We are certainly being flooded with news about change these days. All you have to do is read the headlines about the political changes going on all over the world. In the Middle East, we continually hear about governments undergoing change through revolution both violent and non-violent. Here in the U.S., we hear about the change in the financial markets and its effects on the economy. No matter how you slice it though, change is real and is happening at an ever escalating pace. In fact, the only real constant is CHANGE. So, what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t we just all buck up and get on with it? Well, its not quite that simple. Although change is ever present, it is still difficult, especially for the people going through it.
We see this all the time. Many of the organizations we talk to today are experiencing significant change. What we also know however, is that more than half of organizational change management efforts fail to get the intended results. Why is this? Surely we should all know how to do this since it is so ever present. Well, the biggest reason is the fact that more attention is paid to the process of change than the people that are involved with and impacted by the change. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when embarking on a change effort:
- Those that are successful change agents know to expect and anticipate change. They are able to articulate why the change is necessary and why it will benefit the employees and the organization as a whole. They understand that communication is key and it is not only about informing but is also about listening – listening to all reactions, positive and negative. Successful change agents don’t minimize the anxiety employees have about the change but they acknowledge it and provide information that can help diminish their fears. So, it is always better to over communicate because when employees don’t have all the information, they tend to fill in the blanks on their own. And you can only imagine what they come up with. It is often incorrect information or rumor.
- Those that are successful in promoting and implementing change know that employee input is important when planning change. To the extent that you can, you should ask for suggestions and ideas about how to accomplish goals provides valuable information and can avoid many pitfalls .
- Once the plan is in place the next step is implementation. Education and training on new processes and procedures is essential. It is also important that managers are given support in managing the natural resistance to change initiatives that occur. Skills that help managers address employee resistance or anxiety involve employee coaching, dealing with conflict, stress management and team building.
- Continually evaluate the impact of the change initiative(s) by gathering data and making course corrections as needed. Giving feedback to employees about what is working and what is not is important information to be shared.
- Finally celebrate the victories. Let people see the fruits of their efforts and the value those efforts have to the organization as a whole. These acknowledgments help reinforce change, sustain it and make it a little less anxiety provoking if and when change occurs again.
As I said before, change is the new (or not so new) reality. We all need to embrace it but we need to assist our employees in doing that. Remember that they are interested in how that change will affect them in the short and long run so, to the extent that you can, bring them into the process and help them adapt. It may seem like more work in the short run but in the long run, it will allow for a more nimble workplace that remains more competitive and enables employees to not only survive but also to thrive. Just remember the lyrics from the David Bowie song “Changes”:
(Turn and face the strain)