AS205286281 skeptical employees lgLast month we wrote about the top five reasons business change fails and highlighted some ways companies can get ahead of these issues. Three out of the five reasons listed were people-related, indicating this is the biggest challenge in achieving a successful transformation. The numbers bear evidence of this, too, with research from Gartner showing that employees suffering from change-related stress perform 5 percent worse than average.

The time-honored strategy of “winning hearts and minds” offers a way to avoid many problems. Here’s how you can get your staff to support the change your company’s undergoing and put their energies into making the new methods work.

Practice Transparency

[quotes]Your workers will never trust you again if you don’t practice total transparency about what’s happening.[/quotes] One of the main reasons for implementing change is to engage people emotionally as well as rationally. This effort has to involve people from every area of the business to create the company’s new story, identify change agents and champions, and gather the data needed to persuade workers to embrace the new ways.

To do this, you’ll need to be transparent about why the changes are necessary, how they will impact people, and what you’re doing to minimize the disruption to them. By building trust through upfront and visible actions, you can become a change agent, allay fears, and get people excited about the future.

Encourage Communication

Communication is crucial in every facet of people management, and when it comes down to business change, it can’t be overstated. The most effective way to gain acceptance for the idea is to support clear communication with employees across the organization. Communicate the planned changes, discuss how they will be implemented, and keep employees updated on the progress.

[quotes]It’s not enough to explain and announce the change, either.[/quotes] To build understanding among your workers, you need to encourage feedback actively from every level of staff. Set aside times for regular communication sessions and invite workers to give input in these sessions on the change process, bring their concerns into the open, and participate in finding solutions. Listening to – and acknowledging – feedback from all quarters will help smooth the transition and gain your employees’ buy-in for the process.

Define Clear Roles

The first question in the mind of an employee who has been told change is coming is, “What about me?” [quotesright]You need to address this issue at the outset without making attempts to fudge the truth or hide potential unpleasant outcomes. [/quotesright]

If your change project will result in layoffs, it’s best to state this upfront than to leave people guessing. If it’s not, the sooner they have the reassurance that their jobs are safe, the more likely you are to get them to buy into the change.

People also want to know what roles they have in the change process and how they are likely to be impacted:

  • Are they likely to have more or less responsibility after the change?
  • What aspects of their work will remain with them, and which ones will be converted to other processes?
  • Who will be accountable for the different components and tasks?
  • Who will make the final decisions, and what criteria will be used for these?

Defining the roles and responsibilities of all project team members is vital so everyone knows the answers to these questions and knows who is accountable for each aspect.

[quotesright]This knowledge helps to reduce fear and uncertainty among employees and empowers everyone to feel part of the change. [/quotesright]

Provide Training

Lack of knowledge and skills is a primary employee concern, particularly during change projects leading to digital transformation. The fear of being replaced by technology runs deep, and simple reassurances are unlikely to be convincing.

To get your staff to support the change process and make it work, they need to know the company will provide the necessary training to bring them up to speed with new methods.

[quotes]Avoid postponing training until some future date.[/quotes] Doing so can generate a suspicion that it might never happen and the employee be passed over for future advancement. Set up training schedules at the outset and give employees a degree of freedom to chart their course in the organization’s future by choosing the upskilling options they want. This also opens up future opportunities and potential career paths, which can be hugely motivating.

Review and Reward

Recognition is the cornerstone of successful motivation, so don’t forget to conduct regular assessments. Review the progress together of each staff member or area as well as the entire project and celebrate the wins.

Officially recognize achievement and results with incentives, such as bonuses, leisure activities, food, drinks, or awards. Some employees will adapt well to the change and proactively try to make it work, while others will be slower to adopt the new ways.

Change is inevitable. It’s much better to go into a transformation process with the right attitude and staff buy-in. These actions will help you increase the acceptance of change in the organization and maintain staff morale during the process.