Are you in the midst of a transformation but your employees are resisting change? You’ve explained the What, Why and How of the proposed changes, yet you still feel your employees could be more engaged in making those changes happen?
While there are no miracle solutions for engaging an organization’s managers and employees, certain practices have been shown to make a difference. Here are 10 tips and tricks that I regularly recommend to my clients to get their employees on board with change. They fall into three categories: Rationale, Emotions, Action.
1. Provide context. Whether you are making an ad hoc request or looking for a major change, make sure you explain the context of your request/initiative. For example: Market plateau and decline. Request from a key customer. New technologies that threaten your market position. New competitors.
2. Describe the consequences. Take the time to explain the consequences of the status quo. For example: Loss of customers. Fewer listings. Uncompetitive lead times and prices. One of the biggest drivers of change is the realization that the cost of doing nothing is greater than the cost of embarking on a transformation.
3. Communicate a clear vision. I find that, in many organizations, there is often a consensus on the need for change. It is the solution and the strategy that are divisive. Put in place a process that starts by getting management aligned behind a clear vision for change. Then, hold workshops and meetings to ensure that all managers and employees understand and own the vision for the transformation.
4. Communicate a vision that inspires. A vision can be clear yet fail to strike an emotional chord. Formulate a vision that inspires, that gives meaning to change. “When there is meaning, sleeves get rolled up, people rise up, decisions are made and problems turn into solutions.” *
5. Reassure. How will the change affect me? How will I be supported? What’s the plan to make sure it works? These are the sorts of questions employees have when a change is announced. By addressing these questions, you can help reassure employees and lower the barriers that keep many of them from getting on board.
6. Listen. Despite your best efforts to explain the What, Why and How of the change, employees will still have many concerns and questions. Take the time to listen. I remain convinced that it is first and foremost the meaningful conversations with their leaders and colleagues that get employees engaged in a transformation. And a conversation involves listening as well as talking.
7. Communicate beyond words. What people feel when they listen to you speaks louder than any words you might say. For example, they will be more likely to retain the sense of confidence, determination, clarity, empathy, authenticity and energy you convey. Don’t forget: 75% to 100% of decisions are emotional first!
8. Involve. Put in place a set of ways to involve managers and employees in the change. For example: Free up full-time employees to lead the change. Set up a steering committee. Establish a network of change agents in each department affected. Hold meetings so that teams can find ways as a group to minimize the impacts in their department.
9. Demonstrate. If you are implementing new processes and systems, hold demonstrations of the new tools. To paraphrase comedian Yvon Deschamps, “people don’t want to know it, they want to see it!” Create opportunities for employees to experience their future tools first-hand.
10. Support. Provide various ways for employees to feel supported. For example: Hold team meetings where they can ask questions and raise concerns. Create a platform where they can give feedback and ask questions. Provide a set of online job aids. Identify points of contact, such as super-users, change agents or a call centre.
While each of these practices alone may have only a limited impact, if you use them in combination on a regular basis as your change project evolves, you will have put together a set of conditions that will directly contribute to getting your employees on board with the change.
Co-founder, Vice President and Strategic Consultant
*Dare to Transform Your Business: Seven Keys to Clarify Your Roadmap, p. 55