We are currently living in a period of incredible innovation, and therefore unprecedented change. According to a survey conducted by Forbes Insights, 93% of respondents were either about to engage in business transformation, in the midst of one, or had just gotten through major change. Change is tough; most people prefer to stay in their comfort zone rather than direct time and effort into transitioning into the unknown. Though it’s tough to get people to buy into change, it’s not impossible. The right combination of motivation, empowerment, and communication will encourage employees to commit wholeheartedly to the project of transitioning.
Communication is Key
The communication around change is critical when it comes to getting people on board. Those at the top have to articulate why change is necessary to future success and be prepared to answer questions and allay fears. Change is never easy, and there will always be doubts and even resistance from the workforce. Change is scary, and your challenge as a leader is to convince employees that changes are beneficial as well as necessary. Part of this is communicating the plan for change, as well as the negative consequences that can result if changes are not implemented. According to Gartner “If
the delivery of the change process does not include a clear understanding of the implementation mechanism, a communications plan, a marketing effort, incentives for change and a project focus, then the effort is likely to fail”.
Be Sensitive to the Atmosphere.
Although no one can read minds, it’s easy to get a sense for where things are at by listening to management and encouraging them to listen carefully to their teams. Get feedback on how employees see change and whether or not they are engaged or have specific complaints that need to be addressed. Openness and honesty are critical, as is flexibility. Make the necessary adjustments and deal with complaints as they arise so that they don’t turn into deeper dissatisfactions and derail your plans.
Manage a Business as an Organism, not a Machine.
A company is not a machine in which the employees are cogs; therefore it cannot be run according to rigid rules and unreasonable structures. Change is not a matter of adjusting settings, but adjusting in response to needs. You should conceptualize your company as an organic collective of individuals connected by a common goal. Good managers inspire employees to dedicate themselves not only to their success, but also to the success of their peers and the company. Gartner analysts account that a company should “Take change management seriously. Gain board-level support and involve the full spectrum of department representatives to gather requirements”. If employees are dedicated to the success of a company, change will be more easily achieved.
Employees are Peers
Conceptualizing your business as an organic system is only the beginning. It’s also important to build a relationship with your employees that is empowering. If you approach employees with a paternalistic attitude, they will inevitably take their cues from this treatment and expend their time and energy keeping out of sight, out of trouble, and away from responsibilities. Treat your employees as if they are peers who are capable of excellence, and the result will be a motivated, driven workforce that will be able to weather change enthusiastically and effectively.
Consider Potential Barriers to Success.
Even the best laid plans for change can encounter obstacles, but if you’re ready for them, they won’t derail your plans or prevent people from being supportive. Talk to your workforce to find out about the obstacles that they perceive. Once you have an idea of some of the problems that might be encountered during and after the process of change, it will be easier to deal with them.
Great management when it comes to change is often the difference between rousing success and a tough haul. Empowering your team through good communication and attention to the needs of your employees will ensure that transitions occur smoothly. Experts like Debby Hopkins agree that change is hard, but inevitable. Although it may never be easy, managed correctly, it doesn’t have to be unpleasant.
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.