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Implementing change can be challenging as it can be a difficult concept for some people. People naturally tend to prefer things to remain the same because it is familiar and comfortable. Introducing change can disrupt established routines and challenge people’s beliefs and habits, which can lead to resistance. This can be particularly true for workers who have been at a company for a long time. Change can feel scary and uncertain; however, it is also an important part of any successful business plan, as if the change is implemented well, it can often mean making progress, using new technology, business growth, and increased productivity overall.
What does it mean to implement change management?
Change management consists of a process to lead a team or a business from its current state into a new desired state. This could include adopting new technologies, restructuring departments, or implementing new policies. The goal of change management is to minimise any resistance, maximise the adoption of the change, and ensure the successful implementation of the desired change.
Change implementation may come in many forms. This may include small tweaks to existing processes, or large shifts in existing frameworks, or new processes entirely. It may mean new systems, software or initiatives. Whatever the change, change management will help the process to run smoothly, with minimal disruption or resistance.
Why is it important to implement change management?
Research shows that most change initiatives fail to achieve their intended outcomes and sometimes even have a negative impact on an organisation. Global Management Consultants McKinsey estimates that 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their goals, more often due to employee resistance.
Change management is important so that organisations can remain competitive and relevant. It provides a more structured approach to change, which means that organisations can achieve their goals more easily and it is a smoother process overall. It allows organisations to identify areas of improvement and make meaningful adjustments to create a better system and working environment overall. An organisation that implements adjustments effectively can adapt to changing markets and changing needs without major dips in productivity or profitability.
Change management is important for a variety of reasons, including:
- Helps to more easily adapt to external factors – this may include advancing technology, market trends or customer preferences.
- In regulated industries it is important for compliance and governance – organisations can maintain a sense of control over their operations while continuing to adhere to any legal requirements.
- Reduces resources being wasted – the more efficient the planning, the less likely it is that resources are wasted.
- Increases resilience within the organisation – by having successful change management an organisation becomes more resilient in the face of future challenges.
- Promotes employee engagement – this can also help with morale.
- Promotes sustainable growth and improvements – it encourages employees to embrace change as a natural part of the business model as it will be something they will be familiar with.
- Promotes customer satisfaction – sometimes changes can have a direct impact on customers. Changes which have been properly managed are more likely to result in positive outcomes for customers. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- It can help to align with any strategic goals – it ensures that any proposed changes align with the organisation’s strategic objectives. This alignment helps to maintain focus and consistency throughout the implementation process.
- It can help to reduce employee stress levels – employees who have recently experienced significant organisational changes are more likely to report chronic stress than those who haven’t. This can lead to poor performance and employee burnout. Demonstrating empathy and having a manager who understands the burden change places on their team members can help to prevent employee burnout and also promote company loyalty and a sense of calm during transitional periods. This includes encouraging employees to cope with their stress in healthy ways, for example practising mindfulness and yoga and taking full advantage of their annual leave.
How to implement change management in the workplace
Successfully implementing a change management process requires careful planning, time and adequate resources.
When implementing change management, the key elements usually involve:
- Appointing change leadership – having a change management team can help to guide the process, provide direction and updates, manage any resistance, and also motivate employees during the transition. You should identify a key leader and also several coordinators. You should encourage open communication and feedback from staff throughout the process. You will need to formulate a plan of exactly how you hope to bring your organisation through this transition.
- Assessment and planning – a thorough analysis of the company’s current state, what the desired outcome is and any potential challenges there may be will be a helpful starting point. This is also important to help people understand the need for change. You should think about what the primary objectives of the change are, and what benefits you expect to see from implementing the change. You should also keep in mind what the possible negative outcomes are, and how you will handle them if they do arise. During this phase, you will need to think about what your budget is, how much time you estimate it will take to implement the changes, how you will measure the success, how you will manage any resistance, what your communication plan will be, and what your training programme will consist of for both the change management team and the employees. It is vital to identify which changes will truly improve the company and which are less valuable, as making organisational change is a big task and therefore it is important not to make more work than is necessary.
- A clear communication plan – developing a clear and consistent communication plan in order to inform employees and stakeholders about the reasons for the change, what its benefits are, and the steps involved in the implementation process. Doing this will ensure that employees feel valued. You should not cut corners when communicating the change, as the top reason change management initiatives fail is due to insufficient communication. You should be fully transparent in your approach, and be as thorough as you possibly can be.
- Providing adequate training – people may resist the change because they don’t feel confident that they will be able to continue to work as well due to the proposed changes. This will likely be because they are unfamiliar with the new way of working. Providing adequate training will help in boosting their confidence and help them to feel prepared for what is to come.
- Identifying stakeholders and engaging with them – identifying all of the stakeholders who will be affected by the change and involving them throughout the process. Engaging stakeholders early on helps build support and reduces resistance. Effective communication is an important part of this process.
- Testing the proposed changes on a smaller scale – this will help you to identify any issues and make any necessary adjustments. The trial run should consist of your change management team, and a few more selected members of every team that will be affected. At the end of the testing phase, hold as many meetings as necessary in order to review every component of the change. You should evaluate what went well, what needs improvement, what the participants’ observations and thoughts are, and what, if any, concerns they have. Ensure the participants are listened to and make adjustments where needed.
- Monitoring the progress – you should continuously monitor the effects of the change throughout the process evaluating its impact on employees, stakeholders and the organisation as a whole. You could consider giving employees a continuous way to share feedback, such as through an open survey. Additionally, you could send out surveys at regular intervals in order to measure the results of the change and employee morale about the matter. Take feedback seriously and find solutions to any problems.
- Ensuring the sustainability of the change – you will need to have a long-term plan of how the changes will continue in the long term. This is an ongoing process which will require continuous planning and adaptability.
- Rolling out the change – you should plan a date for the change and build excitement about the changes within the organisation. Ensure that everyone feels like an important part of the process by having a part to play. You could consider using internal marketing as part of the process and having a launch party or event.
How to minimise conflict to change management
It is important to minimise conflict to change management by creating a more positive and supportive environment for change, and increasing the likelihood of successful change management. You should consider:
- Involving employees early – ensure that everyone is prepared and people don’t feel like they have not been part of the decision-making process.
- Involving stakeholders early – involve stakeholders from different levels of the organisation in the planning and decision-making process. When people feel their opinions are valued and heard, they are more likely to support and prioritise the change.
- Ensuring effective communication – open and transparent communication is crucial throughout the change process.
- Providing good quality training and support – this will ensure that people feel capable and confident in taking on the changes.
- Being proactive in addressing any resistance – be prepared that there is likely to be some resistance and prepare for this early on.
- Continuously monitoring the progress – this includes monitoring difficulties that may arise and addressing these promptly.
- Setting a good example as the leadership team – demonstrating that you have confidence in the change and that it is the best thing for the employees and organisation as a whole.
- Ensuring the change aligns with the organisational culture – if the change does not align with the core values of the organisation, employees, stakeholders and customers may lose faith in the organisation as a whole. Organisational culture is a collection of practices, expectations and values that inform and guide team members. When the company culture aligns with the employees, they are more likely to feel valued, supported and comfortable in the workplace. When a company prioritises culture, it means they are more prepared for difficult times, for example changes.
After implementing organisational change, it is vital to manage any resistance. People may be resistant to the change as they may feel that it will impact negatively on them. It is important to listen with empathy, understanding why people are resistant to the change. There are some important ways that resistance can be managed. These include:
- Communicating openly the reasons for the change and how it will benefit people.
- Encouraging feedback, particularly negative feedback.
- Addressing any concerns or worries that people have.
- Involving people in the decision-making process early on.
If the process is managed well, change can be an exciting time for employees and it is possible to minimise resistance.
What are the benefits of change management?
Change management can help to:
- Give a clear understanding of what the goals are.
- Keep employees engaged.
- Identify any resistance from employees or stakeholders early on.
- Reduce anxiety by eliminating the unknown.
- Promote a smoother transition.
- Promote consistency within the organisation.
- Increase adaptability potential.
- Align organisational practices with company goals and values.
- Reduce costs and expenses.
- Utilise resources more effectively.
- Reduce the risk that change can bring by ensuring that problems can be identified and solved early on in the process.
- Build consistency and efficiency in managing change as your company grows.
- Increase efficiency and productivity.
- Give employees, stakeholders and customers confidence in your organisation.
- Increase employee retention.
- Promote more long-term success.
- Improve organisational performance overall.
What are the consequences of not adopting change management in the workplace?
Managing change in business is a complex process, especially in large organisations. The consequences of not having change management in the workplace can be detrimental to both the organisation and the employees within the organisation. When the process is not implemented well, there may be some negative consequences as a result of this. These include:
- Morale and employee engagement may be affected negatively – people may feel a sense of uncertainty and unease. Generally people do not enjoy feeling like they are not involved or they have not been consulted as part of a decision-making process. Employees may become disillusioned with the company’s leadership and may lose faith in the decision-making process.
- Higher turnover rates – if people are feeling dissatisfied, they are more likely to leave. This makes the workforce unstable and will likely lead to further job dissatisfaction.
- Decreased productivity – employees may struggle to adapt to changes if this has not been managed properly.
- Resistance to change – resistance can lead to a lack of cooperation from employees if they feel confused or fearful of the changes. This will make it difficult to implement the changes properly.
- Financial losses – changes not managed correctly can mean unexpected costs or running over budget.
- Legal issues may arise – some changes may have legal implications. Failing to manage these changes properly can expose the organisation to legal or compliance issues.
- Customers may be negatively affected – if the process is not managed well, the changes may lead to disruption to the customer experience.
Harvard Business School offers their insights into the critical steps of the change management process.