No matter how big or small a change might be, you always need to be prepared for some resistance from employees. It’s easy for people to become invested and comfortable in the current order of things, so they will stick with what they know until convinced otherwise. And if you don’t pay attention to the emotions and politics of a change effort, chances are your efforts won’t go anywhere.
The best place to start is by figuring out who will specifically be affected. Most likely, that will be everyone, but some groups might be more affected than others depending on the specific change. From there, you can find the employees that will help you lead the change. And it’s important to remember that just because someone holds a manager position – although their support is important and necessary – doesn’t mean that they are your best option to help lead it.
You need to identify the people that have the skills, resources, respect, social networks and support of change to win over the hearts and minds of the larger group. An easy way to identify these people? Just by asking them. Of course, in this group of advocates, there will be some individuals who like and welcome the change and share the positive outcomes of the change with others but there will also be people who are more reserved about the change. Just because those people are a bit more reserved about the change doesn’t mean that they won’t help create confidence that it is a positive thing, so you can still rely on them for help. By getting this group of people involved right away will help you get off to the best start possible. But it’s important to remember that the group of advocates may differ depending on what the change is so it’s necessary to evaluate each time.
What would change implementation be without skeptics? It’s easy to get frustrated with the people that will stand skeptical of the change but it’s important to understand them and their feelings. Some may resist change just because they think there are flaws or better options and some may be completely against it because of how it affects them. No matter the reason for their skepticism, active listening is the most important tool as it will help you work with them and steer them away from the fearful or anxious feelings that they have. Of course, you might not be able to tell them exactly what they want to hear but you can be open and honest about the change which will hopefully help smooth the process.
After the stakeholders, advocates and skeptics are established, there will usually be a remaining group that you may need to address. The remaining individuals will sit back and examine the situation because they don’t want to move too fast and adopt too early, or some might be indifferent because the change doesn’t directly affect them. The advocates can try and help to win them over by using their broad influence to explain why the change is a good thing for the company.
To be successful, you have to take the time necessary to help people adapt to the change so it’s important to give everyone early warning. By openly communicating with your employees early on and giving them a timeline to go off of, this will stop rumors from spreading and when it comes time for implementation, the change will be more seamless. And not to mention, the advantages of the change will occur sooner with even better results.
When it comes to the actual implementation, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to roll out the change on a trial basis. By having a small group of employees try out the change, it allows any errors to get worked out and changes to be made. Then, you can slowly implement the change into your organization. After implementation is complete, it all comes down to follow-up. Assess how the change is working and if it delivered the results intended. If not, you can make any changes that are necessary and keep moving forward.