The secret to successful change in an organization is not complicated. In fact, it’s very simple: get your workforce involved.
Change cannot be something you as a leader dictate to your employees. They must buy into the need for change themselves, because they are the ones who must implement it.
Change management training professionals emphasize how critical the communication around change must be. Leaders need to convey why they think change is necessary to the future of the organization. There will be questions, doubts and resistance in the workforce because resistance is inherent to the nature of change. The status quo is much more comfortable because it is known. The unknown can be scary.
It takes a leap of faith to walk an untried path, so your challenge as a leader is convince your employees to leap with you. How can you persuade your workforce to commit to your vision of change and the improvements it will bring? Here are four over-arching steps.
Paint the big picture and then be available to answer any questions that arise.
Be clear about the consequences if you don’t make the changes. Beyond the consequences to the organization, individual employees will be immediately concerned about the consequences to themselves, their role and their team. You need to be straightforward and honest. Will some jobs be lost? Can you offer development opportunities for those who are willing and able to learn new skills?
With the majority of the workforce behind you, begin the change slowly and do not stop communicating. This is a critical time to keep everyone aboard. Have a timeline and mark achievements as progress is made.
All leaders need to be especially sensitive to the work atmosphere. See that your managers are listening carefully to their teams and how the change is affecting them going forward. Are employees grumbling or accepting? Are they disengaging or making an honest effort? Are there specific complaints that should be addressed? Open dialogue and flexibility are critical at this stage. Adjustments may well be needed. Make them.
If you are on the right course, there will soon be some indicators that the change is making a positive difference. This is when change can take on a momentum of its own. Management will see that the struggle has been worth it and employees will recognize that both the organization and they will benefit.
Your foresight as a leader, your courage to change course and your open and ongoing communication with your employees will go far to bring about successful change.
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