“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” Arnold Bennett
When organizations are in the throes of major change, managers are often so focused on the logistics of maintaining production levels during the change process that they overlook the emotional needs of their employees.
Employees have hopes and expectations of their role in the organization, worries and fears about how the changes will affect them, and a finite amount of emotional energy and physical stamina to cope with the uncertainty that accompanies change.
If you want your employees to be more receptive to changes and more willing to implement them, there are six key action steps you can take during the change process that will help to ensure their emotional well being.
1. Hold frequent staff meetings, even if you don’t know anything new. Your staff needs to trust that the lines of communication are open and that they are being kept up to date. It is perfectly all right to tell them that there is nothing new to report, but you promise to them know as soon as you hear something.
If you don’t, staff will imagine worst-case scenarios, and staff morale and performance will both plummet.
2. Validate staff performance and accomplishments. Your staff needs to know that you appreciate what they have done in the past and that you are proud of their continuing performance even in the face of uncertainty. They need reassurance that upcoming changes do not mean that their previous work is incorrect or ineffective.
If you don’t, staff will feel very threatened and become very resistant to the changes.
3. Keep staff concerns at a low level. When radical or even minor changes occur in job responsibilities, performance expectations, reporting relationships, or work environments, your staff needs to believe that you will give them the time, training, resources and support they need to continue to be productive.
If you don’t, staff anxiety and stress will adversely affect their physical health and their professional commitment.
4. Make sure that staff know WHY the change is necessary. Your staff needs to understand the origin of the change, the intended goals of the change, as well as the expected consequences if the change is not implemented.
If you don’t, staff will be unable to assess what additional actions or adjustments might be necessary to ensure that the change achieves the intended goals.
5. Get staff involved in planning the changes. Your staff needs to feel that they have some control over the changes that will affect them. If they cannot provide input on the change itself, at least make sure that they have input in how the change is implemented.
If you don’t, staff will not feel committed to the change because they lack any sense of ownership or control.
6. Celebrate with staff as each stage of the change is completed. Staff need to feel that you recognize and appreciate the time, energy, and commitment involved in accomplishing the changes. Change is exhausting, so it helps to celebrate the achievement of each milestone.
If you don’t, staff will feel that they are seen as mere cogs in the wheel of change rather than as valued contributors, and their energy and commitment to implementation will decrease exponentially.
If you want your major change initiatives to be successful, you have to take the necessary steps to satisfy the emotional needs of your staff. If you overlook the potential emotional fallout as a result of the change process, it is almost a certainty that your staff will be less receptive to the change and less willing to implement it.