Evergreen change management challenges, including the need to engage employees in change, continue to be top priorities for businesses in 2017, according to APQC’s annual priorities survey, “2017 Process and Performance Management Priorities and Challenges.” We conducted this survey at the end of 2016 to better understand the pressing priorities and challenges of process and performance practitioners for 2017.
At its core, change management is the act of proactively managing change and minimizing resistance to organizational change by engaging key stakeholders in the change process. Since these are evergreen challenges, organizations can leverage the efforts of best-practice organizations to address them.
Engaging employees throughout the journey
Best-practice organizations use communication and engagement tactics to create a sense of ownership and overcome the common barriers to change that diffuse momentum.
The typical change journey spans the five steps that an individual progresses through during change. The steps begin with awareness and end with adoption. During the awareness stage, employees should be able to provide a comprehensive summary of the change. During the adoption stage, they should consistently display the behaviors used in the new process. To ensure adoption and move employees through the change journey, an organization’s core and implementation teams need to identify and address the common barriers to change through aggressive communication and engagement tactics.
Best-practice organizations understand that traditional change barriers—such as flavor-of-the-week perceptions, employees’ willingness to change, and leading by example—reflect the level of acceptance or buy-in with senior management and employees. Establishing buy-in involves transparent communications, personalization of what the change means, and interactive engagement.
Five keys to engage employees in change
There are five key lessons to be learned when using communications and engagement to develop buy-in and overcome resistance:
Keep communications open and honest. Be transparent, even when conveying bad news. Employees respect the honesty, and that in turn creates the trust necessary to facilitate change.
Be deliberate about the purpose and target of the communications. All information will not be relevant to everyone within the organization, and overcommunication can result in people ignoring important information.
Leverage peer catalysts. Identify and leverage centers of influence within the organization who are natural change agents. These agents are not always managers. They help communicate information and create buy-in from the bottom up.
Close the loop. Always provide updates on what is done with people’s questions or feedback. This serves two purposes: It lets employees know the organization listens to them and respects their thoughts, and it answers similar questions that other employees have.
Engage employees in the process. Use interactive communication tactics such as focus groups, war games, social media, crowdsourcing, and employee-led training. This engagement approach not only helps create buy-in but also allows the organization to tap into the expertise and ideas of its employees for the transformation.
Managers need specific tools and strategies to connect with many types of people while projecting confidence, credibility and trustworthiness.