You Are Not Alone
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I actually considered myself a fortunate communications professional. A couple of years prior to that I was given a head start on helping people through transformation when change management became a part of my professional duties, in addition to communications and marketing, at Tallahassee Community College, in Florida, U.S. In 2018, my college asked me to lead change management for the deployment of a new student information system, Workday Student. In this experience and beyond, I have found that applying an intentional change management framework can be helpful on projects and initiatives of all types and sizes.
Change management is all about the people side of change and communications professionals know how to compel people to move forward and buy in. We have the right skills to help others adapt to new circumstances or adopt new ways of doing things.
Change can be hard, but know that you do not have to travel alone as you navigate through major changes. Here are a few suggestions to help you find your tribe:
Reach Out to Others
Look for others with similar circumstances who are in the midst of a similar change. I was fortunate to find colleagues at a nearby university who were helping with Workday Student implementation at their institution. Although they work for a private university and I work for a community college, our commonalities were important: We were on a similar timeline to move a comparable number of students into Workday Student.
Together we formed a grassroots change management group and invited others who were also helping their institutions through this major change. We met virtually to compare notes, talk about plans and successes, and explore ways to improve what we were doing to help our institutions.
Connect Through Organizations
You might also know someone from a CASE Conference or other professional development opportunity who you can join forces with on a change management initiative. Through the years I have met some great people by networking and co-presenting at conferences.
There are many great online resources to turn to:
CASE Communities is a platform where you can engage with other advancement professionals. Here you can start a discussion with peers or provide feedback based on your experience.
The CASE library is an excellent hub packed with resources on best practice documents, case studies, and more. This online library contains a wealth of information.
In my quest to learn more about change management, I found the Network for Change and Continuous Innovation, a higher education change management association. This group has regular online meetings and offers opportunities to network with others who are working on change and innovation projects.
Find Change Ambassadors
Look for others on your campus who can serve as ambassadors for the change you are seeking. These change champions can help you share the vision with their peers and serve as boots-on-the-ground when resistance to change needs to be heard and addressed.
During my major change project, I had an ambassador group that included deans, faculty, administrators, staff, and student government association leaders. This group was instrumental in collecting feedback from their peers that we then used to adjust our messaging and strategies.
Rely on Sponsors
Your sponsor should always be by your side to help rally the troops during a major change. According to change management organization Prosci, the single greatest contributor to the success of a big change is visible and active sponsorship from leadership.
My college president reinforced why we were making the change to our new student information system. It was instrumental to getting buy in from our faculty and staff. And as we worked through the challenges brought on by the pandemic, his steadfast presence and openness to share clear and transparent information with our students, parents, and employees was critical to how we made it through this trying time.
About the author(s)
Alice Maxwell is the director of strategic communications and change management at Tallahassee Community College.