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Are you taking change sponsorship seriously?

Studies show that millions of employees are feeling burned out, emotionally drained by work, and used up at the end of the day. What is the cause for employees’ deteriorating emotional state? Multiple change initiatives on top of day-to-day responsibilities is likely a key cause. 

While conducting our own research on the sponsors’ role in change, the findings were similar: Employees are highly stressed, buried under their workloads, and it’s taking a toll. 

What does this have to do with sponsorship in change? The rest of the research indicated employees felt leaders are not adapting to change, which led to a lack of support through the change process, frustrating employees even further. 

What is sponsorship in change management? The sponsor’s role in change is to deliver high-level endorsement and leadership to ensure success of change initiatives. This person is engaged, understands the reason for change and challenges to overcome, has decision-making authority, and capable of driving the solution.  

What should we take away from this research? It’s not enough for organizations to decide to change and put efforts solely into the technical implementation. Change sponsors must consider the people-side of change and how the changes will impact employees, where they need to adjust, and advocate for the changes themselves, so they provide employees with information that helps them understand the need for change and be willing to embrace new ways of working.

How do you build change sponsorship? There are three early actions sponsors should take to provide visible leadership and help lead their organization through change successfully.

Create Key Change Messages

Outline key change points, including:

• Why the change is happening
• The importance of the change
• How the change will benefit employees
• The impacts to the organization if the change is not implemented

With this information, the team can build consistent messaging for the sponsor and organizational leaders to use to promote the importance of the change from the first to last communications.  

Appreciate the emotions employees experience during change

Change Curve with Emotions and ActionsLeaders often expect change to happen because they say so. The reality is employees experience dips in productivity and performance during change because they experience an emotional reaction to the change. These dips may cause unfavorable results if not handled properly. When sponsors listen to employees’ concerns about the change, it allows them to look for the reasons for resistance. Engaging early builds trust that encourages impacted employees to commit to the goals associated with change quicker, taking them from doubt to commitment faster.

Create change partnerships across your organization

Another formula for creating engagement for change initiatives includes inviting different levels of the organization to partner and expand their reach. This allows the organization to maximize adoption, minimize resistance, and limit performance disruption by creating consistent and aligned communications with consistent messages in both directions. To make this formula successful, sponsors should build partner relationships across the organization, including aligning support from peer leaders, change champions, key influencers, and people managers.  

Where can I learn more about change sponsorship?

These are just a few ways change sponsors can work on advancing their ability to lead change. If you want to learn more, and are ready to build a personal sponsor roadmap, check out the Avaap workshop “Becoming a Trusted Change Sponsor.