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3 Keys to Perfecting Change Management

By Seth Maristuen // EP Wealth Advisors
Guest Contributor

Every firm strives to run as efficiently as possible, but only a few manage to actually do so. What’s the secret to unlocking efficiency? Change management is a big part of the equation, especially when it comes to updating old processes and technology with faster and more streamlined alternatives. 

So, what’s the secret to good change management, then? Here at EP Wealth Advisors, we’ve worked hard to develop a change management strategy that gets everyone onboard with any new changes that come down the pike. We’ve had a lot of success with this approach, focusing on these three change management practices.

1. Create a standardized framework for change management

Some firms wait until they purchase a new technology solution or implement the latest platform updates to put a change management plan together. Their strategy might vary from one rollout to another, lacking any kind of consistency. Sometimes their plans might work — other times, not so much.

Firms might rationalize this approach by telling themselves that tech rollouts happen so infrequently that there’s no need to create a standardized change management strategy. That’s not always the case, though — especially when it comes to critical technology like customer relationship management (CRM) or business management platforms. Practifi, for instance, releases new updates on a regular basis, so it’s important to have a plan to implement those changes and get staff up to speed.

In EP’s case, we recognized that our change management framework could use some improvements. Over the past 18-24 months, our change management team overhauled internal workflows to better prepare our staff for new platform releases. A steady stream of information, training and assistance ensures advisors and other staff members know what to expect from new releases — and more importantly, how those changes benefit them.

Here’s what a typical rollout strategy might look like at EP:

  • In the weeks leading up to the release, the change management team will hold a few virtual presentations for staff to attend.
  • Stakeholders upload recordings of those sessions to our firm’s intranet for anyone to review.
  • As the release date nears, the team will conduct an interactive overview of the new updates to run through them in real time.
  • Team members hold weekly meetings to discuss upcoming releases and recent platform changes.

EP also provides follow-up sessions and one-on-one training when needed. Our change management team knows you can’t let a single person fall behind when it comes to change management. That’s why we give employees every opportunity to learn about new releases beforehand and adjust their work accordingly.

2. Make training relevant to each person

Even the most meticulous change management preparations will fail to deliver results if you can’t show staff how new technology and process updates impact them directly. It’s important to structure training sessions around different roles and responsibilities so every meeting is relevant to attendees.  

Our change management team typically breaks up sessions according to these roles:

  • Financial planning
  • Financial advisors and client support staff
  • Portfolio management

Sending out a bunch of release notes and hoping people read them doesn’t work. Change management teams need to tailor training and educational sessions as much as possible while encouraging participation through interactive activities. At EP, we’ll create quizzes, contests and other games to get people involved.

Taking this approach, you can be sure that staff members are engaged during these meetings and will readily see the benefit of changes to the status quo. In particular, we like to show employees how new process or technology changes can give them more time in the day. It’s been a very effective message to get people to buy in with every update. That’s really EP’s change management philosophy in a nutshell: First, we get them engaged by showing them how their day-to-day work will be easier, then we discuss how the organization benefits as a whole.

3. Support change management from the top down

Staff will always follow the lead of your firm’s executives, directors and department heads, so any major organizational change needs to come from the top. Firm leaders need to fully commit to change management, especially when it comes to implementing updates to critical platforms.

In EP Wealth Advisors’ case, our firm’s leadership recognized that our business management platform was instrumental in everything we did, from back-end processes to client management tasks. The entire organization, from advisors to administrators, needs to consistently execute every job with total precision. It was a no-brainer to invest more time and energy into change management since the stakes are so high.

When you have the full support of your leadership team, as we do, it’s much easier to get other employees to buy in and take process and platform updates seriously. Staff members are more likely to attend informational meetings and training sessions, even if they’re completely optional. 

Consider this: EP Wealth Advisors doesn’t hold a single mandatory meeting in the run up to a new platform release. Employees can decide for themselves if they want to join. Yet, our firm consistently sees around 90-95% attendance at these sessions. That’s what full organizational support looks like, and it all starts from the top.

Just about any firm can learn something from EP Wealth Advisors’ steadfast commitment to change management. You truly get what you put into new processes and technology. If you make it a priority to educate and train staff on these updates, then it’ll be easier to get them to buy into those changes. With a clear strategy, tailored training and leadership support, firms can consistently get the most value from their critical technology solutions. 

With Practifi, we’ve found a business partner that’s always happy to lend a hand with these efforts and provide whatever support we need to implement platform updates as smoothly as possible. They make life easier for everyone at our firm, from our advisors to our IT staff, and they can do the same for you.

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Seth Maristuen

Seth Maristuen joined EP Wealth Advisors as part of Conlon Dart Wealth Management, which became part of the EP Wealth Advisors team in 2019. In his current role, Seth deals with the challenges of staying on top of ever-changing technology and identifying new solutions that can help the EP team work smarter and more efficiently. Seth is responsible for collaborating with department heads and firm leadership to develop and implement plans to execute on strategic business initiatives. He works to facilitate education, training and procedures related to business application usage across the firm.

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