“The times they are a changing”

My experience with change is probably no different than anyone else. Some change initiatives have achieved success, however more often than not many have had a profound negative impact on employees, customers and the company’s brand for years.

When I look back at these events there was always one consistent factor in play – the engagement of people during the change journey

In February 2017, Gallup released their State of the American Workplace report which highlighted that the average workplace is undergoing transformational change. No longer is a 9 to 5 working day the preferred option. Employees are looking for more flexibility and choice in their workplaces preferring to share their time evenly between two or even three jobs as well as allocating time to their personal pursuits.

New and emerging technologies are fundamentally transforming the traditional workplace right before our very eyes. In fact some management experts are indicating that we are on the cusp of the next workplace revolution. (Forbes Magazine)

Leaders that can develop successful transformational change initiatives will be the ones who thrive in the new world and to do this they need to recognise that the people in their organsiations are the keys to success.

In the words of the Noble Prize recipient for literature Bob Dylan – “The times they are a changin’.

What causes change efforts to fail?

There are many reasons that up to 80% of change initiatives and programs fail to reach a successful outcome. While the root causes vary widely, you are likely to find at least one of, if not all, in the top 10 root causes:

  • Need for change is unclear
  • Resistance is unexpected and mismanaged
  • Communication is limited
  • Lack of leader commitment
  • Lack of employee commitment

What helps change efforts to succeed?

As you can imagine, communication normally tops the lists of success factors. In addition, successful change occurs when there is:

  • A clear relatable vision
  • Leadership support and involvement
  • Employee contribution and buy-in
  • Accountability
  • Alignment with organisational goals and values

The people side of change

Unlike the business dimensions of change that can be tracked and managed with good project management techniques, change theories and models; the people side of change is not that simple. Every person in your organisation experiences change differently and navigates it at their own speed. Employees will choose to either support or resist change as an individual.

Biologically we are hardwired to see change as a threat to the status quo. This is because change generally equates to some form of loss. It may be that you were once the go to person for the legacy computer systems, but now you have to start all-over. It could be the fact that change brings uncertainty for the future and you don’t know if you will have a job in the coming weeks. It could be that this change is being forced on you and you have lost your sense of autonomy. All of which are threats that our brain reacts to.

For leaders to support people through change there needs to be an acknowledgement that each employee finds themselves in a unique position and that leaders need to tailor their approach accordingly.

I’ve discovered that leaders are looking for a way to understand the people side of change and that the DEAL framework helps them achieve this.

Detail an understanding of the change

It is essential that leaders have a good understanding of what the change is, how it is going to impact you and your team, and what you can personally do to support it. Spending some time detailing your understanding of the change so that you can develop a strategy to manage people as individuals is crucial. Some questions to consider include:

  • What is the history of the change?
  • What are the impacts of the change?
  • Why is there a need to change? i.e. drivers
  • Why now?
  • When is the change beginning?
  • When is the change due to be completed?
  • Who will be involved/ impacted by the change?
  • Who needs to be kept informed?
  • How will the change impact people?
    • Self
    • Staff
  • How will the change impact processes/ systems/ procedures?

Establish an aspirational change vision

It’s well noted that one of the main reasons change initiatives fail is because the vision for change has not been clearly defined or presented.  To achieve success leaders must be able to convey a clear and compelling image of what the future will look like. How will it be different to the status quo and what impact will it have on employees personally.

One of the simplest ways to sell your vision is by articulating:

  • Where are we now and what will we need to leave behind?
  • Where do we need to be and what will we need to take with us?
  • What will we need to do to get there?

Apply motivational strategies to embrace the change

A great vision will only achieve so much. Businesses and leaders need to find a way to use an individual’s distinct motivational needs to help them embrace the change. Understanding the psychological constructs of motivation, will assist leaders in developing strategies for the successful implementation of change.

Some other strategies to engage and motivate employees include:

  • Taking time out to discuss with employees how change will impact them, their concerns and what they need from you during the journey
  • Helping them find their WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)
  • Reassuring employees that they will receive support and direction and following through on this
  • Checking in regularly to see how they are going
  • Communicate, communicate and communicate!

Lead successfully through the change

The impact that change has on individuals and organisations should not be underestimated. Most change brings with it instability, decrease in productivity/profit and conflict.  Neuroscience tells us that change can equal fear and that when people encounter fear, their cognitive functions generally decrease and emotions take centre stage. Knowing how and why people react to change, will empower leaders to deal with individuals more successfully. These tips may help you in managing your team successfully through change:

In the early stages….

Accept

  • That emotional reactions and resistance to change are normal
  • That it takes time for people to accept the change and let go

Encourage

  • People to talk about how they are feeling
  • Sharing of information

Talk

  • Keep the information up – communicate openly about what is going to happen
  • Explain the change
  • Emphasise how people will be able to apply skills and experience to the new ways

In the middle stages…..

Accept

  • That transition can be an uncomfortable time during which it seems like little progress is made
  • People are learning new skills, and expertise doesn’t happen overnight

Lead

  • Demonstrate (model) the behaviour you want to see
  • Provide a solid sense of direction
  • Continue to articulate the change vision

Manage

  • The implementation of new processes
  • Give feedback on performance, especially in relation to change
  • Set short term goals to enable people to experience early ‘wins’
  • Provide training where needed

In the final stages…

Lead

  • Help people sustain the change
  • Celebrate success
  • Provide long term goals
  • Focus on team building

Implementing successful change is not about creating a burning platform based on fear; sure most people will jump to save themselves, but there will be a lot of causalities along the way. Change is and has always been about people. Businesses navigating the next workplace revolution who recognise this will develop strategies to DEAL with the people side of change. In turn they will be in a better position to transition into the new world quicker and with less damage to their greatest assets – their people.

If you want to know more about how we can help you or your team navigate change successfully contact Scott today.

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