The more important it is for your business to change, the more important it is that you have employee buy in, preferably from the get-go. But introducing change, even much-needed change, can trigger employee resistance. Here are four ways to win employee support for change, so that you can make your business better.
You want to make your business better, bigger, bolder. But first you need to overcome resistance and win employee support for change.
Countless small business owners and managers have found themselves on the losing end of the battle for change within an organization, simply because they failed to win employee support and understanding from the get-go. Even when the need for change seems obvious, and sometimes even when employees say that they understand the need, change can fail to take root.
Why do employees resist change, anyway? Oh yeah, they’re people.
There are many reasons why people resist change. Even employees who have welcomed change in the past may resist change in the future, simply because their own circumstances have changed or a bad experience has made them more wary. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you have to win employee support for change, it should be surprising when you don’t.
A recent article on Harvard Business Review’s blog (blogs.hbr.org) lists ten main reasons that people resist change:
- Changes they perceive will result in loss of control
- Change accompanied by an excess of uncertainty about what will occur as a result
- Changes that are too sudden or imposed without warning
- Change that makes things too different or too confusing
- Change that represents a failed policy or program (loss of face)
- Insecurity about their own ability to succeed under the new conditions
- The perception that they’ll have too much work, or more work, as a result of the change
- Unintended consequences – or ripple effects – when change travels beyond the initial group and begins to impact other departments, important customers, vendors and suppliers or other stakeholders
- Past resentments or held grudges
- Change that produces real “pain” (and most change produces some kind of organizational “pain” as procedures must be changed, tasks must be relearned, people must be retrained, etc. )
The larger the organizational impact and the more people that will be affected by a change, the more daunting the task of winning over employees might seem. There are so many potential factors which could result in employee resistance to change, and some may arise unforeseen. Here are four ways to overcome resistance and win employee support and buy-in.
4 Ways to Win Employee Support and Overcome Resistance to Change
1. Communicate planned change early – and often.
It’s not always possible to involve everyone in the decision making process, but it is possible to keep people informed about what you plan to do, well before you plan to do it. As change is implemented, keep people updated as to its progress and the positive effects that it is having.
Think beyond the primary area where the impact of change will occur in order to identify other departments, customers, vendors or shareholders which could also be impacted by the change and be sure that communication extends throughout the organization.
2. Create empathy for change.
Whether planned change brings benefits to you, to a specific department or group of employees, to customers, vendors, investors, etc., create empathy among the people who will be impacted most by the change by talking about how the change – which may be accompanied by some organizational “pain” – will work to improve things for others. Appeal to the generosity and philanthropic tendencies of your employees and talk about the greater good that will occur.
And conversely, practice empathy as well. As change is communicated and rolled out, acknowledge the pain that accompanies those changes by those most affected and let them know how much you appreciate their willingness to grow.
3. Identify benchmarks in the change process.
The more complex or lengthy a change process will be, the more important it is for you to break the project up by setting benchmarks. As benchmarks are attained, update employees as to the progress made and what will be the next step – and the next people impacted – by the project.
4. Provide incentives.
Offset the negatives that sometimes accompany organizational change by creating pre-determined positives, such as celebrations when benchmarks are met or offering rewards and other incentives for employees who contribute to the process, participate in updating policies and procedures, complete the training needed to move forward under the new program, etc.
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