No matter the size of the organization, change is one of life’s constants in today’s business environment.
With all that change going on, everyone must be an expert on managing change effectively — right?
Most changes in organizations fail, due in part to employee resistance, failure to adequately prepare and miscommunication. Research shows that change initiatives are nearly twice as likely to fail as a result of organizational resistance rather than technical or operational issues.
Needed: a systemic, proactive approach
If change is not implemented correctly, the results can range from inconvenient to disastrous, such as inefficiencies, duplicated efforts, and lost business opportunities.
Companies that are able to manage change effectively can gain distinct advantages over their competition that can lead to even greater success. When done right, change management can alleviate uncertainty among employees about how the change might impact them, reduce the potential for a negative impact on productivity, and engage or re-engage the company’s workforce.
Companies who want to successfully lead employees through adoption of an organizational change must follow a systematic, proactive approach that incorporates four primary steps: overcoming resistance, engaging employees, implementing change in phases and communicating the change.
1. Overcoming resistance
Although employee resistance is a natural reaction to widespread organizational changes, you can overcome that resistance by focusing on several key strategies:
- Clearly and consistently communicate about the change well in advance of its implementation.
- Help employees better understand the need for the change and the rationale behind the decisions, as well as the ways the change may affect them.
- Ensure that your change management team includes change champions who can help spread positive messages about the change, as well as take the temperature of employee reactions to the change.
- Provide strong support for the changing environment, such as ensuring that managers are provided with the training and information they need to answer employee questions.
2. Engaging employees
Employees who are engaged in the change are more likely to put in the effort necessary to help implement the change and ensure a positive outcome for the organization. Help create high levels of employee engagement during your change process by:
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- Developing a team approach that includes employees’ perspectives from a variety of departments and levels.
- Assigning and clarifying roles and responsibilities.
- Increasing your focus on the workers who are affected most by the change.
- Including resistance leaders in the change process to help overcome pushback from other employees.
- Understanding and taking into account the different motivational factors for each employee.
3. Implementing change in phases
For companies planning a major change initiative, taking a phased approach can help ensure that the transition to a new system or process is as smooth and seamless as possible. Leading change management firm Prosci recommends three phases:
- Prepare for change – By taking steps such as defining your change management strategy, developing your change management team, and outlining key roles.
- Manage the change – By creating and executing change management plans that include communications, operations and resistance management.
- Reinforce the change – By collecting and analyzing feedback and then implementing corrective actions where needed.
4. Communicating change
Failing to tell employees in advance about organizational changes can increase employee misconduct by 42 percent. An integral part of every stage of the change management process, communication must be a two-way street in order to ensure the success of the organizational change.
Think quality over quantity when it comes to communicating with employees, and consider these communication strategies for successful implementation:
- Pre-and post-surveys allow for feedback both before and after the change has been implemented, which can enhance the overall process.
- Engage resistors in one-on-one sessions prior to the solution’s implementation to allow them to provide their input.
- Be clear, consistent and explicit, especially when it comes to timeline and responsibilities.
- Use both formal and informal communication approaches, including email, intranet, in-person meetings, signage and voice mails.
- Offer opportunities for employees to provide feedback into the process, and then be sure to use the input to inform the plan.
- Gather employees to explore worst-case scenarios and then develop strategies to address them.
Building a foundation for success
Although implementing organizational change is complicated and complex, it does not have to negatively affect your company’s performance.
You can minimize the disruption to your organization by beginning the planning and communication process early to build the foundation for a successful implementation.