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Acting on your employee engagement survey results: The Change Curve

3 Dec 2015 - Blog

Acting on your employee engagement survey results: The Change Curve

The Change Curve

“On Death and Dying” by Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. © 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

So you’ve done your employee survey; it revealed significant issues and you feel you’ve been bold and ambitious as a management team to address the issues. Hang on to your hats people, things are going to change around here! So why aren’t your people responding well?

It’s easy just to think that they resist change out of sheer awkwardness and lack of vision. However, change might affect some employees negatively in a very real way that you might not have foreseen. For example, people who’ve developed expertise in (or have earned a position of respect from) the old way of doing things can see their positions severely undermined by change.

With knowledge of the Change Curve, you can plan how you’ll minimise the negative impact of the change and help people adapt more quickly to it.

Stage 1

At this stage, people may be a bit shocked. This is when reality of the change hits, even if the change has been well planned and you understand what is happening. They need time to adjust. Here, people need information, need to understand what is happening, and need to know how to get help.

This is a critical stage for communication – often but not overwhelming, they’ll only be able to take in a limited amount of information at a time. But make sure that people know where to go for more information if they need it, and ensure that you are visible to answer any questions that come up.

Stage 2

As people start to react to the change, they may start to feel concern. They may resist the change actively or passively. They may feel the need to express their concern – even anger.

For the organisation, this stage is the “danger zone.” If this stage is badly managed, the organisation may reach crisis – or at least the benefit of the change will be drastically reduced.

So this stage needs careful planning and preparation – carefully consider the impacts and objections that people may have.

Take action to minimise and mitigate the problems that people may experience. The reaction can be emotional, it is often impossible to preempt everything, so make sure that you listen (physically, or via your various comms channels) so you can respond to the unexpected.

Stage 3

Once you turn the corner to stage 3, the organisation is on the way to making a success of the changes.

Individually, as people’s acceptance grows, they’ll need to test and explore what the change means, with time, help and support if needed.

As the person managing the changes, you can lay good foundations for this stage by making sure that people are well trained, and are given early opportunities to experience what the changes will bring. Be aware that this stage is vital for learning and acceptance, and that it takes time: don’t expect people to be 100 percent productive during this time. Build in the contingency time so that people can learn and explore without too much pressure.

Stage 4

This stage is the one you have been waiting for! This is where the changes start to become second nature, and people embrace the improvements to the way they work.

As someone managing the change, you’ll finally start to see the benefits you worked so hard for. Your team or organisation starts to become productive and efficient, and the positive effects of change become apparent.

While you are busy counting the benefits, don’t forget to celebrate success! The journey may have been rocky. Certainly, it will have been at least a little uncomfortable for some people involved. But everyone deserves to share the success. What’s more, by celebrating the achievement, you establish a track record of success, which will make things easier the next time change is needed.

With thanks to for some of the original content.


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