5 Ways to Deal with Workplace Change

When done right, changes at work won’t cause employees to feel unsure.

BY Jillian Dabbs (MCom Industrial Psychology)
Behavioural Specialist, Workpoints

Change is probably one of the most quoted about phenomenons in today’s times and is almost always at the root of every event of any significance. When the concept itself is unpacked however, change is simply the process of something becoming different, so then why is it that this notion is often associated with negative connotations?

We have found these negative associations to be especially true when regarding workplace change. The nature of our turbulent reality leaves organisations dealing with at least one of the following; new technologies, mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, new strategies as well as cultural transformations, at any given point in time.

But that’s not all. In our experience, we have observed that any change at work, no matter how big, for example restructuring departments, or small, such as changing seating arrangements, can cause employees to feel unsure. This leaves Human Resource Professionals (HRP) and the like with the challenge that managing change effectively poses. Adding to this challenge, is that we have also noticed that even positive workplace changes are often resisted by employees. To confirm this, a recent study by Towers Watson reported that at least 75% of ALL change initiatives fail, including those positive change projects.

As if managing change wasn’t hard enough, this leaves HRP and the like having to handle any new workplace initiatives with the utmost precision. We could say that Change Management has become more of an art in todays, “the only thing that is constant, is change” - Heraclitus, type of work environments.

When changes are handled well, we win - but if however, changes are handled poorly they can cost a great deal of money and cause a lot of pain.

While we can delve into the many reasons of why people are adverse to change, such as leadership influence, connected-ness to organisation, amount of communication received, personal preferences etc., the list can get rather long. So let’s instead get practical and see what some of the most influential ways in which to tackle this ‘change dragon’ are.

Visualise the change

It absolutely vital that leadership envisages the end point of the change. Why is the change required? What benefit will this have? How will their organisation function once the change is rolled out? The answers to these questions are crucial to ensure a compelling vision is created to direct the efforts of the people who are going to be changing.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

People are the most important part of any change plan. Even with the greatest vision, if this vision isn’t communicated to those who actually have to live and breathe the change, yip - you guessed it, the change initiative will fail. Typically leaders have more time to adjust to a change, they are the ones creating the vision after all. But the same time frames for adjustment are often not passed onto employees. Therefore, for a leader to ensure buy-in is obtained5, using words, deeds, new technologies to relay important messages, within a long enough time frame, are essential.

Getting things going

To make sure the change rolls out effectively, it is important to break-down any barriers to the change. These may include increasing training, improving technology and establishing feedback portals.

Constant encouragement

It is also important that the people experiencing the change are informed of the project’s progress. Openly sharing success milestones will generate positivity within the team, department or organisation undergoing change.

Making the change stick

Once the change plan comes to a completion, it is essential that people continue to act in a way that is consistent with the original change vision. We want the change to stick and do to this, it needs to become a habit for people. Once this has been achieved, it will shape the organisation going forward.

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