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Helping Staff Understand Change

written by: PlatypusPaws • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 7/6/2011

In the rush to implement change, staff are often expected to simply accept the resulting changes to their work and lives. But people don't always adjust as quickly and easily as would be hoped. One of the biggest hurdles to transforming organizations is getting people to change the way they behave.

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    Different Perceptions of Change

    Change Transformation within organizations can mean different things to different people. Senior executives are often focused on the long-term goals and objectives of transformation, looking to the future, and the benefits it will bring. Staff, responsible for the day-to-day activities of the business, are often interested in the real changes that will be happening to the way they work.

    Having different change messages, addressing the various levels of information required, are important change management success factors.

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    Communication and Change Management

    If an organization is to truly achieve large-scale transformation, then it is important to assist staff through change. An important stage in this adaption process is understanding why they need to change. Communication is an essential part of this process.

    Staff don't just want to know that they have to change, they want to understand the reasons behind it. With this knowledge, they can begin the process of accepting that change is necessary. They may not agree with the reasons, they may not like the results of the change, but none the less, they accept that it is happening.

    Communicating change can come in many forms. It can be via large forums where people are notified, as a group, of a large up-coming change. The advantage of this method is that everyone finds out at the same time. Sometimes it is more appropriate to communicate in small groups (perhaps providing details to teams who will be directly affected) or on a one-to-one basis (such as informing someone personally of a change to their job). Communication needs to be regular and in a way that is appropriate to the recipient. For example, sending out email newsletters may not be effective if some staff do not have regular access to their emails.

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    Rumors can quickly spread

    Rumours
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    Resistance to Change

    Change would be easy if staff simply accepted they needed to change and it happened without delay. Unlike systems and processes that can be updated and replaced without need of explanation, people need knowledge. Without knowledge, they will resist change.

    The first step in breaking down this resistance is helping people understand the reasons behind the change. Grand and unclear messages, such as It will make the business more efficient, do not provide people with reasons. The reasons behind change need to be clear: We need to transform our business to reduce our overhead and make our products more competitively priced on the market.

    Organizations striving to embed change need to provide their staff support. If staff can see that costs are rising and profits are falling, it's a pretty clear picture that the organization needs to change to stay in business. Where possible, the more these change factors can be shared with staff, the more they can understand the necessity for change.

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    Making Change Personal

    As much as people can understand why an organization needs to change, it can often be difficult for them to see beyond any personal implications. Understandably, staff may be more concerned with how they are going to pay their mortgage if their job is at risk.

    With any large scale change, the first concern many people have is that their job is at risk. If roles are not at risk, the sooner this can be communicated, the quicker any rumors can be dispelled. However, large transformation do often mean job losses. Again, if these can be communicated, the quicker people can begin to make preparations. Information and knowledge are again key. Let people know the support they will be given.

    It is often local managers who can play a key role in helping people understand the personal implications of change. If staff participate in defining new ways of working, the more quickly they will accept and adapt to change. Local managers are also the people that staff will generally go to with concerns.



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