In today’s organisations, the rate of change has never been more rapid or more constant. But while change is essential for business success, recent studies show that over two-thirds of transformations fail. Stumbling blocks include employee resistance, failure to adequately prepare and miscommunication.
Whether the change is a small one, like the implementation of a new system, or a much bigger one such as a company takeover, the way that it is managed makes all the difference to its success. Thankfully, our growing ability to quickly assemble and analyse vast amounts of data means we can better predict and manage the risks related to change. According to research, about 65% of corporate change initiatives require significant behavioural change on the part of employees; if individual behaviour doesn’t change, neither will the organisation.
Introducing change has to be done carefully, sensitively and collaboratively. Companies should look to take a systematic, proactive approach that clearly communicates what is happening, engages employees, overcomes resistance and implements the change in phases:
- Communicating change
Failing to tell employees in advance about organisational changes can increase employee misconduct by 42%.However, effective communication during periods of stress is quite different from periodical company updates; for example, when people feel disrupted, they lose on average 80% of their capacity to process information. It’s therefore vital to be clear, consistent and explicit, especially when it comes to timelines and responsibilities. Be emphatic and use both formal and informal communication approaches, offer opportunities for employees to provide feedback, explore worst-case scenarios and then develop strategies to address them.
- Engaging employees
Engaged employees are more likely to put in the effort necessary to help implement the change and ensure a positive outcome. Help drive high levels of employee engagement by developing a team approach that includes employees’ perspectives from a variety of departments and levels. Assign and clarify roles and responsibilities, increase your focus on those workers who will be most affected by the change and take into account the different motivational factors for each employee.
- Overcoming resistance
Although employee resistance is a natural reaction to widespread organisational changes, you can overcome it by communicating clearly and consistently about the change well in advance. This helps employees better understand the need for the change and the rationale behind the decisions, as well as demonstrating the ways the change may affect them. Provide strong support for the changing environment, such as the training and information that managers need to answer employee questions. Look to include resistance leaders (senior leaders or middle managers on the frontline, who can spot resistance in employees and take steps to counter it) in the change process to help overcome pushback from other employees.
- Implementing change in phases
For major changes, a phased approach can help ensure that the transition to a new system or process is as smooth and seamless as possible. Take steps such as defining your change management strategy, develop your change management team and outline key roles. Manage the change by creating and executing change management plans that include communications, operations and resistance management, and reinforce the change by collecting and analysing feedback and then implementing corrective actions where needed.
With change being the new normal, managers must learn how to effectively manage it, particularly as it’s not organisations that facilitate change, but the people within them.
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