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6 Steps to Helping Your Employees Embrace Change

23 Sep 2019 - Blog

Here, we explore how to design and develop a company culture that supports change

Change management can be a difficult field to navigate for the average company. Employees can become anxious and resistant during times of change. Some even actively oppose new strategies. But the reality is, organisational change is necessary for any business.  It can result from internal or external factors, such as emerging technologies, economic cycles, flawed processes and communication challenges. One of the most important roles of a business leader is to drive necessary change and get employees excited, to ensure employee buy-in and commitment.

Here, we explore six key strategies you can employ to ensure your change effort goes smoothly. These strategies can also help you design and develop a company culture that supports ongoing change. So, when change happens, it isn’t so jarring — it might even be exciting.

Companies in the financial sector have undergone huge transformational change recently — read our report on how financial industry leaders succeeded through organisational change

1. With Every Change, Explain the “Why” — Value Transparency

If transparency or authenticity aren’t company values, now is the time to begin to embrace them and exemplify them with every decision you make. When senior management is clear and honest about the change process, employees are inevitably more comfortable, stable and secure navigating change.

Throughout the change initiative, take the time to schedule in meetings with employees to openly discuss the change process. Allow employees the time to ask all the questions they need. You should also take this opportunity to be clear on exactly what is happening and — importantly — why.

According to one source, transparent and open sharing of information is critical for creating certainty. The same source points out that when employees are out of the loop, they trust their managers and coworkers less, feel less loyalty toward the company and are less motivated to perform. This is because our brains interpret ambiguity as threatening. We also perceive it as a social rejection, making employees feel like strangers in their own company.

There is no reason not to keep employees in the loop — whether the change is major or minor. Discuss what the change is about, why it’s essential and what the outcomes will be. You should also keep the dialogue positive. If the rhetoric surrounding the change initiative is exciting, employees are more likely to be excited themselves.

2. Use Employee Feedback as a Springboard for Change

Employees will feel more excited about change if they have a say in it and it stems from what they want and what they have requested. To prevent employees from seeing an initiative as “change for the sake of change”, take the time to highlight where the change originated. If it is the result of employee feedback, employees will feel involved —and more inclined to share their input in future.

Effective organisational change can result from employee feedback — your employees are a goldmine of information. Don’t just ask for feedback once a year. Make sure the exchange of information is frequent and let your employees know their opinions are always welcome. Your reassurance will create a positive cycle of feedback, review, change, implementation and further feedback. Remember, feedback throughout the change is important — you need to know how your employees are adjusting and how you can help them through.

There are several listening strategies (or listening mechanisms) you can employ at your company to ensure you are listening in the right way.

3. Use Your Emotional Intelligence

It’s not all about IQ. Sometimes, in leadership, it’s more about emotional intelligence. Business leaders need to show they are human and understand change is difficult. Change can be scary for many people. Supportive and understanding leadership can make a huge difference in this area. Senior leaders and line managers need to demonstrate compassion and empathy to guide their team through obstacles and change.

Emotional intelligence contributes to effective change management in several important ways. Far from being a “soft skill”, it’s a real necessity in the modern working environment.

4. Mould Your Company Culture by Rewarding Acceptance

Some employees will be slow to adapt to change, while others will be more proactive and accepting. To develop a company culture that embraces change, start by rewarding acceptance. Publically reward employees who show they embrace change, have a good attitude and who are trying to make the transition easier for other employees. This move will help to limit resistance — to not only this change but the changes to come — while reinforcing the idea that change can represent positive opportunities.

5. Connect Employees with a Deeper Sense of Purpose — Don’t Make It All about the Bottom Line

In his TED talk, Jim Hemerling discusses the fact people usually approach self-transformation with excitement. People talk positively about making personal changes and they are driven to accomplish them. So why is it so different in an organisation?

Jim suggests that business leaders should take the focus away from financial goals to make change motivating and energising to employees. Instead, they should attempt to connect with a deeper sense of purpose. Your employees should already be well aware of your company’s purpose. So take the time to show your employees how this change will further that purpose while complementing your organisational values.

6. Overcome Resistance to Change by Emphasising What’ll Remain Unchanged

To help your team members embrace new change programmes, you should emphasise what will remain the same. People have evolved to favour familiarity — this is something we can’t avoid entirely. According to a recent study published in the Academy of Management Journal, a root cause of resistance to change is the fact employees identify (and care for) their organisations. They don’t want them to change so radically that they become unidentifiable — and so somewhere they are no longer comfortable working.

For this reason, organisations should emphasise what will never change. Determine what is central to your organisation — your purpose and what you stand for — and make it clear this is unalterable. This will give your employees a sense of security and stability during times of change, and help them embrace smaller changes that won’t impact their company at a fundamental level.

Are you looking to measure and develop an effective employee engagement strategy? Get in touch with us today to see how our employee surveys and consultancy services can help.

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