Discover how to increase employee engagement with Change Readiness.
Written by Collette Murray, Head of Consulting at Performance Consultants.
– 7 mins read –
The saying goes that there’s only two things we can be certain of – death and taxes. We now know that we can add a third – change! Right now, that’s organization change. Organizations are in constant flux – be it changes in staff (up or down), introducing new ways of working, implementing different systems, moving into new geographic or product markets.
So why is it that, according to a survey conducted in 2022 by Gartner, just 43% of employees are willing to support organizational change compared to 74% in 2016?
Why Change Readiness Matters for Engaging Your Workforce
Organizations must adapt and grow, or they will flounder and fail, which means that change is already built into the systemic expectations of the organization. However, this expectation is most often held at the leadership level rather than being shared across the whole organization.
An employee who has been with an organization for any amount of time will have experienced a number of changes, we’ve all been there! Without the support of the people who are impacted, change won’t happen effectively, it won’t “stick”, old ways of working will creep back in, people will be unhappy and discombobulated, and overall performance will suffer.
So, what can organizations do to prepare their teams for change, gain their support, and maintain high performance?
Navigating Organisational Change
There are four things that leadership teams can focus on to embed change readiness into their organization, which will regain the support of their employees for their change initiatives:
Invest in leadership development
The role of the manager in experiencing change and having to manage their teams through the change is a double whammy. Most people are promoted based on their technical expertise and their ability to reach performance goals consistently. However, once they are in the position of being a manager or team leader, they realise they have little opportunity to use their technical skills and are more likely to spend their time co-ordinating projects, setting performance goals with others and navigating “office politics”.
Research shows that technical experts make great leaders because they understand the nuances of the job, can challenge their teams’ thinking and stretch them based on their own experience. Research also shows that there is a need to support these technical experts in developing their leadership skills. These are often referred to as “soft skills” yet can be the hardest to learn. They tend to be intangible, such as communication, listening and engaging (all the skills associated with a coaching style of leadership). These skills are fundamental in helping managers navigate the nuances of their new challenges, which include supporting their teams through change.
Find out how we increased employee engagement with Mastercard by creating an interactive training programme focused on coaching and leadership that equipped their global managers with the skills to develop a coaching management style.
Free up capacity
When we’re doing something different or differently, it can slow us down as we need more headspace to think it through. When was the last time you had to take a different route to work? It probably felt awkward, you had to think about where you were going, and you couldn’t rely on your experience or “muscle memory”. The most frequent feedback we get from our clients is that they’re too busy, and when people are constantly overwhelmed with being “busy”, they’ll have less capacity to be able to take on change.
Creating capacity in the system can mean prioritising change over day-jobs or hiring temporary cover, bringing in change experts to support, or expanding the implementation timeline. Whatever it looks like for your organisation, freeing up capacity will enable your people to prepare for and sustain change.
This is particularly important when we’re talking about behaviour change. In organizations, the leaders set the tone for everybody else. A recent poll by Gallup uncovered that a 70% variance in employee engagement is a result of management and leadership, indicating the importance of their behaviour. John Kotter has written extensively about why change efforts fail, and two of the factors he takes into consideration are having a “guiding coalition” and a “compelling vision”.
When change is announced, employees look to the leaders for… well, leadership! If they can be relied upon to consistently talk about and role model what is expected from the change then employees are more likely to trust them and go with it. So, if organizations expect to see a different style of behaviour, then the leaders must embody that change, and as Ghandi said “be the change you want to see in the world!”
Create a network of change agents
People generally want to know what’s actually going to be different for them, i.e. how they will be impacted by change. A network of change agents can quickly disseminate information across the organization about what, who and when. If the change isn’t going to affect everyone in the same way or at the same time, this network, embedded across different departments or areas, can be clear about that. They won’t treat the whole organization as a homogenous group and can help to prioritise and communicate accordingly.
Rather than combatting change fatigue, embedding agility and adaptability (change readiness) in the system means that change is the norm, a steady state isn’t expected and people can flex more easily.
Contact us for a no obligations conversation about how we can support your organisational change and embed change readiness in your organisation.
Employees Are Losing Patience with Change Initiatives – Harvard Business Review
Change Management Requires a Change Mindset – Harvard Business Review
To Implement Change, You Don’t Need to Convince Everyone at Once – Harvard Business Review
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