So your company is staring down 2019, and whether you are rapidly growing or struggling, the need to address change in this new year is inevitable. What is your plan to address change? Will your current employees be ready for the change? What are your measurement plans to ensure that change is a success or happening at all? All of these questions are important to think through, so let’s get ready for change now!
Vistage Research Center recently published an article focused on ways CEOs can lead transformational change. There are great points throughout the article. Author and Human Factor CEO Holly Green does a great job of laying the groundwork for planning your next big change initiative. It’s well worth a read.
What really stood out for CPL in the article is making sure that employees are ready for change. This is a common theme that we’ve seen from change initiatives that have thrived — as well as those that failed. Too often, leaders of an organization identify change, determine key structure changes that need to happen to address the change, but then leave managers beneath them with the task of figuring out the fine details of change and communicating with rank and file employees. In this scenario, change languishes and leaders become frustrated that results are not happening soon enough.
To really make change stick, leaders need to recognize that there are five key things to consider, plan for and communicate to keep employees energized and on track.
#1 How Do the Changes Affect Me?
Individual contributor employees have specific job roles. With change at a higher level in motion, these employees need to clearly understand how their current job role fits into the change, and what they will need to do differently in the future to be successful.
#2 There’s Always (at Least a Little) Resistance to Change
Individual contributor employees (and managers to some degree) may have comfort in their current roles and be resistant to change. That resistance can be obvious or more covert, involve a single employee or several. It’s important to spot the resistance and override the natural tendency is to keep doing things “business as usual” by showing them distinctly how a new way of doing things works and can benefit them, and the company. Being the cheerleader for the change, and explaining why you’re for it can help get everyone on board.
“We’re in trouble” change… happens when companies have a “don’t rock the boat” culture as opposed to one that purposefully looks for new opportunities. It also leads to an interesting phenomenon: people tend to be more resistant to change when things are going well.”-- Holly Green
#3 An Employees Current Role May Go Away
Some employees roles may not be needed with the new change. This can be a scary proposition. Clearly working with managers and all leaders to determine what roles might be impacted is critical, so employees can be identified for other new roles that may be needed during the change. If employees are not able to shift into new roles, it is important to proactively address this with the impacted employees so they are not left in the dark and unproductive for long periods of time.
#4 High-Level Change Goals Need to Be Translated Into Local Change Initiative
Communication of the change(s) is critical, and it needs to happen on a frequently and varied-level basis throughout the organization. It is not enough to announce a large change initiative once at the C-Level and then stop, or just provide a quarterly update throughout the year. Director- and manager-level communications that are thoughtful and planned are the key to linking the high-level change with local change. Updates on a bi-weekly or monthly basis at the department and/or team level are needed to keep employees informed on what is tactically happening and what is expected of them.
#5 Empathy Goes a Long Way
Emotionally intelligent communication is needed to recognize the fact that change is not easy. Too often employees who experience stress or workload impacts during the change can blame management/leadership for not recognizing their hardship. Frequently communicating the fact that their challenges are recognized and appreciated, and that change is sometimes hard, but necessary to help all employees be more successful in the future, helps with motivation when times are tough.
As you can see by the five items above, tackling a change initiative is not a one and done quick hit. Those companies that take the time to think through the employee needs and impact will be better suited for change success. Our advice to all of you is to thoroughly think through your changes for 2019 (because change is always coming) and apply smart steps so leaders and employees can both be part of the solution — not part of the problem.
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