4 Common Change Management Challenges (And How to Address Them)

Change is a necessary part of business, but change management can be difficult to execute effectively. To minimize risk, it is crucial to plan for and address the most common change management challenges.

In this post, we’ll look at a few of the top challenges faced by change managers, then explore some of the best strategies for overcoming those obstacles.

4 Common Change Management Challenges

To reduce risk and maximize the performance of a project, it is important to carefully assess and address challenges that might crop up during the initiative. 

1. Employee Resistance

Resistance to change is one of the most common barriers that befalls managers during organizational change projects. 

There are several common reasons why employees resist change, including:

  • A fear of incompetence, inadequacy, or discipline
  • Fear of job displacement
  • Discomfort with changes to the work atmosphere
  • Not wanting to learn new things

Assessing change readiness can help project leads gauge how employees will react to a proposed change. That information, in turn, can help them create strategies to minimize that resistance before it becomes a problem.

2. A Lack of Key Skills

A lack of employee skills has been cited as a major concern for 79% of CEOs, according to PwC – and that is just during normal operations.

When implementing organizational changes, however, the need for skills is even greater.

It is therefore unsurprising that many change management consultancies emphasize the importance of employee training.

For best results, train employees both before, during, and after a change project.

3. Obtaining Buy-In and Sponsorship

Executives sponsors are critical for the success of any large-scale implementation, including digital change initiatives. 

Sponsorship, it should be noted, requires more than just tacit support – sponsors should be actively involved in a project.

According to Prosci, for example, sponsors should:

  • Participate visibly in the project
  • Build a coalition of sponsorship
  • Actively promote and support the change

By lending their weight to a project, executive sponsors will significantly reduce other obstacles that could beset a project, from lackluster employee engagement to funding shortages.

4. Maintaining Momentum

Change fatigue is another common obstacle that can lower engagement, productivity, and performance. 

If left unchecked, that fatigue can draw out timelines and even impact the outcomes of a project.

To maintain momentum, managers should:

  • Use incentives and rewards to improve engagement
  • Continually meet and discuss progress with change teams
  • Regularly adjust the change program as needed
  • Keep recruiting new supporters as the change spreads throughout the organization

In short, the project change leader must adapt and use a variety of tactics to keep employees engaged.

Overcoming Barriers to Change

The obstacles covered above are certainly not the only barriers that change managers will run into during their project, though they are some of the most common.

Now, let’s look at a few ways to overcome those challenges.

1. Creating a culture of learning and openness

Employee productivity during a change program depends, in many cases, on the organization’s culture.

While there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all corporate culture, there are certain traits that are conducive to effecting change.

Among these:

  • Being open to change and new ideas
  • A readiness to be put outside one’s comfort zone
  • A willingness to innovate and think outside the box

Cultivating traits such as these will naturally take time, but the investment can significantly improve employee engagement and productivity, while reducing resistance, frustration, and negative sentiment.

2. Understanding and speaking to employee concerns

Change management communication strategies have a direct impact on employee sentiment, engagement, and more.

To create a communication strategy:

  • Solicit feedback from employees about a proposed change plan 
  • Understand their concerns and needs
  • Create a communication strategy that addresses those concerns

If employees are concerned about a lack of skills, for instance, managers can help mitigate those fears by explaining the training process, expectations, and how employees will personally  benefit from the change. This approach can reduce employees’ apprehension about the change and, in turn, their resistance to change.

3. Make a business case for the value of the proposed change

A business case explains how the change initiative will positively impact the business, the workplace, and the workforce.

Making a business case is one of the best ways to gain executive support – C-suite executives, after all, are mostly concerned with topics such as business performance and ROI.

An argument that outlines the positive effect of a project, however, can also persuade employees. While employees are typically concerned with how the change will affect them personally, understanding the bigger picture can also improve engagement.

Here are a few tips for creating a business case for change:

  • Understand the audience’s concerns, needs, and their language, then construct a case that speaks specifically to that audience
  • Explain how the project will benefit the business as a whole
  • Develop a change management plan and demonstrate a solid commitment to that plan

By making a thorough case for change – and presenting that alongside a detailed change management plan – employees and business leaders will be more likely to support that change.

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.