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Helping Staff to Change

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

Change is a constant in the business world today and, every increasingly, staff are expected to cope with uncertainty. Successful change is about helping people adapt. If staff can be helped to embrace, rather than resist new ways, the more likely change will be embedded within an organization.

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    Change Management Methodology and People

    Change management methodologies focus firmly on the people aspects of change. While project management often covers procedural and system aspects of implementing change, change management is about people. When it comes to change, procedures and systems are logical and predicable; people are not. Putting in a new system means buying new technology and installing new software. It may mean writing new procedures. While not always simple, these are relatively straightforward. However, what is needed to complete the picture is changing the way people work; sometimes even changing people's behavior.

    It is important to recognize that, with any change management methodology, people need support to change the way they work and their behavior.

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    Uncertain About Change

    Thoughtful businesswman
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    How People React to Change

    No sooner has one change gone in then staff are expected to cope with yet another upheaval. It's not unusual for organizations to be going through multiple changes at the same time. It's not surprising, therefore, that people struggle with change. Change is often associated with uncertainty and people can deal with this uncertainty in many different ways.

    Many people like routine; they like to know they have a job that will bring in an income, they are comfortable knowing what work to do and who they will be working with, and they like to know that their future is relatively secure. Even if they don't like their job very much, there is comfort in the routine and knowledge that they have a job.

    When implementing change it is important to recognize that some people will struggle. Typical reactions to change can include resistance, anger and denial. With support, people can begin to accept, adjust and eventually adapt to change. When implementing change, it is important to recognize the management of these reactions as a key change management concept.

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    Helping Staff Embrace Change

    The first step towards embracing change is understanding what it means. It can take time for people to acknowledge and accept changes. Managers and project staff can help people by providing them with information on what the change is all about. People want to understand why change is necessary and the reasons behind it. They want to know why an organization has decided to invest heavily in transformation; they may also want to understand why previous initiatives may no longer be relevant.

    For people to begin to adapt to change they need to understand what it means personally to them. Managers and project teams can assist staff by explaining what is expected of them. Providing staff with information gives them the opportunity to accept that change is necessary but also to prepare themselves for new ways of working.

    Part of the process of adjustment is coming to terms with the loss of previous ways and beginning to work in the new, changed behaviors. For some people this may mean working in very different methods (for example, much of a person's previous role may now be done automatically via an online application) or working in a very different environment (such as a change in department personnel). Managers can assist their staff by providing support and training as well as giving them opportunities to discuss their concerns.