Change Agent: A New Skill Set in Demand

by Nancy Owen, PHR

One thing is suchange blog6re: within organizations there will be change. Whether it is a simple change in process, a full-blown, company-wide strategy change, or even a merger or acquisition, odds are your organization experienced some type of change this past year.

Competition, technology and your organization’s desire to grow are just a few factors that can cause change. Truth is, if you are not making changes as external and internal factors arise, you may find that you are losing money and you could even end up closing your doors.

In most companies change starts at the top and filters down to the supervisors tasked with managing the employees. Unfortunately this level of leadership does not always have the skill set or experience required to properly manage change. This skill set is in demand today and can be a requirement when organizations are hiring or promoting from within.

change blog5Even when your front line managers have the skill set and the experience needed, implementing change will not be easy. Leading and implementing change requires time, dedication and an informed and engaged work force.

Were you aware that the majority of employees do not like change? In fact, changes to an organization have been known to cause turnover and attendance problems. The best way to overcome these issues is to have a structured and organized plan in place before making the change. Key to that plan will be strong, clear communications with your employees.

Some questions to ask yourself before you start the process are:change blog4

  • How does the change impact your employees as individual contributors and as a team or as a department?
  • Does your leadership team support the change?
  • Do you have employee buy in?
  • How do you plan to communicate the change to your employees?
  • Do your employees have the knowledge to accommodate the change? Will there be training to help them gain new skills?

Your employees’ resistance to change is no mystery. Most of us have experienced fear of the unknown. Knowing what to expect helps you prepare yourself. When change occurs, you may see reactions ranging from scared to enthusiastic; but, in the end, most people do not like change and will be nervous about it. For example, employees may be hesitant to accept the change if they feel their chain of command will be altered. It takes time to get comfortable with a team and a leader. They already have that support in place and they are not anxious to give it up.

They may also be hesitant because of past experiences with change. There is always the employee that makes it known that you had “tried that in the past and it failed”. Be sure that you give a reason why this time will be different.

change blog2Most employees know that organizational change is motivated by a desire for greater efficiency. In other words, when a company makes changes to established systems, technologies or products, employees will assume that jobs will likely be eliminated as fewer employees will be needed to do the job they had been doing. That is the biggest fear for people. Will I have a job after this change?

Lack of clear communication feeds that fear. Having a very clear communication plan and strategy is one of the most important components of change. Employees will either understand the change or be resistant to it if the change is not communicated clearly. You need to supply them with the who, what, where, when and how. You need to show them what the end result will look like and how it will affect them personally. When you have a clear and effective process in place, explaining the reasoning behind the change, your employees will most likely be fine with your plan and even enjoy participating. There is no such thing as too much communication in this case.

It does not end there. Consider the following components for properly managing change:

  1. Open your doors! Make yourself available to your employees. They may have questions or concerns and need to talk about it before they can buy into the change. Allow for open communication and solicit their feedback and input. This will reassure your employees that what they think and how they work really matters and really does make a difference to the company. An open door policy is a good way to make employees feel comfortable and appreciated.
  2. Include your employees. Employees like to be in control, especially when it comes to their own work. Employees who feel like they have some type of control will be more likely to accept the change. Include them in as much of the planning as you can. If you just spring it on them they will most likely check out.
  3. Train your employees. It is especially important that your employees understand you do not expect them to know how to process the change without guidance. At times change requires different skills and employees know that. They may fear that they do not have the experience or skills that will be required to keep their jobs. Make sure you offer the training needed.
  4. Reward your employees. They want to know what’s in it for them. Will their workload change and will they be compensated for it?

change4When you manage change effectively, you will be helping your employees accept the change more readily and will encourage them back into the comfort zone of “business as usual”. For you and your team this will mean less disruption and a happier ending. Just in time to make another change.

If you have questions about managing change in your organization, or any other HR issue, drop us an email at HRHelpline@eastcoastrm.com. We look forward to being of assistance.

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