FORBES: How To Prepare Your Team When Change Is In The Air
Monday, July 10, 2017
How To Prepare Your Team When Change Is In The Air
Post written by: Lisa Whealon
Lisa Whealon is chief people officer of GL group, a St. Louis-based provider of literature and education materials.
Nothing in business or in life grows or advances without change. In business, change is actually a necessity. Yet so many professionals involved with enacting change take it on with fear and whispers in the hallway. If we can admit that change is needed to move forward, why is it still so challenging to accept when change is upon us?
Like anything in life, how we react to things sets a tone. While we may think we view change positively, in most cases, it takes internal dialog to make it stick. How then, can companies and leaders enact change properly when we know going in that people are fearful of it, no matter the situation?
There are some people out there who truly love change. They thrive in situations where change is happening. However, these folks are few and far between. Leaders who go into a change initiative thinking that most employees will be happy aren't being realistic. So how do you help alleviate employees’ fear of change?
Communication is key.
Some leaders choose to ignore how others feel and commit to an employee communication plan that parcels out information and reasons for the change. They expect this to be the saving grace. While a stellar communication plan is key to any change initiative, what is being communicated often times isn’t as important as how and where it is communicated. Simply dishing out information does not acknowledge the fear, hesitation, or uncertainty employees might be having. If you’re truly committed to having a culture of trust with employees, your communication plan for change initiatives must address those who will be most uncomfortable with the change.
You should look at any change and think, what will the most negative person in our organization say to this change and how will they react? By being aware immediately of any potential negativity that could be associated with a change initiative, you can adequately prepare for questions and holes within your plan. Then you can enact different ways to communicate the plan or include additional team members as part of the early adopters.
Involve employees from the beginning.
If you know there is a certain team that is uncomfortable with a change and they have voiced concerns in the past, implement ways to include them from the beginning. Invite one of their informal leaders to sit in on the employee committee that activates this change, or take a few employees to lunch to gain understanding and feedback about what they think could be beneficial. By simply including those who may initially reject the change early on, they are more likely to be supportive and feel a part of it.
In most cases, change is scary for others because they didn’t know it was coming. As leaders, we know that certain information needs to remain confidential, and sometimes, there are details that we simply cannot share. But it is possible to talk about some upcoming changes. Surely there is something small you could share with your team or employees to help gain their buy-in and build a bridge so when a big change comes, they don't feel it has happened all at once.
In summation, here are best practices to consider when thinking about change:
- Not everyone loves it, and while many will act like they’re on board, they will have doubts. As a leader, it is in how and when we communicate that will help alleviate any concerns about the proposed plans.
- Think of the group that might have the most challenge in adapting the new change, and make them early adopters. By allowing them in early on, they will have time to work through any fears and hopefully help diminish concerns of their peers.
- Communicate something small early on so that others can brace themselves for the bigger change. You do not need to share every detail yet, but give some warning of a change by announcing a small detail.
- Most importantly, explain the "why" behind the change in many different formats. Simply having a conversation doesn’t do it. We all learn and hear information in different ways. Build this into your communication plan. Talk about it so much that you are tired of talking about it! That is really the only way to make change stick. Then, follow up to show your dedication to the plan.
Leaders know that change is necessary for a business to grow, but successful change also depends on happy and engaged employees. Making an effort to help employees through a change will help them see the benefits and get on board. As Winston Churchill said, “There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction.”