Stephen Archer, Director of Spring Partnerships www.spring-partnerships.com
Most businesses have to change at some point to survive, and when a company decides to make significant changes, one of its biggest challenges can be getting employees to accept and adapt to those changes. This is often harder than many companies anticipate and requires careful management.
Here are few practical tips for successfully managing employees through a period of change:
Keep communicating the need for change
People are very capable of understanding the reasons for change – they are far smarter than you think, so business leaders should assume this and not patronise them, ignore them or hide any information from them. Hosting open question discussions will provide a forum for honest debate and help employees rediscover what they know but have not necessarily connected with in the reality of their working environment.
Give positive examples of change
Give employees examples of how change is possible and use real life case studies from within the organisation or similar organisations that can help them relate to why the change is needed. Stories about how any challenges were met and what benefits were generated will help them believe they can also benefit.
Create hands-on practice
Create some practice scenarios based on real-world problems that may need fixing. There is no substitute for hands-on experience and active participation to engage people and this approach will enable workers to practice new activities without feeling under pressure or getting caught up in the baggage of a real situation.
Set up some ‘easy win’ lead-ins to help get the process started and enable staff to see that open thinking and open team-working can create some remarkable effects and outcomes. Another good idea is to appoint ‘change champions’ in different areas of the business who can lead the changes.
Communicate after the event
Too often a change programme is launched then the communication diminishes to such a level that people wonder if it is still happening.
A framework to keep the mission tight and focused is essential. This shouldn’t be a problem if the activity is outcome-based and the champions are actively communicating within their teams and to other teams. Board level acknowledgment and support in a very open manner is also vital.
Push through behavioural change
Assuming that the above steps have worked, there will be new things that inevitably need doing, but also activities that will have to be stopped. Failing to stop the old way of doing things is, in fact, one of the biggest reasons why change initiatives do not succeed. People may believe that the old ways worked and lack confidence that change will be a good thing – no matter how rational it is.
All levels of leadership must be aware of this dynamic and actively push through behavioural change in order to ensure that it becomes embedded into organisational culture.
Create small, cross-functional teams of change champions
People need to see that everyone else is participating in change and not have the excuse that ‘we would change if those people did’.
Change can be hard work, so it is important that companies celebrate and recognise team and individual achievements throughout the change management process.
By ensuring open communications from start to finish and by involving people in the process, companies can successfully implement change and keep their employees on board.