We’re experts in getting a message out to your audience, including when that audience is inside your company. And when it comes to important messages of internal change communications, there’s often a very specific tone to adopt. Are you doing everything you can to help your employees see change as a positive thing?
Many traditional organisations are beginning to accept they must either change or die. Therefore, managing organisational change is critical to growth and success. Still, organisational change initiatives fail at an alarming rate. This is largely because initiatives fail to consider how changes affect the people within the company. To successfully implement change, organisational leaders must identify the need for change, understand their employees’ fears, and communicate change in a compelling way.
Organisational change initiatives fail at an alarming rate
The truth about change
Change means growth; growth in experience, in knowledge, and, often, if you’re open to change, change can mean financial growth too. However, it’s a universal truth that human beings do not like change. Change hurts; in fact, we’re programmed to find a great way of doing things and stick with it. But in doing the same thing over and over, you can get stuck in a rut. It’s much like relationship advice; you need to help your employees go through a grieving process.
In doing the same thing over and over, you can get stuck in a rut
So, if you’re thinking about shaking things up at work, moving offices, making cuts, introducing a new system, changing your staff benefits or bigger organisational changes, you’re probably already an advocate for change. If that’s the case, it might be worth learning what you’re up against. So here we explore the psychology of change, and how to put your best foot forward.
10 reasons change is good
- Without change, things stay the same and, ultimately, will stagnate and die
- Most people are afraid of change because it forces them outside their comfort zone. However, when people go outside of their comfort zone, they are forced to tackle new challenges and learn new skills.
- Without change, there is no adventure in life.
- It takes much more energy and effort to resist change than it does to accept it.
- Since most will resist change, successful people will use this fact to their advantage.
- Change is opportunity; it offers a chance to learn, grow and live.
- Change can be scary and uncomfortable – but only if you choose to look at it that way.
- Fearing change is something you can change.
- People resist change because it brings feelings of fear of the unknown. When we tackle the unknown, we innovate.
- Everything must change. Accept that, and then deal with it accordingly.
Everything must change
The problem with change
Whether it’s a small change or a big one, humans generally experience it in a negative manner. Like the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one, change that impacts our daily lives is tough to bear. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, that’s because it is. Similar hormones may be released into the brain in all of these instances, creating similar thought patterns and emotions, and this is exactly the way you need to approach the subject of change in your organisation. Because without your people adapting to change, your organisation will suffer considerably.
The five stages of grief are as follows, and these are not a million miles away from the responses you might get from your employees. Does any of this sound familiar?
Denial/resistance: “This can’t be happening.”
Anger/confusion: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will …..____.”
Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened, and ready to move on and accept the change.”
Without your people adapting to change, your organisation will suffer considerably
Communication is the hero
Be wary of expressions like “changing people’s mindsets” or “changing attitudes”, because this language often indicates a tendency towards imposed or enforced change and forced engagement. It implies strongly that the organisation believes that its people currently have the ‘wrong’ mindset, which is very rarely the case. If people are not approaching their tasks or the organisation effectively, then the organisation generally has the wrong mindset, not the employees.
The organisation believes that its people currently have the ‘wrong’ mindset, which is very rarely the case
Tell a compelling change story
Change, such as new structures, policies and targets, all create new systems and environments which need to be explained as early as possible, so that people’s involvement in validating and refining the changes themselves can be obtained. Whenever an organisation imposes new things on people there will be difficulties. Participation, involvement and open, early, full communication are the important factors. Management need to be able to tell a compelling change story that motivates employees. Before you get buy-in, people need to feel the problem. People aren’t going to consider anything until they are convinced there is a problem that truly needs to be addressed, and they’re fully aligned on that particular issue.
Tell a compelling change story that motivates employees
From cascade to change
Essentially, it’s important to see change not simply as embracing something unknown. Recognise it as something that is being given up by your employees, something old (and therefore good) for something new (and therefore not good). The skill in facilitating change is to take a very human approach.
So, how do we talk to employees in a way that will help them feel more comfortable about change? Ensure you engage them at every level. Communicate with people at all levels of the organisation; successful change management happens at the bottom, but you must involve everyone to help formulate the design of the strategy. Leaders must actively involve the people that will be most affected.