Change in an organization is often thought of in terms of the outcomes—new software will increase productivity, shifting to a customer centric culture will help increase profits, and so on—but this doesn’t always consider the people involved in making the change. The truth is, people are naturally averse to changes—even small ones. Understanding this and creating a strategy that is people centric is critical for successful change management. Here are four ways to help your organization take a people centric approach to change.
1. Train your leaders.
The earlier leadership can get training on the essential skills required for successful change management, the better change leaders they will be for their employees. Training should be people centric so leaders have the tools they need to confidently lead their teams through the transition.
This includes skills such as:
Uniting people around a central vision
Communicating as clearly as possible
Soliciting and acting on feedback
Motivating and inspiring employees throughout the change
Remember that leadership training must go beyond the categories of business, finance, and human resources. It must also include learning and honing the skills that enable leadership to connect with and motivate the people around them.
2. Create a roadmap for the change.
People like to know what lies ahead, especially when the future includes change. Create a roadmap that has a clear beginning, end, and milestones along the path. Share this roadmap and refer to it throughout the change process so employees can use it as a point of reference when setting expectations.
Change in an organization often takes time, and this requires stamina. Fuel the fire by celebrating when milestones are achieved to give employees something to look forward to when the next one is reached.
3. Communicate early and frequently with employees.
The roadmap helps you set the stage for change and lets people know what they can expect along the way, but only if you are able to communicate the plan effectively. One challenge that can cause trouble during times of change is when people feel they are in the dark about why things are happening. To help eliminate this fear, use clear, frequent, and appropriate communication to keep people informed about the benefits and progress of the change. A single email or announcement is not enough to prepare people for change; you must communicate through multiple channels and continue to share information over time.
When people know what is coming down the road, they can mentally prepare for it and won’t be surprised or upset when it happens. They may even be excited for it if they have all the information they need to feel prepared and included in the change.
4. Anticipate the reactions of employees.
Organizational change inevitably comes with some resistance, even if it seems unfounded. Whether people are afraid of the change itself or dreading the chaos that surrounds it, it’s important for leaders to understand and anticipate this natural human reaction.
Once the change is announced, take the time to address any concerns employees may have, explain why it’s necessary, and talk more about how it will affect their daily work. Do this throughout the change, not just once. Leaders must address concerns and answer questions as they arise so people do not feel discouraged and disengage from the process. Moreover, if you have these discussions before employees have the opportunity to bring up their objections, they will recognize that leadership is taking their experience into account and considering how a change will affect them.
Successful change management falls squarely on the shoulders of leadership. However, change can’t happen without the participation of the people involved. The organizations that take a people centric approach to change management by training leadership, creating a clear roadmap, communicating throughout the process, and responding to concerns before they arise will have a smoother transition and see far better results.