We all know that in business and in life, one of the only things that remains constant is change. Organizations are constantly undergoing transformations in technology, in management, in internal policies and procedures, and in how they conduct business. Some of these transformations are planned, and some are the result of unexpected reorganizations in a company.
Change is everywhere, yet for most people, the word “change” (even positive change!) can evoke feelings of uneasiness, tension, and distrust. We feel we’re being pushed outside our comfort zone to adopt something new before we’re truly ready. A recent study from McKinsey estimates that “70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, in part due to employee resistance.” One important mistake that organizations make is failing to consistently and effectively communicate change with employees, leading to further stress and uneasiness among staff.These unsuccessful efforts to manage change are not only detrimental to employee morale, but also wasteful of an organization’s time and money.
We’ve helped many of our clients prepare, implement, and manage change when their organizations introduce new policies, new leaders, or a new organizational philosophy. How do we reach the point where a change is accepted, and internal employee behavior shifts to embrace the new goals and objectives? Read on for our change management best practices!
If you are a manager or leader involved in implementing significant change:
- Involve your employees. The more people who are involved in a change, the greater the level of acceptance. When employees feel they have some level of influence on the outcomes, they’ll be more invested in the change, and will more readily get behind a change that benefits the organization. Keep your employees informed, and if possible, get their input and feedback on company-wide decisions before they’re implemented. There are change agents on your staff! Increase buy-in from these individuals, in particular.
- Sell the opportunity. As a leader, try to paint a picture of what your company will look like after the change is successfully implemented, so people can see the perks of change and not just the stressors. Have a conversation with your team, and answer the question everyone is silently asking—“What’s in it for me?”—to gain their trust and increase the likelihood of being receptive to change.
- Change is a process, so implement your change in phases, and celebrate small wins. New processes and procedures take some time to learn, and can be tough on staff. Break up the change in smaller phases if possible.Take a moment to recognize small accomplishments, building momentum for the bigger change ahead. From Nick Candito at Forbes, “Even small changes can take time so be realistic on how you roll them out.” Read more about the common mistakes leaders make during change, and how to avoid them here.
If you are an employee undergoing the transition at work:
- Don’t be a change victim! Make a deliberate effort to embrace change, rather than becoming a change victim. Studies show only 16% of an organization sees change as an opportunity; the other 84% see change as risk. Go against the grain and look for positive opportunities that might result from the imposed change. This will set you apart from many of your peers and allow others (including your boss!) to notice your adaptability and ability to succeed in difficult circumstances.
- Focus on what you can control and embrace change as a new beginning. While you cannot control your boss’ or organization’s decision to implement a new change, you can control your reaction. Take charge of your thoughts and actions. Consider the organization that makes a decision to cut back on long-standing telework privileges: it’s likely that employee morale will drop. Many may feel they no longer have their employer’s trust or may feel betrayed by management. Successful employees will register their initial shock but ultimately adapt and embrace this change. They will make a conscious decision to view this change as an opportunity for the team to brainstorm and collaborate face-to-face, to get to know others in the office better, or as an opportunity to learn from supervisors and ask more questions in real-time. Reframe the change in a positive light.
The reality is that change is constant. While it may be imposed upon us, we have a choice about how to manage and respond to organizational change: resist it and let change drag you down, or embrace it and thrive at work and in life!