Is there a magic formula for helping employees through change?


Just like change in your own personal life is not always easy, change within an organisation is not either as organisations house multi-faceted and unique people – your employees. These employees have their own views on how things should be done, and often think they know what is best for the organisation. There is certainly no magic formula for getting them to change at the same time, in the same way, to meet the same objective! However, you can be more successful with supporting them through change and achieving quick wins for your organisation.

Make the case for change well understood

If your employees do not see the reason for the change, and how it can benefit them, it is going to be difficult to get them on board because not only do you need to be able to explain the benefits of the change from an organisational perspective, but you also need to tap into their hearts and minds so they can understand “what’s in it for them”.

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes

Employees resist change for all sorts of reasons and many of these reasons are fear based. Examples of these are:

‘Is my job secure?’

  • ‘What is the hidden agenda behind all of this?’
  • ‘Will this system make my job redundant?’

The best way to help employees overcome these fears is to address these head on and be as transparent and honest as possible. This will assist you to gain credibility in their eyes and make them trust you.

Sincerity is key. Make sure that you keep whatever promises you make, e.g. “No jobs will be lost through this process”.

Define the ‘house on the hill’

What will the end of this journey look like? What will have changed? How will we be different and better through this process? How do we know that we have completed the journey? If your employees do not know what they are aiming for, this journey could be long and treacherous. Explain clearly what the end-state associated with the change looks like.

Share the timing and milestones associated with the change

Just like we need a map to take us to new places, employees need something they can align with to help them stay on course. They need to have an equivalent roadmap for getting there. A milestone-based approach which highlights key events and milestones lets your employees understand the timing associated with the change.

Explain what tools and resources will be available to help

At all times, be as supportive as possible during the change process:

  • If you will need to train your employees, and you will make training available, let them know this. They may have very real fears about how they will acquire the new skills.
  • If you have change ambassadors in place across your business, explain their role to your employees in supporting the overall change process.
  • If employee counselling is available through an employee assistance programme, then let your employees know this. Share all communication channels which you will use throughout the journey, and explain how your employees can access these channels.

Be visible and talk often

You can never be too visible or engaging! Use every opportunity to discuss the change journey with your employees. Even if it seems you are repeating the same message, people respond well to reinforcement. Look for opportunities to get feedback from your employees on how they are experiencing the journey so that you can adapt and modify your approach if necessary.

Celebrate quick wins and victories

When you have met important milestones, celebrate these victories. If your employees enjoy a braai on a Friday afternoon then do that! If they prefer movie tickets for them and their spouses then provide those! The celebration does not need to be costly or extravagant. It is a way of saying ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’ to your employees for their efforts.

Keep yourself in check

As the manager directly responsible for implementing the change with your employees, take good care of yourself through this process. It may feel very lonely at times when it seems your employees are all against you. Use your own personal resources to ensure that your emotional needs and energy reserves are kept topped up at all times.

However, armed with the above tips and guidance, we believe that helping your employees through the change process (and in so doing creating organisational change) will be a much more effective and rewarding process for you. Be clear on your objectives from the outset and stay focused on what it is you are trying to do at all time. When the going gets tough (which it will), pull out this article and read it again!

By Alice van den Berg

This article first appeared on HR Pulse.

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