As organizations evolve to keep up with a marketplace – indeed, with the world – advancing at lightning speed, they are constantly seeking new, better and more efficient methods, processes and procedures for the workplace. It’s resulted in something that affects nearly every employee in every industry: the inevitability of change.
While change can signal exciting new developments, opportunities and learning to benefit the organization and its staff, it can also evoke deep feelings of insecurity, confusion, grief and fear. Recognizing and acknowledging these natural responses within your team as you introduce change is essential.
Research shows that two-thirds of all organizational changes fail, costing valuable money, resources and time.1 A significant factor in these failures is the inability of the organization’s workforce to cope with and effectively adjust to change. This is not surprising. In a 2017 report by Sanofi, 31% of employees agreed that workplace stress has been an overwhelming experience in the last year.2
Adding major changes into an environment many already view as emotionally taxing must be approached compassionately, empathetically and pragmatically for the best outcomes. Consciously supporting and guiding teams through change makes all the difference in whether new processes, technology, roles and corporate culture result in emotional discord and lost productivity… or a marked, positive experience of personal and professional growth.
In all cases where change is imminent within the organization, some steps could be taken to lay a solid foundation on which to build:
Nurture Trust With Open, Honest Communication. As the wheels of change pick up speed, it’s easy to become less accessible to employees unintentionally. Keeping the channels of communication open, even expanding them, can have a significant, positive impact on fostering trust, goodwill and a willingness to embrace change. Make efforts to be more available, visible and an attentive and careful listener. Circulate regular written communications and hold individual and team meetings to encourage questions, input, and discussions about how your employees are feeling - and dealing with - what’s happening. This allows you to convey accurate information during a time when confusion and misinformation may arise and allows your employees to be heard, have their concerns addressed and see firsthand that they aren’t alone. This also serves to help you gauge how everyone is adjusting and what specific areas could be better addressed to increase morale and productivity.
Acknowledge That Change Can Be Difficult…But Stay Positive. People spend vast portions of their lives working, so it’s normal for them to react strongly and negatively to changes that may include a loss of co-workers, stability or control. The five-stage Kübler-Ross model of the grieving process (where one moves through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) is sometimes applied to those dealing with organizational change, further validating how profound these feelings can be.3 Let your employees know you understand their feelings and that they’re normal while maintaining an upbeat, positive attitude. Be sure to convey that you believe in the change happening and support it – and them – wholeheartedly. Keep spirits and enthusiasm up by congratulating and thanking your employees on jobs that are done well and encouraging them to transfer their unique skills into whatever new circumstances or roles may come.
Include Employees In The Process. Purposefully having your workers engage in tasks directly related to the change at hand fosters motivation in working toward its success while empowering the team. Making employees active, vested agents of change creates a sense of pride, control and ownership, which can fall by the wayside during major organizational transitions.
Give Change Ample Time. Introduce change gradually in well-thought-out phases you share with your team ahead of time, where possible. Predictable, minor transitions made over manageable adjustment periods are more likely to be accepted and effectively implemented than drastic, sweeping ones without a shared plan of action or vision.
More than ever, change has become an expected, natural part of any job. Yet, if it isn’t managed carefully using thoughtful practices, what’s meant to bolster efficiency, profit, and the health of your organization can quickly lead to a decline in productivity and profound damage to the morale of your employees.
When it’s done right, your team can explore new areas of interest, find new opportunities for growth and collaboration, work smarter, not harder, and flourish in ways that might never have been possible before change was brought into the picture.