Managing Change & The People It Effects
The Effects of Bad Change
Change is experienced by everyone constantly albeit to varying degrees but whether it be a change at home, to a lifestyle or the work environment, it's happening all the time. For some people, change is an exciting challenge to tackle, part of business as usual activity. To others it's quite the opposite and can create significant stressors which affect health, day-to-day functioning and the way someone fees about their organisation.
So what makes change a stressor for some and not for others? It's all in the way that the facets of change, real or perceived, are handled, so read on.
It's No Laughing Matter
Unwelcome stressors from change can create an enormous amount of mental and physical health related issues which in turn results in companies to losing productivity, staff motivation and ultimately, money. No company sets out to lose money through change on purpose but have a read of the literature on change management and the effect on workers from the past 50 years or so and its clear to see, the lesson's are either not being either heard, or not being learnt.
For those of you who have studied the impact of change on people or any aspect of human behavior, you may be aware of the psychological contract that exists between an employer and it's employees. That is the expected yet unwritten 'deal' that an employee / worker signs up to when joining company. This largely translates to what is mutually expected from the working relationship from a fairness context, so the "I will do this for you in return for you doing this for me" that is not explicit in any written contract of employment.
When change occurs and the fairness deal is perceived to have been broken, so to is the working relationship. So it is important to consider the perception as well the reality for employees / workers when planning and implementing change.
Where Understanding Just Isn't Enough
The perception of any change needs to be handled effectively and appreciating the impact that change has on some employees / workers can determine whether a change will go on to be deemed successful. However, appreciating this just isn't enough. Walking the hard yards through the impact that the change may have on your employees (perceived or real) initially, can save a huge amount of anxiety, unnecessary company pain and time picking up the pieces.
So what's to consider? Great question.
"The perception of change and it's expected outcomes must be understood at an unconscious level in order for the stresses to be reduced to a minimum" Gary Johnson on Organisational Change, 2013
In order to do this, the leaders of the change need to understand a number of factors including:
- Values systems
- Capability & Ability – technical and knowledge
- The previous history of change and the reaction to historical change
- Perception of proposed change
- Perception of work colleagues
- Perception of the individuals place in the organization
Gather these insights from your teams to save invaluable time picking up the pieces created by the unknown or the unprepared. Do this once and you have this information for next time there is a significant change.
But if you do nothing else, ensure that your business has the right capability to manage the change. Investing your time in assessing those who will be involved in leading or managing the change is crucial. Their ability to implement and solidify the changes required and know not only when something is not quite right or going off the rails, but how to fix it will be essential to the success of the change.
- Coach your senior managers in what to expect and how to respond to challenges and resistance to the suggested change.
- Train your line managers in the requirements for the introduction of the change so that they are seen by staff to be aligned to the companies outcomes and are part of the implementation.
- Train each group of staff members as required in a way that minimises the disruption to business as usual activities. This training should take into account the intelligence gathered about these groups and their likelihood to resist the change, accept a move in company policy or efficiency or become part of an overall fostering of renewed pride in the company.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Support the training and coaching by regular meaningful and transparent communications to all staff on the change implementation progress. Identify change champions to help spread the'grapevine gossip' of the change in a positive and influential way.
- Monitor the progress of implementation and the level of acceptance and take timely action where things look like they may be going array.
- Introduce additional training and communications as required to cement the change and make it a permanent factor in the company.
- Celebrate and congratulate all for their role in the change.
A Final Note
It is so important through all of this to understand and recognise that potential increases in stress levels may prevail in any and maybe all levels of staff. Monitor this closely and take action in a confidential and empathetic way where it transpires. Done correctly and smartly, a properly designed and implemented change program will minimise the risk of stress blowout, promote a positive perception of the change and increase the level of pride in the company. Simple.