According to a 2013 Towers Watson survey, 25% of employers sustain advantages from organizational changes over the long term. The notion of change can be quite alarming for many. However, change is inevitable for organizations, given the environment we’ve experienced over the last decade. In this issue of Astronology®, we discuss organizational change…and ways to do it successfully.
Change is inevitable, considering in the last 10 years we’ve had to deal with
- The economic downturn and slow recovery
- An increasing demand for employees with technical skills
- Overall process changes with advancing technology and globalization
Some organizations, in order to stay afloat, have had to deal with mergers, technical skills upgrades for employees dedicated to outdated methodologies & technologies, and changes in lead staff due to early retirements & layoffs. With only 25% of employees seeing an advantage in these sometimes necessary and generally large adjustments, it’s important to understand what the major factors are in making organization-wide changes and having participant buy in for successful results. To facilitate success, managing change can be broken into two factors: planning and following up with execution.
Although it sounds easy, planning is anything but. Planning involves more than just identifying areas that need change. It also involves recognizing the areas of concern, and addressing & managing worker enthusiasm, or “buy in” to change.
In order to have workers buy in to change, they must be motivated to want to change. This is mainly done by alleviating the natural anxiety that comes with facing an unknown future. This is where education and training become important. When workers are aware of what to expect and how to handle it, anxiety is lessened. When workers feel involved in making changes, whether by input in the design of change or having a dignified role in its execution, control is given which can lessen anxiety. Anxiety can also be lowered by making clear to workers what the organization’s mission is in conjunction with the new changes. Including team building moments leading up to the change can give a sense of security and comradery. Giving evidence that workers will have the opportunity to build their own careers from these changes is also a great incentive. Clear communication on these points is of high value.
During the execution of change activities, availability of support is crucial. Employees must know that they have the resources available to carry on their responsibilities during and after the change. It is also imperative that leaders are available to give support, clear communication, and even commendation during the adjustment. Human Resources expert Susan Healthfield expresses, in an article for the human resources page on about.com, “Spend extra time and energy working with your front line supervisory staff and line managers to ensure that they understand, can communicate about, and support the changes. Their action and communication are critical in molding the opinion of your workforce.” She makes mention of a previous client that had to deal with changes in work teams. The client had expressed that they wished they had handled differently mid-level managers who resisted change. The client had given these particular managers 18 months to buy in to the change. It was observed that this kindness undermined the change for some time.
Inc.com’s online article, “Managing Organizational Change” lists these key steps when making organizational changes:
Understand the current state of the organization
- Identify problems the organization faces.
- Assign a level of importance to each one.
- Assess the kinds of changes needed to solve the problems.
Competently envision and lay out the desired future state of the organization.
- Carve the ideal situation for the organization after the change is implemented.
- Convey this vision clearly to everyone involved in the change effort.Design a means of transition to the new state. An important part of the transition should be maintaining some sort of stability.
- Some things—such as the organization’s overall mission or key staff—should remain constant in the midst of turmoil to help reduce peoples anxiety.
Implement the change in an orderly manner.
- Manage the transition effectively. It might be helpful to draw up a plan, allocate resources, and appoint a key person to take charge of the change process.
The organization’s leaders should try to generate enthusiasm for the change, by sharing their goals & vision, and acting as role models. In some cases, it may be useful to try for small victories first in order to pave the way for later successes.