Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Stephen Hawking said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” They are absolutely right. How is your business changing? How is your business adapting to new challenges in the workplace and the needs and wants from your own employees? This article gives you tips on change management and how you can apply it within your own HR teams and organizations.
Lessons from Top Brands on Change Management
No business transforms faster than technology and telecommunications companies, so it’s important to have change management ingrained in the culture of the business. According to Digital HR Leaders, AT&T is undergoing a major business and organizational transformation. Melissa Corwin, Vice President for Employee Experience at AT&T, says, “To be successful in transforming the business, being competitive in the market and growing customer relationships, we knew that we needed to change how we worked together internally.”
But even companies that make staples like food and beverages have to pivot sometimes. Coca-Cola, arguably the most known brand in the world, has made a point to go through significant change over the years. The company’s success could partially be attributed to the changes it has made over the years to meet the needs and demands of its customers. An interesting example of this happened during World War II. Coca-Cola’s goal was to manage its position in the marketplace. At the time, the company was entering new markets and finding new niches. Coca-Cola decided to give free drinks to soldiers and ultimately developed a persona and symbol of patriotism. Ultimately the change boosted sales and prepared the company for expansion outside of the World War II era. That’s just one example. Coca-Cola has numerous stories of change, from developing new drinks like Diet Coke and Coke Zero to tapping into the tea and bottled water segments.
Change efforts from Coca-Cola and AT&T take not just months, but years to create, and this has allowed them to thrive across the United States and the world.
How to Start the Change Management Process
Understanding the roles of HR and management is important in starting the change management process. Management and leadership have the responsibility of getting it backed by a common understanding and strategic way forward. Management must be able to coach their direct reports during the process in order to have a successful implementation. Without a solid coaching relationship, the change can get bottlenecked.
Steps in the Change Management Process
John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor known for his adoption of change management techniques, uses an eight-step approach for managing change. These eight steps include:
- Create a sense of urgency.
- Build a guiding coalition of employees who have the power to lead the change.
- Form a strategic vision and initiatives.
- Enlist a volunteer army.
- Enable action by removing barriers.
- Generate short-term wins.
- Sustain acceleration.
- Institute change.
Why is change management so difficult?
In order to understand how to implement change management, you need to understand why people are so resistant to it. The heart of change comes down to a few simple, very human emotions. Change brings out our fears, embarrassments and pride. Great leaders understand these emotions and plan for them when thinking about change.
The Biggest Reasons Employees Are Resistant to Change
People are very autonomous. When they feel as if they have lost control, they can become very resistant. It seems like an attitude issue, but according to Psychology Today, these feelings of change resistance are powered by neurobiology.
“Our basal ganglia in the ancestral or primitive brain are responsible for ‘wiring’ habits,” it reports. This cluster of nerve cells is involved in routine functions and that change can go against the neural pathways. This happens when we try to change personal behaviors like increasing physical activity, and it also happens when we try to change a work behavior.
If employees struggle with depression or other challenges, change can be even more challenging. For example, depression can trigger a lack of interest and increased inertia. Those with ADHD may have difficulty following through on the steps needed to carry out change.
Don’t Surprise Your Employees During the Change Process
The uncertainty of a change management initiative is hard for employees. Employees may feel lost when a change management process starts. People often want to know where they are headed. American businesswoman Julie Sweet said, “We believe that transparency is needed to create trust, and it’s also needed to create a dialogue.” Employees want to take the bad and know what is coming. It takes a special leader to see the future goals and communicate them effectively with employees.
Employees who experience decisions out of the blue during a transition phase in the company often can become resistant to the changes. Preparing plans in secret can offset a goal of transparency and leave employees wondering what else may be happening in secret across the organization. It’s better to plant seeds of what’s to come instead of staging big, unexpected announcements.
HR professionals can help guide employees during this time, encouraging leaders to give employees as much information as possible as it becomes available. Leaders should be aware of reasons employees may struggle and sensitive to mental health issues. They may need to meet with employees individually to offer focused support and guidance.
Whenever possible, leaders should offer options and choices to empower employees at a time when they may feel like they’ve lost some autonomy.
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