training employees on new technology or processes.
Here are a few prompts to consider:
- Describe a significant change implemented at your last company and your role in it.
- Have you ever managed the implementation of new technology within your company? If so, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
- What do you think is the best change management model, and why?
- What is one thing you learned in your past role that you would apply here? For example, is there a mistake you made, or is there a model or process you used that either didn’t work or that worked especially well?
- Based on your experience, what is the most vital component of success in implementing change on an enterprise-scale?
Each of these questions will help you gauge the candidate’s experience with change management strategy and determine how they have implemented change strategies in the past.
Include questions where you ask the interviewee how they would approach a certain situation.
A few examples of scenario questions include the following:
- You have just learned that the company is adopting a new CRM for the sales team. What are the first steps you take to implement this change?
- Give an example of how you would notify employees that they will have to start using the new CRM.
- You notice after a few weeks that many employees are shifting back to using the old technology. What do you do next?
These questions dig deeper than experience-based questions and tell you more about how the candidate thinks and how they might react if they encounter problems when managing a project.
Questions from the Interviewee
Allow time in the end for the interviewee to ask about the company and the job requirements and about your organization’s approach to change. The candidate needs to feel that the company is a good fit for them, as well as the other way around. Including time for questions during the interview will help establish an environment of open communication right from the beginning.
Find a Change Management Leader with the Right Job Description
Now that you know what to look for in a change management expert, the next step is to find potential candidates. Use our change management leader job description template to create a posting and find the best possible change management expert for your organization.
Change Management Leader Job Description Template
Delete the bracketed sections and replace them with your company-specific information to complete the job description.
Change Management Leader
[Company name] [Company location]
[Job type: e.g., Full time, in-person or remote]
The change management leader will be responsible for ensuring that change initiatives are completed on time and budget. This includes overseeing employee training to increase adoption and usage of new technology. The change management leader will need to collaborate closely with managers and executives throughout all levels of the company to ensure successful implementation across departments.
[Add company-specific elements of the basic job description, such as a specific project they will oversee (if relevant).]
[Add a basic overview of your company here.]
- Create and implement a change management strategy, including plans for communication and employee coaching.
- Coordinate with team leads to implement employee training programs.
- Collect feedback and address issues leading to low adoption rates or resistance to new processes.
- Create a plan to assess and minimize risk.
- Collect data and run analyses to determine the impact of new technology and processes at every stage.
- [Add company- and project-specific responsibilities here.]
- Familiarity with industry-standard change management models, such as the ADKAR change model.
- [Add educational requirements.]
- [Add experience requirements. E.g., minimum of five years’ experience managing change initiatives at an enterprise company.]
- [Add preferred change management certifications, such as the Change Management Foundation Certificate or the Prosci Change Management Certification.]
- [Add preferred (but not required) educational degrees.]
- [Add industry-specific qualifications, such as familiarity with industry-standard technology.]
[Finish the job description by adding additional company or job information, such as salary and how to apply.]