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Explore how organizations involve and support employees during change. Once you understand how organizations involve and support employees during change, you will realise that organizations must not neglect the people aspect of change. Organizations don’t change, people do!

Organizational Change_Guide on How New Age Organizations Involve and Support Employees

By Catherine Adenle

It is crucial for organizations to involve and support employees during change. Organizations that are clued up about change are aware of how organizations involve and support employees during change. In such organizations, usually, they have a clear leader who engages employees and other stakeholders to develop a clear vision of desired change outcomes and ensure that an integrated communication, solid change management strategy, as well as strong employee involvement and motivation, have the most influence in the overall success of the organization’s change.

If followed, this ‘how-to’ guide will help any organization to execute their change roadmap successfully while they also engage their employees through a well-structured set of actions and communication.

What organizations must do in order to be change-ready like ‘New Age’ organizations

Organizations that are change ready, the ones that are aware of how New Age organizations involve and support employees during change are those that plan and have a formal, systematic process for change. They build this into the culture of their organization. In such organizations, they have an awareness of change and the acceptance that change, be it minor, continuous or major is constant. Not only that, but they also thrive in a community needed for change and they have the teams, resources and capacities to successfully implement and embed change in a seamless manner.

See 12 Reasons Why Employees Resist Change in the Workplace

Knowing and following how organizations involve and support employees during change makes any organizations change ready. Those change-ready organizations have:

  • A dedicated and trained change management team and mid-managers with strong ability to execute a change roadmap while engaging employees through communication and actions.
  • Nailed down the culture of the 3Es (Engage, Enable and Embed). They crowdsource solutions through enabling and encouraging employees to form and take on major parts and tasks of the change guided by change knowledgeable coaches – joint approach.
  • A concrete financial plan for change. No great or major change happens with zero money!
  • Invested in continuous learning and business environment and people readiness – managers and staff are trained to be change-ready by having good knowledge of competitions, competitors and things changing in their business environment.
  • The staff that are motivated and engaged through the Five I’s (Inform, Inspire, Instruct, Involve and Incent) of Engagement (See Best Practice across Temkin Groups).
  • An iron-clad communication plan and structure. The empirical picture that has emerged over the years indicates that the communication process and organisational change implementation are inextricably linked processes.
  • A solid understanding of the change curve, how to support people through transition, why people resist change and a tested and proven mitigation strategy to manage resistance should there be any.
  • Complete understanding of change, its triggers, effects and a way to measure, improve, demonstrate, maintain momentum and celebrate change success.
  • Change-related competency and clarity of roles for mid-level managers, change agents, Human Resources managers etc.

Towers Watson’s research shows that many large change initiatives, system implementations and reorganizations fail to achieve their goals because investment in employee readiness and engagement, critical training, communication and leadership activities were underfunded or not included in the change plan.

See 21 Vital Questions to Ask Before Change (Presentation)

The anatomy of an organization’s culture and how the organization functions on a day-to-day base can strongly influence the organization’s potential for success or failure when it comes to change, be it minor or major. In addition, the ability of such an organization and its leaders to cope with change and encourage innovation also impacts mission effectiveness. In these organizations, change is then seen as perfectly normal and nothing to be feared since the period of chaos produced by the change will result in the system organizing on a more complex level.

Great organizations that are change-ready will pass through the crucibles of change seamlessly and gather lessons learnt to improve the next change. They accept that the business world is changing and knowing that their organization must change as well as the first step in a long process. They are aware that what worked in the past will not necessarily work in the new business environment. They encourage their employees to join the leaders to make smarter decisions, uncover new ways of doing business, and plan for any required organizational changes to ensure survival and what constitutes new success for the organization.

Change implementation in organizations: New Age vs. Old School organizations

Knowing and following how organizations involve and support employees during change is vital for all organizations. Change; be it transformational or incremental occurs at an accelerated rate in today’s society, predominantly within the context of business and organizations. These changes are driven partly by market forces and partly by technological innovation. Whilst change in organizations is a common expectation these days, it is important to note that how each organization respond to and implement change depends on a number of factors.

New Age

Successful, new age and change-ready organizations involve their employees in change right from the start. They ensure that they have a significant influence on the strategic plan of change in the organization. This kind of involvement reduces employees’ resistance, which is always a very important factor in the success of any organizational change. Such organizations as Merck, HP, Eaton, Eastman Chemical and Rohm and Haas have successfully used such an approach.

These New Age organizations make great strides by developing leaders who are well informed about the change and how it should always be implemented. They do this by hardwiring accountability, making it all behavioural-based, with a clear priority placed on employees and customers. They also focus on continuously building a first-class business mindset, sparking innovation, busting silos, energizing their employees and promoting personal engagement.

“The man who gets the most satisfactory results is not always the man with the most brilliant single mind, but rather the man who can best coordinate the brains and talents of his associates.” – W. Alton Jones

Old School

Unfortunately, for some ‘Old School’ or organizations stuck in ‘Jurassic Park,’ such employee involvement might be threatening to management’s traditional power and hierarchical structure. The dinosaurs are still stalking the corridors of corporate power. The DNA of the leaders and senior management of most of these organizations (especially large ones) seem to be firmly-coded to resist this new way of employee involvement. They will always favour the top-down approach. The leaders decide and they ensure that employee involvement is limited to implement the strategic decisions management makes, or further limit involvement to purely task or process-focused teams working on technical problems. However, it must be noted that many organizations have used this approach but with tight solutions in place to deal with overdrawn-out employees’ resistance.

Once the decisions are made in these Old School organizations, the next challenge is implementing the changes throughout the organization. This is, of course, a key responsibility for executives who will appoint mid-managers to execute the change. If the necessary change is not managed correctly, the result can be a distraught organization filled with disgruntled employees who exhibit poor performance and get disengaged. All this inevitably leads to greater loss in revenues and lower profit margins.

How ‘New Age’ Organizations Involve and Support Employees

Following are 20 effective ways of how organizations involve and support employees during change. Any of these effective ways below could be utilized by senior leaders, executive sponsors, senior and mid-managers, change leaders or agents, HR and a combination of all these roles.

Organizational Change: How New Age Organizations Involve and Support Employees

 20 Effective Ways to Involve and Support Employees During Organizational Change (Presentation)

1. Involvement and Inclusion: All human beings react differently if they feel in control or if they feel part of a decision making process. If you want employees in your organization to embrace change, then get them involved from the onset. When building a team dedicated to change, be sure to include them. Let them be part of the group to develop a robust shared vision. Together, create an even more compelling vision for change and connect it to your organizational strategy. Make it a point of duty to also include potential resisters of change. Lead them and let them come up with the problem statement and the best possible solution or ways to make the change.

Involve employees as well as leaders in the planning for change. Let them derive the 4Ws – What, Why, Who, When and How for all employees. Provide opportunities for these employees to question and explore the change process. This will help to build and customize a structured change management methodology to use for the change. Then, have executive sponsors and change agents to drive, coach and guide employees through the change. In the process, you will develop some employees to be change coaches.

The management team needs to be involved with employees to create a competitive strategy and be on board with the change they want to implement. It’s crucial to define the role that everyone will play and provide a detailed set of actions. Leaders must understand that they are the coaches who will spur the team forward, and their job is to make sure the entire team is aligned with the competitive strategy for change. They will think and act as dynamic leaders who will provide inspiration and encouragement to their entire workforce. This way, momentum builds, more people feel able to act, so they will find the best way to fulfill the vision. It will be ‘let’s go and let’s get this done!’

In Prosci’s 2005 Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report, the top reason cited by participants for resistance by employees was that employees were not aware of the business need for change. So, it’s vital that employees are included from the start.

2. Education: In the change plan, make allowance to educate employees to understand change, why the change could be planned or unplanned, the forces of change, why it is necessary for organizations to change, the transition stages and the rewards of a new beginning.

Provide opportunities for employees to question and explore the change process. Be open about common reasons why employees may object to change. This gives them the opportunity to understand the change strategy better, why they feel what they feel about the change and how to help the organization to address the factors that may derail the change.

Before attempting to pre-empt or resolve problems relating to any major organizational change in relation to employees, first, understand them; this is only possible through communication and education. It is not the changes which people fear – it’s the uncertainty, created by seemingly associated disruption which is, usually, central to personnel’s resistance. So, once employees understand the contributory factors, you can jointly begin to plan strategies to help support the process and ultimately implement the required change.

3. Process and task-related training: This is an important area for employees. This is a key part of how New Age organizations involve and support employees during change. These organizations invest heavily in their employees in times of change. They retrain them for the skills of the future. They help them to get reabsorbed into the new paradigm. Organizations should make a great effort to support employees even if the change will result in job losses. Plan and bring in reputable external facilitators to host different career and skills workshops.

For an organization, to reduce the loss of productivity during change, equip employees with the necessary skills to succeed. Training must be a top priority. The time and money invested in training will eventually pay off in increased profits and service quality. Training is a vaccine that helps to eliminate common change-related stress during change. It demonstrates that you appreciate your employees’ efforts, wants them to feel that they are a strong part of your organization and that you are looking out for them.

Training during organizational change

4. Communication: One cannot explore how organizations involve and support employees during change without focusing heavily on communication. First, establish an atmosphere and culture of an open ‘push and pull’ model of communication for change if your organization is not change-ready. Knowing how to communicate change involves making an emotional as well as a rational case for change. It’s important to be transparent in change communication. And while great change leaders communicate the specifics of a situation, they are also quick to admit when they don’t have all the details. They are comfortable saying, “Right now, I don’t know, but I’ll find out and let you know!”

See 12 Significant Things to Communicate Before Change in Organizations

As part of the involvement and inclusion plan, build a ‘Change Communication Team’ made up of nominated key employees with great communications skills. This communication team will ideally join, be part of the change team and champion change messages and information. They will also help to put a communication plan in place to manage the change. The organization should guide them to ensure that the change communication is not just about deciding what they want to tell their colleagues, but architecting a complete approach to ensure that receivers understand and internalize key messages of change.   These change communication champions are also changing evangelists.  They will eagerly disseminate one cohesive and consistent message of the change. They will join change agents, mid-managers and leaders to communicate change far and wide in the organization. This will help with timely and continuous change information dissemination.

Effective change communication plans are well targeted to the audience, they use a variety of channels – face to face, Townhall meetings, presentations, FAQs, one to one, change blog, forums, emails,  etc.  They provide feedback opportunities and capitalize on the preferred senders of change messages.

It is also important to consider when planning organizational changes: people react differently. Some people think more logically and rationally about situations, whereas others make decisions based on feelings and the effect they may have on other people; both should be supported throughout the process by ensuring the logical thinkers are presented with the facts and the feelers – supported on a more emotional level through kindness, dignity and respect.

Put your ABCDE (Audience, Behavioural Objectives, Content, Design, Evaluation) techniques of communication into good use. The four SHED (Stabilizer, Hedger, Energizer, Driver) Styles are in every organization. Each employee with their own SHED style has a correlating need regarding change and how it is implemented and communicated. Undoubtedly though, there are some ‘Best Practices’ which are advisable to incorporate, see Communication Checklist: Best Practices in Managing Change. Whatever you do, be clear and concise, don’t attempt to conceal bad news and keep in mind that most employees fear uncertainty – more than they fear a statement of facts.

Present facts with a certain degree of kindness and compassion; some of the information presented could have a huge impact on people’s lives and it is important not to appear detached.

See Successful Change Implementation in Organizations: 4 Components

Be prepared for and welcome disapproval, in the right surroundings; people need to vent their frustrations and feel listened to before they’re able to move on and positively implement changes.

Points to consider:

  • Modify change message to meet the needs of the audience.
  • Know what you want the impact of the message to be.
  • Prepare to deal with questions and difficulties in understanding aspects of the communication especially in a global setting.
  • Consider the best time to catch the most employees.
  • Cascade to ensure the message is reinforced.
  • Utilize a communication team to be responsible for communication as well, but ensure that the message is consistent.
  • Create a climate for continuous improvement by embedding communication feedback mechanisms such as a staff suggestions scheme

Effective change management and communication in any organization can unleash unrestricted effort and superior performance that result from an engaged and motivated workforce. Did you know?

Communication During Organizational Change

 “…Think of an organization as all the clothes hanging on a clothesline. All parts are connected. If you pull on the socks the towels move…” – Arthur Friedman

An organization must be fully prepared to deal with any ripple effect when you manage change.

5. Coaching: A complete change management approach includes a coaching plan for employees. It involves being available and supportive of employees during change. In addition, the coaching plan provides the tools needed to help employees to cope and get supported in their role during the change. During change, dedicated coaches in organizations are approachable and they listen sympathetically. They respect an individual’s rights to privacy and are able to identify stress indicators.

See How Great Coaches Ask, Listen, and Empathize

6. Allow Transition Time: William Bridges’ says that “A change can work only if the people affected by it can get through the transition it causes successfully.”

Successful organizational change can only occur if the change is planned and executed well. Part of this is allowing employees to move through the transition curve at their own pace but with the knowledge that they are being supported by the organization. When each individual impacted by the change goes through their own personal transition, they need to do so mentally. The most effective approaches to managing change combine an individual model for how people experience change with the organizational tools that can be used to support this individual change. So, step back and allow the feelings of your employees to be expressed through dialogues.

Typically, senior leaders move through the change curve first because they are exposed to the change earliest. Then, front-line employees will start through their own curve which can take time. Then as employees in ‘Old School’ organizations may not be involved in designing the change initiative, they might move through the curve more slowly. What may look like employee resistance might just reflect a healthy and productive change process that simply requires time.

Dealing with Change

7. Ease job pressure: Knowing how organizations involve and support employees during change means understanding that such change-ready organizations are aware that meeting the demands placed upon employees during change requires managing job pressure and managing their way through change. Change-related concerns or stress can be reduced in organizations by making an effort to maintain high morale. Another way to alleviate job pressure is to find simple ways to celebrate even the smallest successes. They will pay off in a big way. It is also important to assess individual workloads and offer practical advice with regards to managing their work through change. Sometimes, managers registering their support to employees during weekly one to one meetings regarding the pressures of coping during change will make a great difference.

8. Executive Sponsorship: Invite senior executives to engage in dialogues with employees. Encourage them to attain the position of Sponsors. They have to be active and visible to all employees as Sponsors of change. Part of their duties will be to maintain an open-door policy, welcome and support employees, walk the talk and invest time in sponsoring the change. Managers and supervisors play a crucial role in making organizational changes successful. They have preferred senders of face to face messages related to how a change impacts employees specifically. They play these roles in change:

  • Participate actively and visibly throughout the change period;
  • Build a further coalition of sponsorship with managers, peers and employees; and
  • They communicate effectively with employees.
  • They have unique and close relationships with their direct reports that allow them to be effective coaches.

Sponsors need to be prepared and ready to deal with resistance in their teams. Change managers in organization coach senior leaders on how to be great sponsors in identifying the root causes of resistance and how to engage and manage resistance in their teams when it happens.

Executive Sponsorship During Change

9. Promote well-being: As an organization, one of your primary responsibilities to your employees is to have a duty of care which involves being mindful of their physical, mental and emotional health. As change and transition trigger emotions, well-being almost certainly will be affected at one stage or another in the transition process. The greatest asset in a time of change in an organization is their observation skills – what is noticed about how employees are behaving. Are there any tensions between employees that aren’t usually there? Confidential counselling helps employees to deal with change transition.

10. Negotiation: Ultimately, change is all about achieving greater results. Successful change management means that projects meet their objectives and employees adopt new solutions. Ultimately, during change, it’s not enough to know your proposal; you need to understand where the other players are coming from too. Try to understand employees’ motivations, which can be respect, advancement or self-preservation. Whatever it is, listen and show respect for their concerns and confirm that the change is indeed worth it.

Find ways to involve employees in aspects of the change that they fear. Change is all about achieving better results. If successful change means that projects meet their objectives and employees adopt the new solutions, then negotiate to get employees on your side.

11. Agreement: Generally speaking, in order to implement organizational change, employees understanding and agreement are vital. Therefore, organizations have to be in agreement with their employees, but this does not limit the organization’s right to go ahead with the change. However, a fair and reasonable process must be initiated to gain agreement. If employees have genuine reasons, for instance, arrange to have a solution-focused meeting with employees. Regardless, organizations have to set standards and expectations for the change. Then, offer agreed incentives for making the change. Share expectations in terms of discussing and agreeing with employees on the behaviours to demonstrate, tasks to undertake, actions to take etc. in order to anchor change and in return agree on what they stand to gain from the organization as a result.

Giving employees the opportunity to put their concerns or thoughts forward which the organization should take into consideration during change and providing the employee with reasonable notice and information of what both sides should expect to take place is important.

12. Cohesion: It is important to establish trust from the onset of change. Don’t sugarcoat or lie about the goals of change to employees. Having employees work toward common change goals promotes interdependency amongst them; the idea behind this is if each employee does their part, the task will ultimately come together. A cohesive work environment increases the likelihood of employee satisfaction and serves as an incentive for employees to arrive prepared daily and willing to deal with issues arising. Lack of cohesion within employees during change is certain to result in unnecessary stress and tension.

13. Organizational communities: Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan, authors of “Leading Outside the Lines”  make the important point that organisational leaders struggle to recognise the importance of the informal networks within their organisation, and the need to engage with them and mobilize them as a key method of accelerating the efforts of the formal (management) elements of the organisation. So, include communities within your organization, give each group a part to play in the change process such as information gatherers, networkers, process re-engineers and so on. Encourage involvement in any of the staff networks.

A leading UK change expert and the leader of 5 major and successful UK corporate change initiatives, Neil Farmer, points out that whilst the formal organization determines all routine aspects of what takes place, and in so doing provides the necessary “glue” of stability and repeatability, the shadow or informal organization largely determines the scope and pace of change and is thus a major factor in change management risk assessment. He says that where the informal and formal organizations come into conflict, the informal nearly always are the most powerful.

Enable employees during organizational change

14. Enablement plan: For any change, proactively identifying ‘where’ resistance might come from and derive an enablement plan for employees to help them to cope. Resistance to change is a significant source of risk for the project and the organization as a whole. Resistance can take different forms; it may result in project delays, projects missing their objectives, return on investment is lower than expected, or a change being totally scrapped. Design, launch and share an enablement plan to take care of the risks associated with resistance and help employees to mitigate these risks.

15. People alignment: Never assume that all employees know exactly where and how to aim their effort. Even if they don’t ask and seem to be moving confidently in the direction of change, it’s important to still align people’s roles to fit the change. Identify development opportunities; prepare employees for new roles and responsibilities that the change will bring. This is a very positive activity to do through any change process.

Leaders and Change Agents in organizations must partner with Human Resources to access guidance and support for employees. Learning and Development will play a huge role to identify and create a development plan, source funding support for development activities, signpost development opportunities, complete and define new opportunities.

16. Reward: Organizational reward systems must be altered to support the change that management wants to implement. Offer incentives for making change. This often means that the reward does not have to always be major or costly. It’s a way to celebrate the contributions of employees, change success and recognize achievement. There is a common business saying that organizations get what they reward. Organizational employees will repel change when they do not see anything in it for them. Reinforce the benefits of participation– what are you now doing and what impact has that had? Without ‘WIIFM’ or a reward, there is no motivation to support the change over the long run. Celebrate milestones, recognize and reward achievements, measure, improve, demonstrate change success.

See 30 Non-Cash Rewards to Give at Work

17. Recognition: Acknowledge contributions – thank employees for journeying with you during the transition while keeping business as usual going. Create slots and times for employees’ recognition, communication their successes widely and show appreciation with

18. Positive Deviance (PD) – this approach has been used in organizations such as Merck and HP to optimize organizational knowledge and learning. It is finding and harnessing the wisdom of employees. In this paper, Jane Lewis mentioned that the fundamental success of the PD approach depends on getting the community to: define its own problem, develop and use its own information to discover the scale of the problem and any positive deviants, determine what the successful practices are in detail, design practical ways of spreading and sharing these practices, disseminate the practices through the community. Valuing the views of the people who make up any business is beyond dispute.

19. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) – In a central manner, mobilize and use the practice of crafting and asking employees “unconditional positive questions” that will strengthen the organization’s capacity to capture, anticipate, and heighten positive potentials. This demanding task of involvement will give way to the speed of imagination and innovation; instead of disapproval, disparagement, and uncontrolled diagnosis, there will be discovery, dream, and design. With the use of AI, an organization seeks, fundamentally, to build a constructive union between employees and the massive entirety of what they talk about as past and present capacities: their achievements, innovations, potentials, assets, strengths, opportunities, benchmarks, lived values, traditions, etc.

Deliberately AI works from utilizing “positive change core” and it assumes that everyone has many untapped and rich and inspiring accounts of the positives. During change, an organization can link the energy of this core directly to change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.

See the draft of A Positive Revolution in Change:  Appreciative Inquiry by David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney

20. Facilitation: Facilitation will help employees or individuals, to learn, share ideas, find a solution or reach a consensus about the change. It is about enabling and making things possible through employee collaboration and power-sharing. Facilitation can be the role of one person in an organization or can be shared across the organization with people taking turns to facilitate change, but the facilitation message must be consistent. Facilitation in relation to change is about transforming power relations and working with others to build alternative ways of understanding key change reasons and developing new strategies for change. It is about creating the space and environment for employees with different starting points and experiences of the issue that they need to come together and explore its commonalities and deduce ways of working collaboratively.

The principle of how organizations involve and support employees during change is that people will support what they create; there is no need to ‘sell’ it to them or to get their ‘buy-in’ if they are involved in building the change. Since they help to create the change, they already own it and will support it.

Let us hear from you if you have further information to add to how organizations involve and support employees during change.

Catherine Adenle
Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.
Catherine Adenle
Catherine Adenle

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