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7 Ways to engage employees in change management

Over the past couple of days, I have spoken to a number of organisations struggling to get their employees on board with changes happening around them.

Culture expert, Dr John Kotter, stated in an interview that 80% of all organisational change efforts fail. One reason for this is that executives simply do not get enough buy-in for their ideas and initiatives. You can increase the odds of success if you take the time to engage employees in the change management program.

If you are in the process of moving forward with organisational or any other change initiatives, you will have some employees embracing the shift and others not. Below, are the type of employees you will need to win over:

  • the cynical employees who have seen change initiatives failing in the past
  • the negative employees who are doomsayers
  • the “I told you so” employees
  • the ” I hate change” employees
  • the ” does it mean more work” employees who are already feeling overwhelmed
  • the “last minute” employees

7 strategies you can follow to ensure your staff feel more secure throughout the transition:

1) Lead by example:

If you cant “walk your talk”, your employees will think “why should I make these extra efforts if the people managing the organisation aren’t bothered?” Any change initiative will require a team effort. Management should be fostering trust through actively participating in the change process.

2) Solicit Buy-In Prior to launch:

Major decisions should not be made in private, executive meetings. As you begin to make plans, consider holding focus groups, soliciting employee opinion or taking surveys. When employees are given the chance to give input prior to the decision, they will be more receptive to change.

3) Communicate consistently:

It is very likely that there will be confusion during a change process. Employees may even feel disoriented as your organisation lets go of old processes and procedures. Think of your organisation as a sailboat, and you are changing course. When you turn your boat, the sails often flap as they adjust to the shifting winds. As a captain, you need to keep your crew from panicking and reassure them you’re heading in the right direction.

4) Remind and reinforce: 

Any change requires time and effort and as William Bridges writes in his book, Managing Transition, employees will need to go through a psychological transition. He states ” when a change happens without people going through a transition, it is just a rearrangement of the chairs. This is what people mean when they say, ‘Just because everything has changed, don’t think that anything is different around here.”

5) Invite employee feedback:

When you give an employee an outlet for their concerns, they have a pro-active way to express themselves, rather than complaining behind closed doors and gossiping in the corridors. They will also feel that they have a voice and are a valued part of the change initiative.

6) Establish accountability:

If you do not reinforce following new procedures and methods, employees may be tempted to slip into old patterns of doing things. Remember that people are creatures of habit as habits make up 40% of our daily activities.

7) Measure and celebrate progress:

It’s easy to feel like you’re not making progress or that you may never make it to the finish line. So in order to prevent that, establish key metrics and let your team know what the goals are. Keep your employees informed of the progress and celebrate incremental successes along the way

Tacking a change initiative can be daunting but keep the focus on the purpose of the change and the end result. You can even make the process fun by giving it a theme. Just because a project is hard work – doesn’t mean it cant be enjoyable.

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