The pandemic had a major impact on the way we all work, with most companies acclimatising to the intricacies of remote working. Retailers had to adapt to ride the wave – from supply chain disruptions, time to market pressures, and rapidly changing customer expectations. Change is hard enough to implement across a business as it is.  But how does the added factor of remote working affect change management?

We asked our team of consultants what they thought were some of their biggest challenges delivering change management over the past two years. Here’s what they had to say.

Speed & Agility

“We found it super exciting working with our clients on increasingly fast paced, business critical, assignments. We have focussed more than ever on ensuring optimal agility in our delivery approach, whilst continuing to safeguard quality. We have thoroughly enjoyed seeing value land in record time!” – Tamila Robinson, Partner & Head of Region (UK & Europe)

Almost out of nowhere, in 2020 the need for multiple routes to the customer shot up retail agendas. We helped many of our clients rise to the challenge, whilst navigating their own remote working obstacles. From leading multiple short, sharp projects to expedite or scale e-commerce capabilities; to helping stand up new wholesale channels – preparing for supply chain complexity became the norm.

Delivering for clients efficiently and expediently is in no way new for CMG.  However, we did see the need for further acceleration. Whilst globally every human on this planet adapted to a different way of living, retailers needed to materialise changes faster than ever.

Delivering effective end user training remotely

“The pandemic forced us to figure out how to successfully deliver engaging and effective training on Microsoft Teams. A key part of this approach was using the weeks leading up to training to deliver upfront learning aids which help build colleagues’ understanding of the change and new ways of working – ahead of them attending the sessions. In a world where we can’t physically walk the floors to ensure colleagues attend training, we’ve had to spend more time working to build the interest ahead of the programmes ,” – Fola Abari, Managing Consultant, UK

One of the keys deliverables of any transformation programme is training and end user feedback.  When the pandemic started and restrictions were introduced, our change management programmes were still in full go mode, and one of the first places we saw a difference was in having to move all planned training online.

For example, we were working on a large transformation programmes involving training for various teams across different countries in the Middle East. The challenge was to ensure training in virtual classrooms with enough support for them to:

  • Feel engaged with the training material
  • Be able to ask questions and give feedback
  • Be able to do hands-on training

We found that it’s more important than ever to identify the objectives of each session, define the right tools to deliver the training, allow adequate timing for hands-on training, and avoid Zoom fatigue with regular breaks and change of activity. Communication is also key in ensuring that attendees understand the importance of training, what will be covered and why.

Globalised Teams

“With remote working, global cross-functional teams are not just a possibility, but a real advantage.  Before the pandemic, we wouldn’t have had a consultant based in the Middle East working on a project in the US. Now we are able to appoint the best person for the job, regardless of location,”  – Melissa Horowitz, Senior Principal Consultant (US)

Having team members based in different time zones can of course present some challenges. But these are unique to individuals, who in turn are now able to set their own core working hours, and in many cases, we’ve found that working in a different time zone can be advantageous.

Facilitating engaging workshops

“Not being physically present to see or read people’s non-verbal body language when presenting important workshops to large groups was an ongoing challenge for sure. No questions or silence definitely doesn’t mean fully understood,” – Vilas Sedov, Business Strategy Consultant, UK

In the pre-pandemic world, our workshops would usually be hosted at a client’s office, with all the stakeholders present.  Interactivity meant a physical wall where we could post ideas and brainstorm thoughts – writing and revising plans on a whiteboard and getting to know each other face-to-face.

Hosting these sessions online affects the interaction and focus on each question – so people can easily miss certain key parts of the discussion. At CMG we had to adapt – and over the first few months we honed the way we managed our sessions utilising tools (from interactive online whiteboards and polls) to increase engagement and post-session follow-ups to ensure alignment.

So we saw a healthy mix of challenges and opportunities – the best of both worlds really. As a team we look forward to seeing what the next 12 months teaches us 🙂