Change management is necessary for businesses to survive and thrive so it’s important to overcome the obstacles that change can presents as quickly as possible.
The saying “resistance is futile” is certainly true when it comes to organisational change. However, without due consideration to the psychology of change and how to take people on the journey, it can prove highly disruptive to productivity and even prompt a fall in headcount too.
Routine provides familiarity and gives employees a sense of control. When you make a significant change to the way work is done, how teams are structured or even the environment they occupy, it can leave employees disorientated, confused and even fearful. Fear of change is typically fear of the unknown, particularly when change is enforced. Therefore, it’s important to manage the process carefully and find ways to take employees on the journey if you are to ensure a successful transition and sustained adoption of the new work environment.
There are four key stages to effectively managing change and removing the fear for employees. These are:
• Full communication of the change itself, the rationale for it, timescales and what it means for employees allows you to open a dialogue from the outset. Make communication regular, whether that be through email updates, line manager meetings or staff gatherings, to keep employees engaged in the process. This will help to identify questions and concerns that can be answered quickly, rather than left to fester. Poor and infrequent communication will allow uncertainty to flourish and the rumour-mill will inevitably fill the gap.
• Make the change one that employees can participate in, rather than something that happens to them. Consult with them and invite them to share their ideas and views where the process allows. This might include involving employees in design discussions for the new workplace, setting up an employee panel to help flesh out new practices or capturing their feedback about their hopes for what the change will deliver. By making this an all-encompassing project which actively involves and engages employees, you take away the uncertainty and invite them to be part of the change.
• Ensure that employees have the right skills needed to thrive once the change has been implemented. This might be through formal training or peer mentoring and is a vital step in ensuring that employees are well equipped and able to be productive on day one. Support might include providing manuals for new systems and online tutorials, holding discussions with line managers to understand new processes or setting up buddy systems to deal with new software roll-out. Incentivising adoption of new practices might also be worthwhile at the outset to ensure a quick and efficient roll-out. However, take heed as this should only be used as a short-term tactic that is, in time, replaced with ‘failure to comply’ penalties for those that do not successfully adopt and embrace the change.
• A useful component in any change management toolkit is a scorecard – a way to track qualitative and quantitative data about the change and how successful it has been. Use a combination of behavioural observation studies, to see how well changes have been adopted, and employee surveys and focus groups to establish how they feel. The results will identify areas that still need attention and can help to inform future change programmes.
Change is a business necessity. While not all organisational change will be onerous or all-encompassing, it is important to put yourself in the shoes of those it affects and to consider their needs from the outset. Finding ways to engage, excite and onboard employees is the key to delivering the sustained change and business transformation that today’s people-centric businesses are striving for.
For a more detailed look at the importance of change management in enabling your business and people to evolve, download the Claremont change management whitepaper: