Preparing Your Workforce for a Microsoft-Powered Future

Big organization change is always challenging. Learn how implement a change management strategy for the hybrid workforce.

Table of Content

    Creating a change management strategy for a hybrid work environment involves careful planning, communication, and implementation to ensure a smooth transition. 

    Big organizational change is always challenging. It forces people to confront uncertainty and make themselves vulnerable in a situation where making the wrong move might put their reputation and livelihood in jeopardy. 

    Here, we share some of the key steps that belong in any forward-looking change management plan.

    Define the Vision and Objectives

    Change management strategies don’t stand on their own. They literally only exist to support other strategies. 

    Business Leaders Guide to the New Digital AgeBusiness Leaders Guide to the New Digital Age

    Before you get going on your hybrid change management plans, you’ll want to make sure that you’re starting with a clear vision for what your hybrid strategy should look like. 

    • What are your short- and long-term goals?
    • What gaps are you trying to fill?
    • What risks/roadblocks do you need to address?
    • What mitigation strategies are in place (or need to be implemented)?

    Objectives can include anything from boosting productivity and enhancing the customer experience, to streamlining production processes, leveraging low-code platforms, or improving employee well-being. 

    Regardless of which hybrid enablement goals you end up pursuing – your change management strategy must align perfectly with those objectives – as well as the broader business plan that drives all strategies. 

    Conduct a Change Readiness Assessment

    A change readiness assessment measures whether an organization is prepared to take on a specific change. This will help you identify resistance points, technical roadblocks, and organizational barriers preventing you from achieving hybrid goals. 

    This allows you to develop strategies for closing gaps, minimizing risks, addressing concerns, and bringing employees up to speed before moving forward with your launch.

    This template comes from a Microsoft ebook focused exclusively on overcoming supply chain challenges with composable ERP solutions (aka Dynamics 365). But – it’s still a good example you can use to inform your own change management strategy – starting with the assessment.

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    Cultural Readiness 

    Cultural changes focus on changing mindsets, challenging assumptions, and building new, future-ready habits that align with hybrid goals.

    In this 2022 article, HBR lays out a system for assessing hybrid readiness, which aims to uncover critical challenges across five key dimensions — collectively known as the “5Cs.”  

    • Communication
    • Coordination
    • Culture
    • Creativity
    • Connection

    This approach involves working through a checklist of hybrid processes and assigning a letter grade (or numeric score) based on how well your org/department/team is doing. The lowest-scoring processes can help you focus on high-impact areas first — giving you a starting point for investigating and addressing the underlying issues  holding you back.

    Structural Readiness

    Structural changes focus on things like tearing down silos, enabling collaboration, and making it easier to share information in a hybrid environment.

    It’s also about dismantling old norms that no longer serve your business. Think – rigid hierarchies, inefficient approval flows, and gatekeeping practices that prevent employees from taking action on their own.

    If, for example, one of your goals is accelerating issue resolution with data and AI, you might make a list of scenarios that support that goal – improving agent productivity, establishing 360-degree customer views, etc. 

    The worksheet below provides space for you to take stock of existing solutions that can be used to support your goal and what gaps you need to fill before moving forward.  

    Preparing Your Workforce for a Microsoft-Powered Future

    Technological Readiness

    Technological changes center on the actual tools you’ll use to achieve hybrid goals. 

    These assessments help you figure out what needs to be addressed before you launch to ensure successful implementation. For example, you’ll want to make sure that your technology and infrastructure support all hybrid requirements from real-time insights to collaboration, cybersecurity, and data governance. 

    Here’s a sample checklist from the Microsoft 365 Adoption Guide:

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    Identify Target Scenarios

    Scenarios represent the individual projects within each phase of your implementation  – in context with specific use cases and end-user roles. 

    You can use the template below to document hybrid scenarios for each department. It’s a simple tool that helps change leaders, IT, and senior leaders center change strategies around the real people who use them. 

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    The idea is to demonstrate an understanding of the technology and training requirements for each scenario – through the lens of each target persona. 

    Mastering Copilot eBookMastering Copilot eBook

    Consider the business outcomes each team is trying to achieve – and why. When you can draw the line between goals, solutions, and what they stand to do for customers and those who support them, it’s easier to stay unified around shared goals.

    Here’s a short list of hybrid learning scenarios we found in the Viva Learning adoption guide.

    Preparing Your Workforce for a Microsoft-Powered Future

    Each scenario represents a different challenge/problem learners must address in order to achieve the desired outcome. The column on the right ties those scenarios to the bigger picture. 

    So, if the goal is fostering a culture of learning, you’ll need to give managers the resources they need to support that goal in a hybrid environment. 

    So, that might mean teaching them to use social learning tools in Teams, but also providing clear documentation for executing on goals. 

    Or – creating automated flows that deliver learning content in the flow of work or guide learners through processes one step at a time.

    Use Feedback to Fuel Change

    Be sure to involve employees in the decision-making process wherever possible. 

    End-user preferences and pain points should guide decisions about workflows, policies, training content, and how learning resources are delivered to different stakeholders. 

    As your journey progresses, use direct feedback and in-app analytics to refine the strategy – identifying and fixing issues as they arise.

    1. Pilot Programs. During the early stages of your hybrid journey, you might look for scenarios that might be good candidates for an early adopter or pilot program. Think –  “modernizing the meeting experience” or “boosting personal productivity” – scenarios that stand to benefit a large share of your workforce.  

    Typically, you’ll work with a small group of employees to target broad use cases and “quick wins” that will help you get enough buy-in to move forward with a larger rollout. 

    Be sure to onboard your team before getting started and provide detailed instructions for sharing feedback, evaluating the solution against key goals, and proposing changes, so you don’t end up with feedback you can’t use. 

    1. Rollout & Monitoring. Gradually implement the hybrid work model to the entire organization so that you can gather feedback that can be used to further refine processes/solutions. 

    If you’re developing training for frontline employees who rarely sit at a desk, you’ll want to make sure their experience is optimized for mobile devices and allows them to learn in bite-sized increments so they can take in a session between customers. 

    For example, if your pilot started with your customer service team, and now its expanding to sales and field service, you’ll want to capture targeted feedback from those groups, as the may have needs that haven’t been addressed.

    1. Develop a Testing Strategy. You’ll need a comprehensive testing strategy that covers the entire system – from data integration and business processes to user acceptance testing, configurations & integrations, and penetration testing. 

    This gives you a chance to address any issues before the go-live, realign priorities, and revise your strategy to deliver the desired results.

    1. Ongoing Improvements. Create a feedback loop that allows the team to try new solutions, share thoughts, and suggest changes to the strategy/solution to deliver a better outcome next time around. 

    You can set a feedback loop for process improvements in Teams by creating a channel for discussing projects, create an “employee ideas” app for sharing suggestions, and integrate insights into Viva so they can be incorporated into the official CM strategy.

    Define Success Criteria 

    What, exactly, are you trying to do, here? At this stage, hybrid objectives tend toward the broad. Think – “streamlining processes,” “reducing operating costs,” or “improving employee engagement.” 

    Instead of jumping straight into operational processes, you’ll want to define goals in terms of “ideal future states.”  

    If your goal is improving employee engagement, what does success look like to you? Maybe, it’s that you’d like to see employees become more enthusiastic about their work or more motivated to take action. 

    Preparing Your Workforce for a Microsoft-Powered Future

    From there, you can work backwards to figure out what it’ll take to unlock more ambitious targets and new possibilities. 

    The example below shows how someone might then start identifying methods for capturing and analyzing data that will help them reach their goal.

    Microsoft-Powered Future

    Define Performance Metrics (OKRs). First, you’ll want to define which metrics measure the success of your hybrid initiatives. Increased use of internal communication channels? Higher retention/satisfaction rates? Improved sentiment? Smoother onboarding? 

    You’ll also need to define metrics that demonstrate the impact of your change management strategy against those success metrics. 

    Develop Strategies for Monitoring & Measuring Progress Against Benchmarks. You’ll want to determine how to capture the expected value/ROI for each scenario. 

    Here’s a template from the Microsoft adoption workbook you can use to create your own scorecard. 

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    Here’s what this same template might look like if you’re defining KPI baselines and targets for a digital workspace built in SharePoint.

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    The idea is, you’re trying to develop a scoring system that allows you to determine whether a solution is achieving its objectives, and to what extent. Baselines and targets provide context for otherwise vague metrics like “changes in employee engagement scores.”

    You can learn more about metrics in this MS guide: How OKRs Help Businesses Grow.

    Assemble a Cross-Functional Change Team

    Assemble a team of key stakeholders from various departments, including HR, IT, leadership, and employees who will be impacted by the change. This team will play a crucial role in developing and implementing the strategy.

    According to the Microsoft Adoption Guide, there are four main teams that are critical to driving successful adoption.

    • Executive Sponsors. 
    • Success Owners.
    • Early Adopters.
    • Champions.

    The guide comes with a worksheet you can use to identify team members from each department and outline their role in driving change. Here’s an how you might define responsibilities if your goal is to implement a hybrid learning program via Viva Learning:

    Microsoft-Powered Future

    Come Up with a Communication Plan

    Develop a comprehensive communication plan that outlines how you will keep employees informed before, during, and after the transition. 

    Be transparent. Earn stakeholder buy-in by being transparent about your plans. Explain why you’re doing this, what the process entails, and, crucially, what it means for peoples’ jobs. 

    For example, if part of the change involves AI, it’s important to acknowledge that this is a real fear for a lot of people and they may resist change out of fear.

    So, what are you asking them to do? How will the change positively impact their work in the future?

    Weave in a good narrative. Present the change in the way that best resonates with your target audience. How does the change align with the company’s overarching vision and objectives? What business problems does it solve? How does it benefit employees? 

    Use scenarios to communicate value. You might leverage workforce insights against financial performance or customer outcomes to make the case for change. Or – use OKRs to communicate org-wide goals and change management priorities – as well as make potential impacts more tangible for stakeholders.

    Plan communications moments. Essentially, you’re going to want to create an internal marketing campaign that aligns communication touchpoints with the planned launch. 

    You can set a lot of this up in Viva Insights, which includes templates for different types of communications and easily integrates with existing SharePoint intranet sites. The chart below comes from a comprehensive guide for creating communications that help you build momentum ahead of a launch event.

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    You might also incorporate town hall meetings, FAQs, and channels for employees to ask questions and provide feedback. 

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    Create Change Policies that Align with Hybrid Goals

    According to Gartner, you need new people strategies that align HR with business needs, emerging trends, workforce capabilities, and labor gaps. To do this, you’ll need to review and update existing HR policies to bring it in line with hybrid work models. 

    Transitioning to a hybrid work environment brings major changes to core parts of the business – many of which challenge our fundamental beliefs about work and productivity, including: 

    • When, where, and how people work
    • Recruitment & hiring best practices
    • Training & development
    • Teamwork & collaboration
    • Workplace norms we once took for granted
    • Etc.

    These changes impact everything – performance reviews, compensation policies, how business travel will work moving forward, and so on.

    You’ll also need to consider how those policies impact things like remote work, flexible scheduling, performance measurement, and data security – then make changes to any additional processes impacted by these changes. 

    Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that these policies are clear and accessible to all employees, enforced via automation, and can be adapted with minimal effort to enable a more agile approach moving forward.

    Create a Training Plan 

    For Velosio’s IT team, transitioning to hybrid was relatively painless. The team was already familiar with the updated solutions and resistance wasn’t an issue. 

    But, they still needed training to get the most from their new tools.  “Any time you adopt a new system with new capabilities, peoples’ jobs change,” says IT Director Eric Robertson. 

    “Our new IT environment is much more fluid than the one people were used to. Now, they can just log in, access whatever they need, and seamlessly collaborate with internal and external users – and their data and docs stay protected the whole time. 

    While these improvements technically made things easier on my team, they still had to adjust to new responsibilities and priorities. And, no matter what, there are always going to be some growing pains,” he explains.  

    With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to build a training plan that aligns with end-user needs. 

    Take stock of what you have. What productivity tools are you already using? How comfortable are employees with technology? What change management strategies are already in place? 

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    Explain “the why” behind the change. Employees need to know why change is happening, what they stand to gain, and how their role contributes to the bigger picture. Yes, this will also be included in your communication plan – but here, it’s more about helping people make that connection.

    Training Content Should Reflect Proven End-User Needs. Assess the skills and training needs for both employees and managers in the new hybrid work environment, then focus on building training programs to help them adapt to new tools, collaboration methods, and remote work best practices.

    Here’s another template from the adoption workbook you can use to organize training requirements by audience group, group members, training type, and training methods. 

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    Use Real Data & Scenarios to Train Employees. The Microsoft ecosystem comes with a ton of resources you can use in your training program. Here are a few places you might look to find relevant material for your training program: 

    • LinkedIn Learning. LinkedIn Learning provides fundamental training for getting the most out of your Microsoft apps. You might use these resources to help employees learn their way around new tools.Courses include things like note-taking in MS 365 apps, managing projects in Teams, Power BI dashboards for beginners, and more.
    • Microsoft Learn. Microsoft Learn provides several training resources for all of its apps and services.  “Microsoft Learn is a valuable resource with a tremendous amount of learning opportunities on how to utilize Microsoft technologies to do more with less and increase efficiency,” says Daryl.
    • Viva Learning. Viva Learning allows managers to provide personalized learning and role-based training. The platform’s Learning Academies module allows users to 

    curate learning collections  for different teams and deliver individual learning tracks that bring professional development into daily workflows.

    You’ll want to adapt any resources you decide to use to reflect real work scenarios and data for each user group. Otherwise, training won’t produce the results you’re looking for.

    Monitor, Measure, & Optimize Change Strategies 

    Continuously monitor your progress and gather feedback from employees and managers. Be prepared to make adjustments based on what you learn during this phase. 

    “All Microsoft 365 apps include built-in usage and activity reports that offer really granular insights into how people work, who they work with, when they’re working, and what tools they typically use – or don’t use,” says Principal Cloud Architect Daryl Moll.  

    “You can look at these reports to answer questions about how people are working. Like, are they having the kinds of meaningful conversations they’d be having in the office? Are they able to walk up to someone and say, ‘hey, I have something I need to run by you, can we chat?’” says Carolyn Norton, Velosio Director of Cloud. 

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    For more context, you can use Viva Insights to combine data from your usage reports with insights from the entire ecosystem, allowing you to track adoption, actions, and behaviors against hybrid outcomes.  

    To measure the impact of change strategies, you might use Viva’s Business Resilience Report, which allows you to compare employee behavior before and after a major business transition.

    To track progress toward goals, you can combine data from MS Planner and other tools with Viva Goals to help managers get the latest insights re: what tasks have been completed, what still needs to be done, whether employee actions are delivering the right outcomes, etc.

    Plan for Future Change

    Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your change management strategy can support your company well into the future. 

    • Offer professional development opportunities to everyone. Design personalized development opportunities that align with both individual interests and organizational goals. Users can track things like certifications, skills, and individual performance against team OKRs, financial performance, MS 365 usage data, and employee sentiment. 
    • Upskill Hybrid Teams on Loop. Continuously upskill workers so that they’re able to work with the latest tech/develop innovative solutions, etc. You might include things like upskilling with the Power Platform or getting to know the new Copilot tools while they’re still in preview. 
    • Plan for Shortages & Disruption. Bain recommends looking for opportunities to use AI to fill gaps, redeploy employees, and augment your existing workforce. For example, recent ISACA research found that nearly two-thirds of cybersecurity are understaffed, yet cyber threats continue to rise.

    Final Thoughts

    Creating a change management strategy for a hybrid work environment is a complex but essential task. It requires a holistic approach that involves not only planning and technology but also a focus on the well-being and engagement of your employees.

    It’s also an ongoing process. Continuously gather feedback and make improvements as needed. Regularly assess your technology stack, policies, and procedures to ensure they’re still delivering the desired outcomes.

    As you make changes to hybrid solutions and strategies, make sure that you update your change management strategies, too.

     

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