Steering Effective Change

Hello and thank you for joining us for our webinar, Steering Effective Change. My name is Lisa Brock, and I am the Human Resources Business Partner for Tandem HR.

After learning of a change in the workplace, a few employees had these reactions,

“This doesn’t make sense. Why are we doing this?”

“That’s not what we’ve done in the past.”

“That won’t work.”



So, do any of these reactions sound familiar to you? With the last few years and all of the organizations having to make mandated changes, not to mention just the regular organization changes they’re trying to make; I am sure that you’ve heard some of these reactions. When making changes in the workplace, employee’s reactions can make it difficult to implement changes. Some of the employee’s welcome change while others are really unhappy when change occurs. The unhappy employees are the ones that leaders typically spend the most time with. They’re really there helping them adjust which takes a lot of the leader’s time.

Today I’m going to walk through how to push change in your workplace by initiating the change effectively. We’re going to do this by providing information on how to get employees on board with change and steps to sustaining change for the long term.

We know from various statistics that 70 to 75% of change initiatives are not successful. Organizations make changes for a variety of reasons and mostly it’s to better the organization. It’s also to improve on the employee’s job task. So, the question is, if a change makes the employees job task easier or more efficient, why would so many people be resistant to change? Great question! Well, initiatives fail not because of what leaders do, but how they do it, how it’s done. Meaning, instead of pushing people towards making those changes, leaders and organizations really need to engage them during the process of implementing change.

Let’s talk a little about understanding change. When a change occurs, a set of natural emotions within an employee will happen. While most employees will be resistant and defy the change in the beginning, some may not. They might be very accepting of the change. However, it’s those that are resisting and having a hard time with change that leaders typically spend more time with, so therefore, we really need to get them to the accepting stage. That way, they’ll be less likely that the change initiative will fail. Here, when an employee is resistant, they tend to really be negative or not really get on board with completing the process, being involved with the process, and really taking that commitment to the next stage. Now, over time, they might move to the disregarding stage, which at this point, they are still not committed to the change. They more or less ignore things that are happening around them or they’ll just observe the change by watching their peers and might not necessarily be involved with it. Again, being in these two steps really slows the process down and we really want to make sure that employees are quickly moving through this stage to be more accepting and that way the change initiatives will move forward and be implemented quicker. The quicker the change is implemented, remember, the more likely that it will be sustainable. So, once an employee moves through the stage, they really start to accommodate and deal with the stage, but still are unsure if the change will work. And that’s okay, but we still need them to move through the process. Then, finally, at the end they will embrace the change and begin to accept it.

What we understand about change is that it can be easily accepted when we initiate it ourselves. Or maybe we understand the value. Here, if they’re also able, employees are able to control or have an impact on the change. They may be involved in the process on how it’s going to look or maybe initiate the change themselves. They are very more likely to accept the change verses be resistant to it. When we resist change, it’s more because it’s forced upon us, or maybe we don’t understand the reason or see the value. So, even with a little bit of peer pressure here, other employees really see the value, they can talk to other employees about their thoughts and feelings and sometimes that might alleviate concerns the employees have and they’ll be more accepting verses resistant. Think about a time when your organization or department had to make a change and you were the employee. Think about what your first reaction to the change was. Did you accept the change or were you first resistant to it? Taking yourself back to that moment really helps provide some empathy towards the employees that you yourself are having to steer into that right direction for new changes. Also, when you think about that time, is there anything different that you would’ve done regarding the change that would’ve made you more accepting of the change? Anything you would’ve done differently? This might be the perfect opportunity to learn from that example and put it towards a better process with your own team. What we’re going to do is, we will walk through ways in which you yourself as a leader can present change that will be accepted by employees.

When we’re embracing change, this is where we really recognize the emotional barriers to change. By recognizing those barriers, it can help prepare leaders to effectively communicate to their team. Again, the quicker the team moves to embracing the change, the less likely the chain initiatives will fail. So, once in the accepting stage, we really want to sustain that momentum and excel at the change process. So, let’s talk about what steps leaders can take to help their team move from resistance to embracing change to sustain that momentum.

So, as a leader, as you’re preparing to share the change with your team, think about the challenges and questions your team may have. Think about the team members’ personalities. Who are the people that you’re addressing? Leaders know their people more often and their personalities better than most. So, be proactive and prepared to answer those questions, and maybe they’re resistant. Maybe the things that they may address will be a great start to get employees to embrace the change. Here, where you’re preparing that, keep in mind that when the rationale is shared, you really appeal to people’s logic. This creates less confusion and rumors regarding the change or business strategy. So, for example, a leader can say, “The reason why we are implementing a new software is to remain competitive and lessen manual data.” This will benefit everyone’s workload. So here, under this statement, employees understand the logic and they really see the benefit for the change. So, when you share rationale and appeal to people’s logic, do they always think about change logically? The answer is no. They can still be negative and possibly resistant, even if they understand the change logically. However, the reason behind that is because there’s still that natural emotion attached to the change so you’re doing a little bit of both here. You have to give the reason why and also understand the emotional barriers that are going to be attached to change and try to get ahead of those proactively. This is all during the prepare stage. Then, as you’re implementing change, leaders can really use empathy when describing the change and the reasons. Another aspect of sharing is as a leader you can share your feelings and your own thoughts on the change. This is a great way to build trust with your team. So, when you share, this really builds that trust and the more trust you have the faster your team will move to accepting the change. Remember that the goal is to move staff from resistance to change to accepting change and we can do that by using empathy and trust together. Knowing your team member’s reactions or how they might react provides you with valuable clues about what to say and do. So, let’s face it. Responding to resistance of change is one of the most challenging aspects of being a leader.

Once the leader has revealed the change and the reason, the next step would be discussing reactions to the change. Here, the leader provides empathy by allowing others to share their feelings. So, what you’re really doing here when you’re discussing their reactions is, you’re providing a great environment for people to open up and being able to discuss how they feel about the change. When they do that, not only are you doing that for this particular change, but you’re setting up that change of behavior in the long-term. So, if you’re creating that environment in the long-term, it won’t be as resistant to other changes that will come down the line. Again, when you are moving your staff from resistant to change, the best way to do that is using empathy and trust and really bring them and encourage the employees to share as much as they can and ask them those questions about how they really feel about the change.

One key finding about resistance to change is that it can also be a sign of engagement that maybe the team member truly does care about what is happening in their department and in the organization. This is a more positive way of looking at the resistance to change. So, before leaders implement the change process, they really need to have discussions with their staff, so they are involved with the change. Seeking their input really provides some great ideas and thoughts from those who are involved with the procedural change. This will be very beneficial to the success of implementation by those carrying out the change that will maybe be less resistant to it. So, we’re really talking about getting them engaged at this point here. If we can really flip that resistance into getting them involved and seeking some ideas, it kind of moves them from that resistance stage to moving through the process in getting them more committed because some of their own ideas are part of the process and if we’re initiating some of those ideas, then we’re more committed to it and thus more accepting of the change. So here, for example, a leader can say, “I understand you are comfortable with the current process, and learning new things takes time. However, I would like to discuss what ideas you might have and making this process efficient because you know this process the best.” So, making a comment like that to an employee that may be resistant might be helpful in getting them to bring in their ideas and be accepting.

So, as we’ve discussed, the emotional barriers that can slow, we can also recognize that workplace can change sometimes and can make people feel like they’re losing control over their jobs or maybe how they complete their work. So, having them involved and engaged with the change process can really help regain some of that sense of control. And we know with people that accept that change, if they have more control, again, they’re more moving to accepting and committing to it. So, by engaging team members, we can help them to see new possibilities instead of trying to force them into the old ways of doing business. You want to refocus people’s passion and energy from resistance to helping successfully implement the change.

Let’s utilize what we’ve learned to work on this example. So, for example, an accounting firm must implement new software for combability with other current software enhancements. Susan, who is one of the organization’s managers, properly prepared to address her staff about the new software. So, when Susan met with her team to describe the new software and why the organization decided to use it, this was one of Susan’s employees, Mark, who had this to say about the change. “I’ve worked here for 8 years and we have always used this system. It works fine and I don’t see why we should fix something that is not broken?” So here, what can Susan say to this employee regarding their resistance? I mean here we can hear Mark is resistant because he is comfortable with what he has. So, there is an emotion attached that he has to learn something new and maybe he doesn’t have the confidence in learning something or he’s worried that it’s going to affect how he does his job and maybe not so well. So here, Susan says, “Mark, you are correct that the system is not broken. However, with the slow uploads you encounter, the new system will be much faster, reducing the time to complete the uploads and more time back in your day.” So here, you really see Susan try to address that emotional barrier that Mark has and also build up his confidence a little bit. And the fact that it’s going to make the system much faster; therefore, making his job much easier. So, there’s more value that he is going to get out of the system compared to what he’s currently working with. So, that might get him a little excited about learning the new system and therefore, less resistant to it. So, when Susan prepared these remarks, knowing Mark, she might’ve already knew he might be resistant to it based on his personality. So, if you can write down some of those notes when preparing your discussions, this might be helpful so you’re ready to quickly react on the spot and answer them. Again, moving Mark from the resistant stage to the accepting stage a lot quicker will move the process along, therefore, more likely to be successful in addressing this new change. So, when having this conversation with their team, Susan had another employee, and this is the comment that she made. “I know the current software pretty well and I’m not sure the new software will be a good fit for us.” So, we’ve heard this comment before from other employees. So, what can Susan say to this employee regarding their hesitancy? Well, in preparing, Susan had this remark to say to Tammy. “Tammy, you are great with our current system and one of our subject matter experts. I would like to hear your ideas on how we can implement the new software successfully.” So here, Susan is addressing Tammy in a way of moving that resistance and maybe she’s accepting but still not quite committed to it in the middle of the stage where she wants to move her to accepting and by doing this is by really building up her confidence and saying, “Hey, you’re one of our subject matter experts. You would be perfect to provide some ideas.” And getting Tammy involved with the change, again, will drive her excitement towards the new software and more likely to help ensure the change to the new software is successful by working with her team members, working with Susan, and being on the front line and saying this is what we should see or this is what we would like to see or maybe this is a new process that we can enhance and having those thoughts and ideas from your team members who are utilizing the system will really make sure that the new software is successful and everybody else is successful as well. These are just a few examples where leaders can listen to the employee’s concerns. This is where we’re listening to emotions to change and then address them so that we can move them to the accepting the change stage. One example by how the change will benefit them and the other team is by getting involved in the change. So, like I said in regard to Tammy, the more involved Susan can get her team members, the quicker they can move to that final stage.

So, we’re going to talk a little bit about sustaining change and what does that look like. How do we continue to sustain that as we’re in the accepting stage? So, the steps in change are not always sequential. You may need to revisit the reason for the change again as you’re moving through the process. So, for example, if you have an employee who’s accepting of change at first and now, they’re in the middle of learning that new software, well, now they’re getting frustrated, and you can kind of remind them of the logic and engage them in what they have control over. For example, if you have someone that’s really excited like Tammy who is in the middle of the software change and implementing it and they’re having some issues or some hiccups, and now she’s wondering, “Oh maybe I was right. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.” This is a time to evaluate that. So, you want to go back to Tammy and remind her again of why we are moving to this new software. What is the value of it? And then also, a good time to evaluate what the issue is regarding the process. What is something that we’re missing? What kind of support or help can we give Tammy in the middle of the change to make this successful? You can also ask them, what do they need from their peers to help? Because sometimes, us as leaders, we don’t always have all the answers. So, the people on the front line might have some better ideas. So, this would be a perfect time to really work as a team and have other peers join in to give each other feedback and help each other out. Another thing a leader can do is, we understand that some employees catch on a lot quicker than others. Now, we all have different strengths and weaknesses. So, as a leader understanding how your people work can help you evaluate or reevaluate the workload for certain individuals on your team that are at a different learning pace. So, by doing this, and working with your team and checking in with them, again, continues to help build trust with you and your team members. They see your involvement and they also see that you care that they’re being successful in this process. So, again, this, in its entire package, will help make sure that this process is successful and therefore your team and you are successful. Part of sustaining a change is going back to embracing the reactions and embracing that regain of control. Make sure you do not allow employees to get complaisant and revert back to those old ways. Again, doing those check-ins will make sure that you’re getting all your employees to move forward versus staying in the observing or ignoring stage and watching their peers move forward while they revert back to the old ways. Another way of doing that is always reward employees for adapting to changes and that also can help with changing that behavior and encouraging change. Sometimes, rewarding employees a certain way really gets them excited and helps them move forward. The long term of it is, sometimes when rewarding is changing that behavior in the long term so that when another change comes, they’re more accepting of it quicker and you’re again creating that environment of an organization that’s everchanging because all organizations are always changing. Whether it’s software or technology, there could be mergers or acquisitions, different structures, so we really want to create an environment of change so that way, any change that comes down the line is more successful. If leaders can really provide an environment that allows people to embrace new ways of thinking and tie that together with the power of change in the workplace, it will do wonders.

To summarize the process, we’re going to go a little back again so we can understand the entire package of sustaining the change. So, in the beginning, you want to prepare to communicate to the staff by opening up about what is changing and why. Again, this is the proactive stage. This is where leaders really want to home in on, what are the personalities of the leaders, what can they say to describe the benefits of the changes, and along with why the changes are occurring, and also, start preparing the questions they can ask their team in regards to those thoughts and ideas that they might have. Then you really want to clarify during that process of explaining the change to the team or person. You want to make sure you use empathy and here we are going to allow employees to share their feelings and also share your thoughts and feelings. Again, don’t forget about that part of sharing your own thoughts and feelings. That’s such an important part of building trust. Then you’re going to make sure to seek ideas and thoughts on the change process. This is where we’re going to engage the team and give them a sense of control over the changes. And then finally we’re going to implement the change with consistent support and evaluation to see the change through so you’re going to do the evaluation during the change and then after. The evaluation part is very important at the very end to really keep that momentum going to move the change through.

So, let’s review what we’ve learned today. What we’ve learned is that implementing change, we must understand that change in itself, everything wrapped up into change, we need to understand the natural emotions within employees that it comes with. When we can prepare for those natural emotions and we understand change, it really helps us accelerate to the accepting stage. Why using empathy and building that trust with the team members so that in the future again, they’re more likely to move to accepting change and be way less resistant to things because they have trust with you. Also, as we are creating that environment, we’re creating an atmosphere to embrace change by really getting them engaged and involved. To sustain the change, remember to revisit the reason for the change again as you’re moving through the process or revisit the involvement. Revisiting the involvement again continues to keep them engaged as they’re moving through and accepting. And also, making adjustments to the process if something may not work or something might fall through the cracks. So, we want to make sure that not only they are accepting of the change but the change itself is successful. So, be sure to evaluate during and after the change has occurred. So, 70% of change is usually not successful, but if we put into practice the concepts that I have shared today, there’s a much better chance of being in the 30% that are. I really hope that some of these concepts that we’ve gone over today will help you as a leader and help your organization be successful through these stages. I want to thank you for joining me for Steering Effective Change. I hope you found this webinar very helpful and will utilize these tools for any upcoming changes your organization will have. Thank you again for joining me.


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