Throughout Fortune 1000 companies, change management has been estimated to only have a 50 percent success rate. Some estimates even place success rates at as low as 20 percent. Acquisitions, mergers, down-sizing — all of these are critical events expected to happen throughout the organisation. With the fast-paced evolution of technology, employees will experience change constantly. Whether it’s the introduction of a new service offering or implementation of a sales tool, the success of change within an organisation often lies in the hands of its employees. Change is inevitable, but successful change can be evasive.
Transparency and consistency
More than anything else, employees value an open line of communication with upper management. When employees believe that they can easily reach out to the management team, they become 54 percent more likely to be engaged. On the other hand, when employees do not feel that their management is open and approachable, engagement is only 2 percent, while 65 percent are actively disengaged.
All of this underscores the importance of transparency and consistency. Employees are concerned about the ramifications of changes at work as it can impact their lives. Organisations may be concerned about expenses and income, but employees worry more about how it can impact their families, their health, and their personal time. As this change occurs, this type of uncertainty can translate into poor work performance.
Before, during, and after change, communication needs to remain active and transparent. Often, this will require a communication management plan.
Introducing employees to the change
The initial communication between you and your employees will set the stage for further interactions. Organisations must be able to communicate change clearly, honestly, and empathetically. They must explain why change is occurring and how it will be occurring.
Everyone absorbs information differently, as well as at different rates and this is something you need to consider. Although you can communicate the mechanics of the change in multiple ways, it is best done face-to-face as an announcement or in a meeting. You’ll need to highlight why this is necessary, how it impacts you, and more importantly, how it impacts them. Be transparent about the potential effects and address their concerns right away by outlining your contingency plans. At the end of the meeting, send out a wrap up email to solidify the discussion and highlight important points clearly.
At the beginning of the change management process, CEOs must not only clearly communicate the facts of the change to their employees, but also give employees information about how to further connect with their supervisors and discuss their potential concerns.
Communicating the benefits of change
At all levels of an organisation, concerned parties will be wondering why the change is occurring. It’s imperative that stakeholders understand the direction that the company is headed in, as well as upper level management. Don’t overstate or over promise. Instead, inspire, motivate, and be honest.
Benefits should always be emphasised that may directly or indirectly impact employees. Remember that information will trickle down from the top. Apart from company-wide communications, information will transfer from executives to managers and from managers to employees. Each time, some of that information may be lost to misinterpretation and only the major talking points will remain.
The organisation as a whole can transition more smoothly towards change if everyone views it as a positive experience. If individuals within the organisation feel that change is unnecessary or even potentially harmful, they will be less eager to participate.
The impact of change
In addition to the positives, you also need to be realistic about the negatives. Part of being a leader involves quickly and directly addressing issues that may arise before rumours circulate and they go out of hand. Don’t try to hide the negatives; if this is what will happen, it will come out eventually. Be honest and empathetic and let all employees know what they are in for. It is important to build an atmosphere of trust with your employees. They will be better prepared for the negatives to come and will most likely weather through it if they are properly advised ahead of time.
Employees understand that negative issues can arise. They simply need to know that they are under solid, confident, and honest leadership. By being honest, you can inspire your employees to work harder. Discuss the complexities of the change and what they will have to endure, and then tie it into the rewards and benefits that they can expect as soon as the change is complete.
Prepare your contingencies in advance
Not all negatives and drawbacks are certain. There are a number of complications that could arise that must be planned for. Communicate these potential complications as well as the contingencies in place to address them. All parties involved will rest easier knowing that their concerns are being addressed, and they will be better prepared should these possibilities become a reality.
Open lines of communication are important: if there are contingencies that you have not considered, employees and management must feel as though they can report them to someone higher up and have them addressed. This is critical to success, as it ensures that employees will feel comfortable addressing any potential blind spots.
Following up after success
Your job isn’t complete after the change has taken place. You must also make sure to celebrate the success. You owe it to the employees to reward them for their hard work and trust. The next time change arises throughout your organisation, your employees will remember this and be more willing to pitch in.
Organisations able to manage change successfully are 350 percent more effective than their peers. Managing organisational change is often a matter of knowledge, skill, and experience. With a tremendous number of moving parts, change management requires both logistics and social skills. If you want to improve upon these skills, you may need the help of peers and mentors. Contact TEC to find out how monthly meetings with a CEO peer group can help you deal with different types of organisational change.