Great leaders understand change is necessary to remain competitive. Employee resistance to change is not unusual; however if not strategically managed, such resistance can turn into a problematic situation in the workplace. Employees are comfortable with consistency because it provides security and a sense of permanency; whereas change can represent a threat. Think about a newly created department requiring additional reports or a new software system requiring increased computer knowledge. If not strategically planned, the new implementations can foster negative employee behaviors leading to an increase in employee turnover.
Studies show attitudes and behaviors of employees are a direct connection to an organization’s financial outcome. When workers are not included in the change process before the implementation begins they become resistant and withdrawn. Take a look at Google for example. Every Friday, Google holds a forum called “Thank goodness it’s Friday” (TGIF) which fosters an active conversation between employees and leadership covering various topics impacting performance. This year Google was again rated #1 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2013.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey “…when employees can safely and comfortably approach supervisors to discuss a change to workflow, the organization has the opportunity to evolve into a more efficient system. The new system is better attuned to the needs of both the employees and the employer and is, therefore, less stressful and more satisfying.”
For change to become effective, it must be paired with employee engagement and motivation. If employees are not excited, or at the very least intrigued, about the change, then it is unlikely they will have the desire to effectively perform the functions required to implement it.
When management promotes an environment accepting of feedback and suggestions, it lays the foundation for a positive change environment, which is a crucial element to receiving a return on investment (ROI). Attempting to effectively implement change without engaging employees by way of incentives, feedback or suggestions is similar to depositing a check into the bank and being handed a receipt with a zero balance. It is simply a waste of time, energy and money. When we engage our employees in the initial process of change, it allows for conversation between leadership and employees regarding the benefits of change rather than a command connected to management deadlines.
It is important to explain advantages of change which can present opportunity for career development, job security and organizational sustainability. For example, change can bring additional leadership positions, increased external visibility for the company, or offer opportunity for more of a work/life balance. The goal is to get employees excited about impending change in the workplace because if they are not enthused about the “next best thing” then surely they will not produce at the desired level of performance. I cringe every time a client tells me the reason they desire to transition from one workplace to the other is primarily due to a new company policy increasing workload while keeping the same pay (i.e. lack of incentives!).
In sum, if you want to remain competitive, you will need the support of your employees. They have to be completely sold to the vision of the company just as much as you are and they must value the outcome of the business as if it were their own. Change is inevitable; it’s the way we manage change that makes the difference.
All the best,
Mary V. Davids