'Challenges' Digital Champions module on a Microsoft Surface Tablet
By | Published On: 27 May 2021 |

Digital Champion Programmes are an essential tool in the overall change programme. They harness the drive and desire of people who want to help shape the future of their organisation and support their colleagues through the change.

A study by Degreed, showed that 55% of people prefer to learn from their peers and the people around them, making champion programmes extremely valuable.

But not all Digital Champion programmes are successful.

This second blog of the series focuses on:

  • Why change programmes fail
  • Why digital champion programmes fail
  • How to pack a punch with your digital champion programme


Why change programmes fail

According to McKinsey, 70% of change programmes fail to achieve their goals. The fear of something new and unknown can cripple a change programme before it’s even begun.

The fear that change incites creates resistance. And if your people aren’t on board, your change programme is sure to fail. There’s various reasons as to why change programmes fail, but the landmark Harvard Business Review study ranked poor communication at the top (62%), insufficient leadership and support (54%), lack of understanding of the purpose of the change (50%), lack of user buy-in (42%) and lack of collaboration (40%) as the most critical issues.


Why Digital Champion programmes fail

The same can be said for poor Digital Champion Programmes. Digital Champions are there to support their colleagues in accepting and adopting the change and advocating new ways of working. They do this from the inside with the trust of their colleagues.

But what happens if your champions aren’t engaged or receive very little communication or support from their managers? Not only will your programme fail, but you’re at risk of these people turning from advocates of your change to the major resistors.

Research by Changing Social showed the main reasons why digital champion programmes fail are:

  • Lack of, or poor communication – not creating a clear picture of what it is you’re trying to achieve, what’s expected of them or keeping up to date with your champions throughout the programme is a sure fire way of assisting in its failure.
  • Management aren’t unsupportive – without management support, champions will struggle to flourish in their new role and leave them feeling disengaged.
  • People are volun-told (nominated) by management – champions may not be bought into or engaged in their role if they are ‘told’ to do it or nominated by someone else.
  • Coordinators underestimate the time commitments – not being clear on time commitments or what the role entails may leave champions feeling disengaged and potentially even hanging up their champion gloves before the change has been embedded.
  • Colleagues are cynical about change – a poor experience of a previous change can leave a bad taste in people’s mouth leading to resistance and cynicism.


Pack a punch with your Digital Champion programmes

The evidence shows us that champions programmes help make for successful change so creating the right environment for your champions to thrive in is essential.

These people are usually taking time out of their day-to-day role to take on a new skill set, and by giving them the time and space to learn, they’ll be leading and inspiring others in the business and taking their colleagues on the journey with them.

Here’s just a few tips for creating a digital champion programme that’s set up for success:


Engaging communications

From recruitment, onboarding and throughout the entire programme, keeping your champions informed ensures a higher level of participation and attendance.

Keep messages frequent and easy to understand (no jargon) to ensure clarity on what’s expected of them and by when.

Provide a roadmap and outline the entire programme upfront and keep them updated on what’s happening with the change – the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s so many ways to engage with your champions from virtual events, webinars, group chats, quizzes, challenges or 1-2-1s, whatever method you choose, make them fun and engaging.


Get your managers on board – engage them early in the process and explain the benefits of the digital champion programme and also having digital champions within their teams.

You could even get them to sign up. Having managers on board will really give your champion programme the gravitas it needs. It will show all employees that they’re bought into the change and want to support their colleagues with the changes.

Make sure managers are aware of how much time a champion will need to dedicate to the programme and ask that they give them the space and time they’ll need for learning. Managers can also make sure champions are sharing their learnings during team meetings.

Managers should also be encouraged to celebrate and encourage their champions to keep their enthusiasm in the programme.


Encourage self-nomination – you want people who have the drive and passion for helping their colleagues. Those natural leaders who want to improve the way they, and their team work.

Managers might be best placed to know who would make a good champion but discourage them from nominating people and explain why self-nomination is so much more powerful. As an alternative, they could speak to those individuals in a 1-2-1 and encourage them, but no-one should feel forced.

In recruitment communications, make sure you explain the benefits of a digital champion but also the benefits for being a digital champion (what’s in it for me?). Clearly explaining just how much they’ll learn and also how much support they’ll provide to their colleagues, will really draw out the best people for the job.


Make sure you’re clear on time commitments – be clear from the off set how much time they’ll need to dedicate to the role. Set expectations on what will be expected and don’t underestimate the time needed to learn, lead and inspire.

Forward plan the programme 12-18 months in advance so you can clearly see how much time and effort it will take for everyone involved. Set time out in people’s diaries on a day-to-day basis so you can be sure they know where they need to be and when.


Keep content engaging – ok, they’re there to learn but that doesn’t stop you making it fun. It doesn’t have to be PowerPoint or teacher-led for all learning. Encourage participation in group discussions and get them to share ideas to problem-solve together. You can also get some competition going with regular challenges and quizzes.


Celebrate their achievements – your champions will be on a real learning journey. Not just about the new changes or technology, but about themselves. They’ll be learning new soft skills as well as the technical aspects so make sure you celebrate their achievements.


People want to feel valued and a simple thank you or shout out in a team meeting can really boost them. Award them with digital badges which can be displayed on their Teams profile for all to see.

When done right, a digital champion programme can really support your organisation to embed new changes or technology. Engaged champions with the right skills and knowledge can really make the difference by supporting colleagues on the ground and ensure those new ways of working are here to stay.


Does your business need help to implement Microsoft 365 and its many tools? Do you want to harness the talent from within your organisation to support it? Then get in touch. We provide a comprehensive Digital Champion Programme providing all the learning and support your champions will need to make your digital change a success. Contact us at [email protected] for a chat.


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