© 2015 PDI Solutions (Trading as Kathleen J Miles)

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  • Kathy Miles

Managing Change Effectively


They say that change is as good as a holiday, but just the thought of change puts fear into many an employee and manager.

I have lost track of the number of times that a manager has said "you can't change people" or "it's really not a good time for changes right now". What they really mean is "what if I struggle with the new way of doing things?" or "everything works fine as it is, why change?" or "they are just trying to make life difficult for me."

Some employees actively resist change whilst others pretend that it's not happening or put it off as long as they possibly can. In most of these cases the negative connotations associated with change are more than likely from bad experiences in the past or due to the employee's personality types. People who are process-orientated, structured, steady or, habitual tend to find change unnerving.

Symptoms of resistance to change can include such drastic responses as absenteeism, turnover, conflict, reduced effort or worse. Ultimately the consequences can be as high as reduced morale, negative workplace culture, lower productivity, stress or even injury in the workplace.

In reality most people actually like change. What they resist are the methods in which managers and organisations put the changes into effect. Let's call this change communication and action.

Change is really about problem solving. It is about identifying something that requires attention and embarking on a course of action that will bring about a positive change in the situation. Ultimately change itself should be a positive occurrence, particularly in the workplace. Change is essential and inevitable to ensure that an organisation is continually moving forward - reaching goals, keeping up with competitors and improving finances and profits. Change means that the organisation doesn't have a chance to become stagnant and, that it continues to grow and develop.

Any business not implementing the continual changes required to meet environmental, marketplace and organisational needs is not going to last for very long. If you think about a business that is losing money consistently, they need to make changes. If they just bury their heads in the sand and pretend it's not happening, then they will continue to lose more money every month, every year, until the business shuts down. On the other hand, if they make changes to their offerings, their expenditure, their marketing and their processes then the business has an opportunity to turn things around for the positive.

I have worked in some pretty large organisations in both Australia and New Zealand that have sites all around the country. These sites often feel like satellite sites, orbiting the sun (which is Head Office). These satellite sites are concentrating purely on their individual site and they don't get the opportunity to have a larger overview of the business as a whole. They often feel like people at Head Office just sit in their ivory towers and come up with changes to make their job difficult. In reality, no organisation is doing this. Behind every change, there is a reason. This reason might not be obvious to all parties, but it does exist.

Where the challenge sits is in the change communication and action. The satellite sites are often given little to no warning of the impending change. For example, they might be told that a new process is being implemented from tomorrow or that they must cut costs by 10% immediately. In this situation, change is being enforced upon the satellite sites. They had no previous knowledge of the change, weren't involved in the change strategy decisions, weren't communicated to throughout the process and weren't given an action plan for implementation. This is bound to result in resistance and distrust, which more than likely will impact the success of the change strategy.

Steps for Effective Change Management:

Change management is the responsibility of management and executives of an organisation. For change to be successful, managers must facilitate and enable change so that it is a positive experience for all. Essentially organisations should:

  • Create a Change Environment: Managers need to create an environment where change is expected and welcomed. This is created through positive change experiences, open communication and a clear change management process.

  • Encourage Active Participation and Involvement in the Decision Making Process: Changes to structures, policies, processes, targets, systems etc need to be explained to employees as soon as possible. Workshops, team meetings or even surveys are a great way to get employees involved right from the beginning. The benefit of this is that employees can be involved in developing the necessary changes. This means that the people actually working on the ground with these items can offer up advice and help validate the change strategy before a lot of time and money is spent on something that won't work. This will ensure they have a lot more buy-in and are more likely to accept the changes smoothly and positively.

  • Create a Climate of Trust and Communication: Involving employees (in the second point) helps to develop collective understanding, repair staff relations if there is mistrust from previous changes, assist with team building and show employees that their opinion does matter. All of these things go a long way to improving workplace trust and communication which will have a positive impact on workplace culture and job satisfaction.

Steps for Implementing a Successful Change Strategy:

Once a change strategy has been decided upon, the next step is to actually implement the strategy. To ensure that this runs as smoothly as possible, managers should:

  • Interpret the Change Strategy: What does it mean for my team? What will change, what will stay the same? Is my team capable of making the change or will they need support (this might be in the shape of training, encouragement or motivation).

  • Communicate the Change Strategy: Provide clear communication around the impending changes including; reminding employees about why the change is occurring, what the desired outcome is, what the impacts of the change will be and what support will be provided.

  • Enable the Change: Provide an action plan for implementation that clearly steps out the change process to be taken including any support that will be provided along the way.

  • Provide Ongoing Support: Ensure that any support that was identified as required or promised along the way is provided. If you believe that employees need training, ensure that it is provided. Don't just assume that they will manage, or train themselves. Have regular catch up meetings after the change has been implemented to check in with employees and see how things are going, identify any issues or further support that is needed.

When employees are forced to make changes that they have had no say in, they can become very emotional about it. Managers need to diffuse the emotion, take a step back and encourage open communication. By taking the above steps or one of the many similar approaches to change out there, you will be making change a positive thing. If change is a positive experience for employees then they will constantly look for ways to improve processes, be open to change and even be the initiators of change.

PDI Solutions can work with organisations to implement a change management strategy. This also includes coaching leaders and managers on effective chanage management techniques and communication. Contact us today for a free consultation at info@pdisolutions.com.au or visit our website at pdisolutions.com.au

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