Our current business climate is defined by constant change that feels like it’s coming at us faster than ever before, and one of the biggest challenges that leaders face is overcoming employee resistance.
In fact, employee resistance to change is so common that 70% of all change management initiatives will likely fail — but that doesn’t make the need for change any less important!
Developing a process to implement and manage change is critical, since more than two out of three companies will experience a minimum of four significant changes over the course of five years, on average.
But it’s unlikely that all employees will recognize the benefits of new systems and processes, meaning that companies who don’t implement change management initiatives carefully can risk losing top talent and see a dip in productivity.
The good news is that your organization doesn’t have to experience these challenges. By following the steps in this article you can implement change management initiatives that will make your workplaces more adaptive, inclusive, and more productive and profitable along the way.
What is Change Management?
Change management is the process of managing how employees and teams adopt and accept change within their place of work by getting buy in from the outset.
Research shows that companies with strong change management processes are six times more likely to meet their objectives, so being proactive and addressing employee concerns from the get-go is essential to implementing the change you want to see.
1. Seek feedback to generate solutions collaboratively
A key element to getting buy in from your employees is to make them part of finding the solution to the challenges the organization is facing.
One way to solicit feedback is to get everyone who is affected by the change into the same room and ask them to write down their ideas to solve the problem. After a few minutes, ask employees to share what they’ve written and capture the ideas on a whiteboard.
Once all the ideas have been shared, work as a group to prioritize solutions. Ask everyone to prioritize their top three choices, then tally up the results and choose the top five to explore as a group.
For remote and hybrid workforces, hop onto a video call together and document the ideas using screen sharing to replicate the in-person experience.
Exploring the problems and solutions as a group helps employees feel included and empowered, which increases support and reduces pushback to the proposed solutions.
By understanding how you approach change and how others approach it differently, you can lead the “charge for change” in your organization. Learn more here.
2. Enlist “champions of change” and pilot teams
Research has shown that one of the key elements to implementing change is addressing the social impact of change at work.
According to HBR, “the social aspect is what determines the presence or absence of resistance. Just as ignoring this fact is the sure way to trouble, so taking advantage of it can lead to positive results.”
Start by choosing a pilot group to test and refine the solutions. This group should include leadership and a team of high-level talent who are open to change and excited about exploring and perfecting the new initiative.
When promoting a new policy change, enlist “change champions” across the organization to explain the benefits of the change and address the concerns their team members may have.
3. Give employees tools to implement change
Addressing problems as a group and choosing “change champions” to help manage the social aspect of change isn’t enough; leaders and management need to be proactive in providing tools to manage the change and communicating about how things are going throughout the process.
This can include creating job aids, scripts, new procedures, and other materials that employees can refer back to as they start adapting to the new changes in their workday.
For example, if one of your solutions is that employees will use a checklist to review and prioritize tasks in a workflow queue, create the checklist and procedures for them in advance and make sure a “change champion” is available to answer and guide them through any questions or challenges they may have.
4. Analyze and document the process
As you move from pilot testing to wide-scale implementation, make sure to document the successes, bottlenecks, and roadblocks employees report throughout the process.
This documentation should result in a streamlined, repeatable process that is detailed enough that both new and existing employees can follow and understand.
Documenting the process also ensures that implementing the change is consistent across all areas of the business. This clarity will help employees adapt and maintain a high degree of productivity as they get used to the new process.
Gather feedback and continue to improve
Any good change management strategy is based on listening to employee needs and concerns and responding in ways that make them feel valued and heard.
Once your teams are trained on the new procedure, set regular intervals (weeks and months) to gather feedback and ask for their input on how to improve.
This continues to reinforce that your employees’ experiences are at the heart of implementing any new changes and helps them feel confident and respected, even as things change around them.
Change Management Survey Examples
Some examples of questions you can ask to solicit feedback from your employees could be:
- On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are you performing the new procedure?
- Have you experienced any negative impacts due to the new procedure? If yes, please describe them.
- Have repetitive tasks been reduced since the new procedure has been implemented?
- Have you been using [new job aid, checklist, etc.] to perform [specific task] on a regular basis? If not, why?
- Is there anything about the new procedure that needs clarification or refining? If yes, what?
- Is it easier to perform [task] since the new procedure was implemented?
Implement Your Change Management Strategy Today
A strong change management strategy is critical for your organization to stay competitive, since mismanaged change can result in stress, confusion, and a loss of talent.
By using the steps outlined above, you can avoid common mistakes and pitfalls associated with introducing new concepts and processes to your workforce.
With a strong change management strategy, you can help your organization adapt and evolve in ways that make your employees feel heard, valued, and included.
Ready to get started? Sign up for our instructor-led “Managing Change” course and learn to identify how you deal with change, how others approach change, and how you can work together to overcome challenges.