Change Management Tips for Instructional Designers


Fatima has been working at a company for over 3 years and she’s very comfortable doing her job. She’s familiar with the systems and applications she uses to get her tasks done. Suddenly, her employer announces the company is implementing a brand-new computer system that will completely change how Fatima does her job. To top if off, the new system will be launched at the busiest time of year when Fatima is already stressed about work. Now she has to take training to re-learn everything, and she’s expected to be excited about the new system.

We all know that change is hard and humans are creatures of habit. We tend to be attached to daily routines and to our tried-and-tested ways of getting things done. How we do our jobs is no exception. 

Instructional designers often find themselves in situations where they have to act as agents of change. Reason being: training often involves teaching people new information, policies, or processes. Sometimes when we ask someone to change the way they’re doing their job, we can be met with an unwillingness or a disinclination to do so. This is when it’s handy to know basic change management techniques.

According to Prosci “Change management is the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip, and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success and outcomes.” Since the goal of training is to drive organizational success and improve performance outcomes, we can see where there is a clear intersection between training and change management. Knowing some change management best practices can help you message your training in a way that gets employees on board and excited about it.

These are a few basic techniques to keep in in mind:

Communicate the Changes

This is an important point. It’s not a good idea to spring changes on people at the last minute; this leaves them feeling surprised and stressed out. It’s crucial to communicate that change (and training) is coming as far in advance as you can. This lets employees get used to the idea, and comfortable with the fact that changes are coming. You should communicate updates regularly as you get closer to implementing the changes and the training.

Explain the Why

Understanding why a change is happening is a big part of getting people on-side. Often, this isn’t communicated, and people are left wondering why a change even had to happen in the first place. They might wonder “What was wrong with the old way of doing things?”. This is why it’s a good idea to spell it out for them. For example: perhaps the old system or processes were slow and outdated, which caused employees to make mistakes or take longer to do their jobs. Or, perhaps a new law was passed, that made this change or training necessary. Communicating the why of the change is an important best practice.

Highlight the Benefits

Usually changes are made to improve the business bottom line, and hopefully there are benefits associated with those changes. Whether it be saving time, making a task easier, or improving the quality of an output, it’s important to highlight the benefits that the change and the training will bring to the employee affected by it. If an employee realizes they can do a task in half the time because of a change or new process, this may help them accept it more willingly.

Time Changes Appropriately

Timing a change is critical to it’s success. If the Accounting team is stressed to the max and working overtime hours in the last quarter of the year to make their annual deadlines, launching a new system at that time will lead to a lot of extra frustration and workplace tension. Be considerate of factors that affect employees and their productivity, such as peak seasons, when you time changes and execute training.

Implementing a training program that requires employees to change how they do their jobs can be a daunting task. If you keep these four change management best practices in mind the next time you implement a training program, you’ll be well on your way to getting employees to embrace the change.

Do you have any tips of your own for implementing change management techniques in the context of training? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Twitter for more training tips and tricks.