This article, written in November 2015, has been updated to reflected updated information as of January 2017. For more articles on leadership and talent management, take a look at these:
- Transforming Your Talent Process: 7 Must Have Downloads
- Better Innovation Starts with Core Competencies in Talent Management
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” His powerful words ring true in our personal lives as well as in the world of business. Employees’ common misconception that change is bad hinders plans for maximizing performance and efficiency. This is ever so important to those in Human Resources as we are often the ones in charge of change management, from the workforce we serve to the executives who control our budgets.
Implementing change to resistant employees can create hostile, unproductive work environments, but many times it isn’t the change itself that causes a rift in performance, it’s how the change is communicated. Figuring out how to implement change in the workplace so that it is expected and welcomed by employees can lead to greater success and smooth integration of new processes. Here are some useful tips in implementing change in your workplace.
Incorporate Change Into Everyday Work Environments
Leadership can combat employees’ intolerance to change by introducing it into their everyday work environment. Conditioning them to expect change regularly will prepare them for much bigger, more pertinent changes the company may endure. It can be as simple as changing desks regularly or sending a different person or delegation to the conference this year.
Encourage teams to discuss processes and brainstorm small changes that can make those processes more effective. This conditioning doesn’t just open employees’ minds to change, it engages them in the change itself. Bringing learning into the employee environment in different ways (from live speakers to videos and online learning) can help your workforce to contribute and interact in different ways.
Communicating the Change Before It Occurs
Communication has a huge influence on employees’ perception of their supervisors. In fact, according to a 2014 Tinypulse study, the top reasons 51% of employees are dissatisfied with their direct supervisors are:
#1. They are not present, limited interaction with team
#2. Poor communication
Updated: At any given moment, 75% of your employees are actively searching or are open to looking for a new job.
How the outcome is communicated is essential to keeping the workforce from resisting major changes. Painting a picture of the future will prepare employees for what’s to come and why it has to happen. This helps to align company goals with individual employees, something we’ve written extensively about. Follow these guidelines to help introduce the plans to your workforce:
- Clearly definewhy the change is coming, how those changes will be made, and how the changes will affect employees. Do this well in advance of implementation and in multiple ways, including the use of the company intranet, face to face meetings with stakeholders, company meetings and email. This way there are no surprises.
- Provideconcrete evidenceas to whychange is necessary. Show your team the numbers that indicate ineffective processes are being used. Then, give them any helpful examples you have of the strategy making a positive impact on another company so they can understand why change is necessary.
- Recruit team membersto educate and spread positive messages about the changes to others. Change is easier for people to accept when they see others who are invested in and behind the change.
- Offer support to employeesby making sure managers are well-informed and prepared to answer any and all questions employees have about the future changes. Using polls, surveys and FAQs before, during and after any change can help employees feel they are involved with and had a say in, the impending change.
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Include Employees in the Planning
Communicating the plan lays the foundation for the next step of implementing change: engaging employees. Engaging employees in the plan is a much more collaborative aspect of implementing change. Below are suggestions from the Young Entrepreneur Council on how to tell employees change is coming:
- Create an invitation. Invite employees to join in on the conversation. Show them their opinion is valued by listening to their ideas and concerns. They may open up avenues of change that you hadn’t even considered. Beware using this strategy too much without ever taking action on employee-suggested changes, this can backfire.
- Encourage Questions. In the midst of change, negativity and misinformation can spread like wildfire. Make sure employees feel comfortable about asking questions and provide meaningful, honest feedback to them. Collate these questions in a central location so that frequently asked questions can be pored over and more introverted employees can find out if their question has already been asked (and answered).
- Break the news to small groups. Trying to address large groups can stifle organic communication. Approaching the issue in small groups makes the conversation more intimate and ensures employees won’t be afraid to ask questions and engage in healthy discussion. Engage stakeholders and make sure that your most communicative employees are ready and willing to answer the questions employees may have. Empower these small groups to be ambassadors with collateral, online resources and talking points (including stats, company numbers and expected ROI).
- Be positive. If upper management isn’t buying into the pending changes, their employees consequently won’t respond to them either. Finding the appropriate balance between transparency and positivity can get employees excited about the changes while keeping them realistic about all aspects of what’s to come.
When implementing change in your workplace, take these four steps to include employees:
Measure the Effects of the Change
Measuring the effects of the change is a process that should occur during the preparation, implementation, and post-implementation phases. This provides teams with opportunities to respond to any discrepancies in the plan that may occur along the way. Refer to these tips to help determine the impact the changes are making on employees:
- Distribute surveys to employees to gain feedback throughout the process. Be sure to address any remaining employees who are resisting the change to ensure survey results are represented accurately. Communicate areas of success throughout the process so employees know which changes are making an impact. Invite employees to provide suggestions when problems in the plan arise. Encourage teams to discuss how the changes are affecting their work environment. Have supervisors report back any relevant feedback that may have been missed in the surveys.
Ready for a change?
When companies want to make major changes, it shouldn’t be a surprise to their employees. To effectively prepare for change, employees have to be conditioned to expect it. If not, it’s going to be 10 times harder to convince them that current processes aren’t maximizing performance. The key to battling resistance to change is transforming the mindset of your employees through honest, strategic communication.
As the head of a department in the midst of a sustained period of rapid growth, Sara has spent thousands of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.