Change can be a daunting process, especially when employees are used to working effectively with old methods. Change, when managed poorly, can damage team dynamics, increase anxiety and ultimately decrease worker productivity. The key to managing change is building trust. Without trust, employees will have no motivation to follow your lead.
Here are 7 tips to help build employee trust when implementing change.
1. Leadership must be clear about their intentions
Employees look up to leaders as role models. Ambiguous wording, dishonest intentions or poor clarity will reflect in the workforce. Elaborate rhetoric and empty promises are easy for employees to see through. Instead of delivering motivational speeches, you should seek a message with a balance of substantial information and unambiguous reasons for why change is necessary. Gartner analysts explain “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”.
2. Do not allow selective bias when taking a stance
In order for change to be fully effective, you need to stand behind the changes. If you stand on the fence on the issue, it raises concerns among employees; why would they trust the changes fully if their managers do not? It can be potentially destructive or undermining to team decisions.
3. Repeat core messages in interesting ways
According to a research report by Edelman, 60% of people need to hear messages 3-5 times to believe it. After 6+ times, there is a drastic falloff with only 15% respondents believing the message. What these statistics tell us is that change managers need to find ways to communicate the same core messages in different ways. With the drop off after 5 times, there are diminishing returns with too much redundancy. One way to help build trust is by offering multiple learning tools for employees. This simultaneously assists in delivering the core message in many different ways, and gives employees options to adapt independently.
4. Communicate why the change is needed rather than give direction
One of the most effective ways in building trust is to invite employees into learning why change is necessary. If you only give employees directions to follow, then they will not have a foundation to come to their own understanding. According to research by Simon Sinek illuminating why change is necessary is more important for leaders when building rapport with employees than listing what to change and how.
5. Raise your levels of expectations for employees
Another way to stand firmly behind change is to raise your expectations of your employees’ work performance. This shows your commitment to the process and in turn should reflect on the employees’ overall work. At the same time, be mindful of natural resistance to change by setting realistic goals. Early on in the process, resistance to change will interfere with increased expectations which may increase anxiety. Reassure employees by opening lines of communication for feedback.
6. Expand lines of communication for internal feedback
Managers and supervisors should interview employees early and often regarding their feelings towards change. It is difficult to build trust if the implementation of change is one-sided. According to Gartner “It is human nature to shift this discomfort to the new system, assuming that it is inhibiting their job, rather than recognizing the elimination of problems they had with the old system. Since most users won’t be actively reminding themselves of the improvements they get with the new system, someone else needs to make the improvements visible”. Two-way communication lines should include internal feedback to allay employee concerns and fears. Afterwards with consideration to the feedback, it can be looped back to improve specific processes.
7. Encourage more open communication
Open communication, either through integrated social media or routine meetings, are great ways to build trust. Team-oriented communication lines are important for receiving feedback in a social manner. While some personal concerns can be resolved in private interviews, team building exercises allow for all members to build off of each other and resolve issues more organically.