Effective change management is necessary for businesses to survive and thrive so it’s important to overcome the obstacles that change can present as quickly as possible.
Workplace change can be one of the most difficult changes to manage, as revisions to working practices, environments and daily routines require new behaviours and ways of doing things. The saying ‘resistance is futile’ is certainly true; however, without due consideration to the psychology of change and the needs of employees, 70% of change plans are destined to fail.
Routine provides familiarity and gives employees a sense of control. Make a significant change to the way work is done, how teams are structured or the environment they occupy and 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 in order to ensure a successful workplace transition and sustained adoption.
There are four key and universal stages to effectively managing the change of a new workplace. These are:
- Communicate: Firstly, explain to employees why change is necessary – do you simply need more space, have you acquired another team, are you introducing new technologies? Then follow this up with details of timescales and what it means for employees in the short and long term. Regular communication throughout the change will help to keep employees engaged and identify questions and concerns that can be answered quickly, rather than left to fester. Poor communication will allow uncertainty to flourish and the rumour-mill will inevitably takeover.
- Participate: Involve employees in the workplace change before it happens. Consult with them and invite them to share their ideas where the process allows. This might include involving employees in design discussions or creating an employee panel to help flesh out new working practices. By making this a project which actively involves and engages employees, you invite them to own the chan Involving employees early in the process can provide user-led insights that might identify potential pitfalls in the change before it’s implemented.
- Train: Delivering the new workplace is only part of the process. Ensuring that employees have the right skills needed to thrive once the change has been implemented is the all-important next step. This might be through formal training or peer mentoring and is necessary to make sure that employees are well equipped and able to be productive on day one. Support might include walking tours to explain how the different spaces should be used, line manager meetings to discuss new working behaviours or buddy systems to support the roll-out of new software. Make refresher training and support a regular occurrence throughout the first six months at least, to ensure that new behaviours quickly become habit and deliver the required long-term change.
- Measure: A very important component in a 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, employee surveys and focus groups to see how well the new workplace is working, if new behaviours have been adopted and how they feel about the environment. The results will identify which areas need more work in order to ensure the long-term change you’re striving for.
The only real certainty for business is the inevitable need for change. While not all aspects of organisational change are onerous, making changes to the environments we occupy and the behaviours we exercise certainly are. Successful change relies on an innate understanding of people and a clear strategy as to how to make it last. Finding ways to engage, excite and on-board employees is the key to delivering the sustained change and business transformation that today’s people-centric businesses are striving for. Failure should not be an option.
To find out why the psychology of change is a key component of making your workspace transformation project a success, download our latest change management whitepaper “Workspace transformation – Taking your people with you.”