In this article, we’ll explore some of the most successful change management strategies for lowering employees’ resistance to change.
As many experienced change managers know, resistance to change is one of the most common barriers to change in an organization.
- Increase friction and frustration in the workplace
- Lower engagement and productivity
- Lengthen project timelines
- Negatively impact project outcomes
In worst case scenarios, employee resistance can even undermine a project completely.
To lower resistance, it is necessary to correctly diagnose its causes before developing a strategy for reducing it.
Below, we’ll explore how to do both.
How to Diagnose the Causes of Resistance
Prescribing the wrong solution to a business problem will be about as effective as prescribing the wrong medicine to the wrong patient – namely, it won’t solve anything.
Therefore, the very first step in developing a strategy to lowering resistance is to dive deep into employees’ mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors, as well as the organization’s culture.
A few tools for understanding employee attitudes include:
- Employee surveys
- One-on-one discussions with employees
- Performance data and analytics
- Manager feedback
- Customer feedback
All of these tools should be targeted and used to specifically assess the proposed change project.
There are naturally a number of causes that can fuel resistance to change, but some are more common than others.
Here are a few examples of the types of issues that can lead to resistance:
- Fear of incompetence, inadequacy, or discipline, which can create disengagement
- Poor communication from managers, which can lead to distrust and feelings of besiegement
- A lack of skills or proper training, which can lead to poor performance
- Inefficient or overly complex workflows, which can create friction and frustration
Surveys should be designed to predict and uncover issues such as these, and when they do, it is possible to develop an appropriate strategy.
3 Successful Change Management Strategies to Lower Change Resistance
Here are a few examples of successful change management strategies for lowering resistance.
Naturally, the strategy should be customized and altered to fit one’s own circumstances and workplace. In some cases, it may be useful to apply more than one solution – or, of course, develop a different one if it is not included here.
1. Answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
At a workplace, everyone wants to know “what’s in it for me,” especially during times of change.
This is a reasonable expectation on the part of the employees. After all, they are being asked to make changes and, in many cases, take on extra work.
One of the best ways to improve engagement and reduce resistance is by answering that very question.
Here are a few examples of benefits that can “sell” employees on a change:
- Improved job skills
- Better career prospects
- A better work environment
- Simpler digital workflows
The point here is to understand employees’ perspectives and address their concerns, rather than explaining the organization’s perspective.
That can, however, be useful, as we will see next.
2. Explain why the organization is changing
Explaining why a change is occurring is just as important as explaining the what and the how of a change project.
An organization may be changing to keep up with the shifting economic landscape. It may be changing due to competitive pressure. Or it may be responding to customer demand.
Regardless of the reason, explaining it to employees can reduce resistance to change.
There are several reasons why:
- Employees won’t feel like they own the change if they don’t understand why it is occurring
- Employees will be less committed and engaged when they feel like they are being commandeered
- Those feelings can create resistance, which can, in turn, be detrimental to a project’s performance – or even cause it to fail entirely
In short, explaining the why will help employees feel included. It will help them feel like they are part of the change and that their contribution matters. And, ultimately, it will help improve engagement and reduce resistance.
3. Create a robust employee training program
Employee productivity depends heavily on employee skills, as most managers know.
This is true even in the everyday work environment.
Yet in a changing workplace, a skills gap can be even more problematic.
Without the right skills, employees won’t be able to meet their managers’ changing expectations, which can cause negative reactions and pushback.
Employee training, therefore, is an essential ingredient to any change program.
Robust training can:
- Improve employee proficiency, productivity, and performance
- Simplify the organizational change experience
- Reduce error rates and inefficiencies
- Decrease frustration and friction
In short, training can create a smoother workplace transition, which can bolster employee confidence and engagement, while lowering resistance.
These are only three examples of successful change management strategies that can reduce resistance to change.
As mentioned above, it is important to correctly assess one’s own workforce early on in a project’s life cycle. That diagnosis can point leaders towards the most appropriate solution for minimizing resistance and improving engagement.For more information on minimizing resistance, check out these 10 tips for managing resistance to change or read our article that explains why employees resist change.