Managing Change In The Workplace

Managing change in the workplace is a constant for all leaders. To remain relevant as a business you must regularly redefine your way of operating, your product/service offerings and the impact you have on your customers and broader community.

As you are leading change (big or small) see to it that these four elements are on your checklist of things to do!

When Managing Change In The Workplace ... Build A Sense of Urgency

For most people, any change is uncomfortable. Therefore, when managing change in the workplace, it is your job is to help people see that whatever they've been doing in the past can no longer take place. That neither they, nor the business, will be relevant without change.

Ignite a fire of urgency to get people willing to move out of their comfort zone and embrace the change. Let them know why the old way is no longer sustainable, by finding compelling and real evidence that people can feel, see and touch that change must happen and happen now!

For example you might point to:

  • Competitors who are now out-performing you
  • A declining market (for example who would want to be in the business of selling cds these days!),
  • Lower profit levels,
  • Overseas markets opening up,
  • Lower salary levels,

Word of caution when building urgency ... do so without frightening people and destroying your team's self-confidence and perceived ability to win. Create a belief: "We can do better!".

Don't use scare tactics and threats. These don't work and you definitely won't end up with inspired, excited engaged people whole heartedly embracing the change. Give them the facts of why the change is important, but spend much more of your focus on helping them to visualize the bright, clear tomorrow ...

Create A Clear Tomorrow

People want a clear, simple-to-understand 'promised land' to which they can travel.

It is essential that people (employees, customers and suppliers) feel connected to your business and share a vision that they can buy into. Show people how the change will contribute to their long-term development, security and enable their work experience to be engaging and energizing .

Signal to people that things will be different - without denigrating the past. Remember the glory of the golden past - but promise a brighter future. And most importantly, remember to celebrate once you're on the path to the new way.

Read more about how to get people excited about the change and the future.

When Managing Change In The Workplace .... People Are Key

Make sure you have the right people on board (behavior, skills attitudes) to deliver the tomorrow you desire and need.

The bigger the change the higher people's emotions will be. You can read more about the eight most common responses you'll need to handle along with strategies for dealing with peoples' emotions.

People need to feel that they have control and some say in their destiny. Take that away from them and you'll get resistance. Involve people in the planning and implementation of the change. With participation you open people up to the exciting possibilities contained within the change and they will become a driving force in creating the new bright future.

However, recognize that people will complain about change. It's just human nature.

Setting up the avenues through which people can raise questions, concerns and complaints is a necessary step in gaining "acceptance" and "commitment." Therefore:

  • Announce the change,
  • Give people ample time to become informed about whatever they feel they need to be informed about (particularly if they need to take action or make decisions as a result of the change or the need for the full acceptance is critical)
  • Make sure there is a mechanism in place for them to get their questions answered and make good decisions based on information they have had time to digest.

It is your job to identify whether people are complaining for the sake of complaining or whether they have valid concerns that if addressed appropriately can strengthen the change process.

If you have already considered a concern that is being raised, then an appropriate response could be 'Thanks for your input, we have considered it and here's what we found... We are going ahead with the announced change."

However if the person is raising a new issue and/or have found a problem that you hadn't recognized and one that is important, then obviously stop and consider the impact of the issue raised.

Involve People At The Right Level

All jobs and people in an organization are important, but when managing change in the workplace, some are more important than others (just like the pigs in Orwell's Animal Farm!).

As you begin a change initiative, map out the level of involvement and commitment each of the major stakeholders need to have in the change process. You then use different communication processes and strategies for these different stakeholders.

There are three levels at which people are involved in change:

  1. Aware of;
  2. Accepting of
  3. Committed to

Bacon & Eggs for Breakfast Anyone?

involvement in change

As an illustration.

Suppose, your Manufacturing Department decides to introduce a new multi-skilling initiative, within their area. This change impacts directly upon the people in the manufacturing department, therefore, they need to be "committed" to the change.

The Human Resource Dept., needs to be "accepting of" this new way of operating. For example, they may want to be involved in reviewing/shaping the compensation and performance assessment processes, that support this change initiative (to ensure they meet corporate guidelines).

Maybe no one else in the organization even needs to know about this change initiative.

Or, maybe you may want other departments, whose day-to-day work is not impacted by this change, (e.g. the Accounting department), to be "aware" of the new way of operating, so they understand why different people are interacting with them.

Or, you may want to keep them aware of the changes, in case these other departments may like to use a similar system themselves, at some point in the future.

Have Clear Expectations

People are motivated to achieve things they can see, touch and measure.

Imagine bowling and each time the ball was half-way down the lane a big screen came down and you couldn't see how many pins you knocked over. You'd soon get bored with the game and quit.

As you are managing change in the workplace it is important to:

  • Relate your measures to your strategic advantage and clearly spell out a numeric expectation for every job/process in the organization.
  • Chart a few key behaviors that indicate progress in using the new methods.
  • Post them graphically in high-visibility areas - lunch rooms, etc.

What Gets Measured and Rewarded Gets Done - Well!

In the US hair salon industry, John McCormack of Visible Change, uses performance measures, bonuses and profit sharing to motivate team members.

To encourage excellent customer service McCormack expects his stylists to build a 'request-by-name' clientele. When requested by name the stylist receives an extra 10% commission. When that happens 50% of the time the bonus increases an additional 10%.

Finally, when a stylist is requested by name 75% of the time, the bonus kicks up another 10%. Once the particular hairstylist is among the top 50 requested in the chain he pays another super-bonus.

McCormack's operations outperform the industry in almost every measure and his hair stylists earn three times the industry average

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