Over the next three weeks, we’ll be launching a series on successful change management in the workplace. Stay tuned for Parts 2 + 3, and at the end, we’ll provide a link to download the complete whitepaper.
CHANGE. Ready or not, here it comes. Though typically easier said than done, change is essential in any business that intends to remain in business.
While change, itself, isn’t particularly scary, the adaptation process that accompanies it can make the strongest leaders weak in the knees. It’s frustrating to swim away from the shore into unfamiliar territory, and there’s certainly risk involved — what if we do all this work and it turns out to be a bust?
In this series, we’ll lay out a three-step formula for successfully managing change in terms of implementing new software, driving adoption among your teams, and maximizing your ROI.
Avoid the trap of launching new technology that will improve your business…only to nix it a few months later. Instead, guide your team into the future with confidence and ease.
Good Grief: What to Expect at Every Stage of Change
It sounds dramatic, but the same grieving process we go through in our personal lives shows up in our places of work as we experience significant changes there as well. And just the same, there are strategic ways of working through those stages and mitigating them to achieve optimal adoption and success with your new technology.
You can expect to encounter denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and thankfully, at last, acceptance. Let’s dive into each of these problems and their solutions, so you’re able to recognize and swiftly push through them.
Problem: Employees are comfortable with what they know and what’s always worked, so they see no need to shake things up. Once you start including them in conversations around a coming change (which you should!), you’ll most likely encounter denial in the form of defending traditional processes. Even if they acknowledge certain procedures could be improved, those in denial won’t believe that’s possible without sacrificing on current efficiencies.
Solution: Acknowledge and account for your employees’ experiences. Value their input and ensure that it will be thoughtfully considered when making these types of decisions since, after all, they’re ultimately the ones most affected by them. Give them the full picture behind why a change is being made, and remind them that new practices are being implemented for the sake of improving internal efficiency and service to customers.
Problem: Anger will show its face when employees realize that change is coming for them, whether they’re ready and willing — or not. Keep in mind that this is just a secondary emotion, the result of something that’s deeper and more complex. Where they’ve always been confident in their work, they now find themselves feeling out of their element and a little insecure.
Solution: Transparency and reassurance at this stage is key. Red Hat’s Change Management Consultant, Kate Reno, explains “The anger and grief happens less when you’re extremely transparent about what’s happening and why it’s happening. Solicit feedback along the way.” Facilitate open discussions where employees can voice their challenges, concerns, and any anxieties they’re feeling. Make sure they know you don’t expect instant ease with these changes and that it’s a learning process for you as well.
Problem: Stemming from this insecurity and frustration, employees will naturally seek ways to avoid and work around the new processes. They may even appear to be adapting to the change, while managing to still hang on to their old habits.
Solution: Be mindful and understanding when this happens — and more than likely, it will. Change takes time, and it’s much easier for employees to adapt when they can tackle it in stages. However, if the only option is for big change to happen all at once, response accordingly. Accept that workarounds will occur, and be sure to clearly demonstrate how former processes translate within the new structure.
Problem: By now, employees realize that change is here to stay, and they’re probably feeling a bit out of sorts. Positions in which these folks once excelled suddenly have them feeling totally out of their comfort zone, and less confident in their abilities.
Solution: Be sure to recognize your employees for their effort and the wins they see along the way. Mitigate feelings of helplessness, and re-instill confidence by providing the resources they need (more on that later) and communicate how their skills apply within the new structure.
This one’s no problem at all! Employees have now become confident enough to recognize the true potential of the new system. They accept the changes, release their resistance, and begin to thrive in a different, but more effective, process.
And now that they’re bought in, they’ll value the personal benefit these changes have for them the more they commit. Take advantage of this momentum by providing ample opportunity for L&D and capitalizing on the team’s energy and enthusiasm.
Throughout all these stages, never lose sight of your role in this transition. As a leader in your business, every person involved will rely on you for guidance every step of the way. Stay in tune with your team’s challenges, triumphs, and feedback during transitions, and you’re on the right path to optimization.
When it gets tough, and everyone wants things back to the old way, it’s on you to reunite them. How can you be sure you can do that? Have. A. Plan.
Catch you next week…