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What is a change manager? The role, responsibilities and value of a business change manager

Change manager meeting a client

In a world where change is the only constant, managing change effectively is a superpower every organisation needs. Enter the change manager… an often-overlooked addition to a team.

This article explores the role of a change manager, their responsibilities, and how they can add value to your organisation. Whether you’re looking into bringing in a change management consultancy, hiring for an in-house change team, or thinking of changing careers… this blog is for you!

What is a change manager?

A change manager facilitates the people side of a business change programme. They develop and manage a structured plan for transitioning an organisation – and its people – from point A to point B.

Change managers work to understand the impact of change on people. Then, they develop and deliver strategies for stakeholder management, employee engagement, training, communications, and other forms of support, such as coaching.

Change managers frequently join an organisation as part of a change management consultancy. They can also work as in-house change practitioners. Internal roles are usually situated within a project management team, IT, or HR department.

An Inform change manager leading a strategy session

What’s the difference between a change manager and a project manager?

Project management and change management are complementary skillsets. They should work closely from the start of a project to ensure people on the receiving end are set up for success.

A project manager focuses on the process, timelines, and mechanisms to implement a new system from an operational and technical perspective. Meanwhile, a change manager ensures people are supported throughout the change, equipping them with the information and skills they need to thrive.

What does a change manager do?

A change manager’s role can be split into five key responsibilities:

Close up of a change manager writing on post-it notes

1. Planning and managing change projects

A change manager assesses the landscape to understand your business goals and current ways of working. This could be through workshops, interviews and building relationships with staff at all levels, including the project sponsor. They then transform this insight into a people-focused change strategy, aligned to your key deliverables and dependencies.

Close up hands holding cut out paper speech bubbles

2. Communicating changes to all stakeholders

Change managers keep all stakeholders informed and engaged. They also work with internal communications specialists and creative designers to deliver high-impact comms campaigns. These ensure everyone understands what’s happening, when, and why.

A change manager listening to an employee at their desk

3. Supporting employees during the transition

In the delivery phase, a change manager really demonstrates their value. With the right approach, a change manager helps your people feel valued, supported, and listened to throughout the change.

8 speech bubbles saying "Yes" surrounding one "No"

4. Monitoring and managing resistance to change

Change is never easy. While early adopters may race ahead to embrace the new, many of us will experience uncertainty, and even fear during change. Change managers take these big emotions in their stride. They work closely with hesitant – or even change resistant – user groups to address their concerns and mitigate issues. They will identify risks early on, and make sure that people are always front and centre in your plan.

A change manager can evaluate the qualitative and quantitative impact of change

5. Evaluating the impact of change

Change cannot easily be reduced to a KPI on a spreadsheet. It’s complex, qualitative and often difficult to measure. A change manager can help you monitor the impact of change at regular milestones.

Working with the project team, a change manager can help identify suitable metrics and assessment frameworks, evaluate progress, and suggest next steps to embed the changes. They can also capture the bigger picture of your change story – sharing everyday eureka moments and success stories.

What makes a good change manager?

The best change managers are proactive, flexible and great with people. They should be a fantastic listener and communicator, leading with empathy. They are well organised and have strong emotional intelligence. Often, they’ll have the ability to read a situation and understand how to approach it.

Some useful qualifications to look out for are the Prosci Change Management Certification, APMG Change Management Foundation, and APMG Change Management Practitioner. But the most important qualification for a change manager is experience and a proven track record.

Change managers often join this career path after years of working in front-line, strategic, and managerial roles, including project management, operations, and HR.

At The Inform Team, our change managers have developed their expertise through working within the NHS, pharmaceuticals, defence, finance, education, civil service, law, and media. They each have a range of successful change programmes under their belt – and understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of business change.

What are the benefits of working with a change manager?

We’ve covered a lot of detail so far on what a change manager does, and how they can add value to a team. But if we were to boil down all of this into three key takeaways, we’d end up with the following list:

An Inform change manager shaking hands with a colleague

1. A dedicated point of contact

A change manager’s raison d’être is empowering your people to tackle change. They don’t have an additional day job, so are on hand to give your change programme their full focus.

An Inform change manager engaged in conversation

2. An impartial voice

A change management consultant can identify issues, make recommendations, and hold difficult conversations to achieve the best outcomes for your people.

An Inform colleague shows someone how to use a tablet

3. A people change specialist

Bringing in an expert voice with extensive experience, proven methodologies, and a true understanding of how people respond to change can make a huge difference.

What could a change manager do for your organisation?

Change is too important to wing it and hope for the best. Get a big change wrong, and it can destabilise everything you’ve worked for. A change manager is a bit like a director behind the scenes, coaching strategic leads, people managers and delivery teams to understand and articulate change. They line everyone up, bring people in when they’re needed, and keep up the momentum to make your change stick.

To find out more about what a change manager does every day, check out our Diary of a Change Manager podcast series. You can also browse our strategy + change services, or get in touch to set up a free consultation call with a change specialist.

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