Change Management Christopher SmithMay 3, 2021

10 Tips for Reducing Employee Resistance to Change Initiatives

10 Tips for Reducing Employee Resistance to Change Initiatives

In the midst of change initiatives, it’s important to get buy-in from your employees and ensure that they actively support the project – otherwise, they may actively resist change.

Below, we’ll look at a few ways to ensure employees stay engaged and productive during any organizational change project.

10 Tips for Reducing Employee Resistance to Change Initiatives

Resistance to change can be a major obstruction to any business change initiative, so it is important to develop strategies for minimizing that resistance as much as possible. 

The best way to start is by assessing change readiness in order to understand employees’ attitudes towards a proposed change project. That information can then inform decision-making, communication plans, and other activities designed to maximize engagement and reduce resistance.

Here are a few tips and techniques that can motivate employees and prevent resistance before it becomes a problem.

1. Educate employees about the change

First and foremost, it is important to provide information on what the change is, why it’s happening, and how it will benefit the workforce.

Prosci, for instance, makes this the very first step in their change management framework, the ADKAR model. 

Understanding the “why” of a change is a prerequisite for actually owning and supporting that change. On the other hand, if they don’t understand the rationale behind a change initiative, there is a greater chance they’ll feel alienated and besieged by that change.

2. Consider incentive programs 

Incentives, such as recognition or performance-based financial rewards, are a straightforward way of improving engagement.

While this should certainly not be the only tool in one’s toolbox, it can be an excellent way to motivate employees and reduce resistance. 

This approach can also be combined with other accountability mechanisms, such as penalties and punishments – as with the other techniques covered here, it is best to test, learn, and adjust.

3. Be open to employee suggestions

Another way to reduce feelings of alienation is to involve employees in the decision-making process.

Participative decision-making (PDM) has been shown to generate a number of positive outcomes, including boosted job satisfaction, better relationships between leaders and subordinates, and better job performance.

When it comes to organizational change, these benefits can translate into greater motivation and less resistance, among other things.

4. Track employee sentiment

Employee sentiment – that is, employee attitudes – can be an excellent indicator of resistance. 

Negative emotions, after all, often lead to negative reactions, such as resistance.

Maintaining open communication lines, monitoring employee performance metrics, and conducting surveys are just a few ways managers can stay tapped into employee sentiments.

5. Provide adequate training

Resistance can stem from the fear of inadequacy or incompetence, which can often be solved with training.

Employee training, therefore, should be built into any change initiative. Not only will it improve employee performance, it will increase workers’ confidence and motivation, while reducing negative reactions.

6. Obtain executive sponsorship

Change management sponsorship can have a significant impact on the change project’s outcomes.

With visible, active leadership, employees are more likely to support a change project. 

If leaders don’t engage, however, employees will also be less likely to stay engaged. For that reason, it is important not only to obtain buy-in from executives, but to ensure that they play an active role in leading the initiative.

7. Understand the psychology of resistance

It is important to recognize that employees are not resisting the change, but disruption and uncertainty. And, as mentioned above, they are often resistant because they are afraid or uncomfortable.

When change managers understand why employees resist change, it will be fair easier to create a suitable strategy for overcoming that resistance.

8. Engage employees before the change initiative starts

Engaging employees early gives managers a head start on implementing the strategies covered above.

Whether the resistance mitigation plans revolve around training, communication, participative decision-making, or a combination of strategies, having that lead time can significantly improve the outcomes of those efforts.

9. Clarify expectations, roles, and responsibilities

Vague or unclear expectations only results in errors, miscommunications, and inefficiencies. 

Those problems, in turn, can increase resistance and lower engagement levels – no one, after all, wants to support a project that seems poorly managed.

10. Let the most enthusiastic employees lead

When creating a change team, it is important to have a skilled, talented corps of managers and leaders. 

Mindsets and attitudes, however, play an equally important role. 

By letting the most motivated employees lead, managers can increase the chances that their enthusiasm spreads. On the other hand, if less engaged employees are a part of the change team, their lack of enthusiasm can also be contagious – which can be detrimental to the project.

Conclusion: Boost Engagement, Reduce Resistance

It is important to note that engagement and resistance complement one another. 

Employee engagement, for instance, drives up employee productivity and improves the outcomes of a project. On the other hand, when that motivation drops, resistance increases. 

In many cases, therefore, it is useful not only to focus on minimizing resistance, but on maximizing engagement through the techniques covered above – such as incentives, training, and total participation.

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