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Winning Hearts and Minds: 5 Strategies for Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change

Wednesday May 10, 2023

Winning Hearts and Minds: 5 Strategies for Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change

Wednesday May 10, 2023

Change may be the only constant in life but knowing that doesn’t make accepting it any easier. Change can be especially problematic at work as employees are known to resist change. Not only because it’s scary, but because it can make people feel exposed and unsure. “People have trouble developing a vision of what life will look like on the other side of change. Therefore, they tend to cling to the known rather than embrace the unknown” (Ohio State University).

As organizations introduce change, it’s important to prepare for this resistance and to roll out plans for change in a thoughtful, strategic, and empathetic way. Continue reading for five strategies organizations should consider when undergoing a critical change.

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

When introducing change to an organization, there is arguably nothing more important than developing a clear communication plan for all stages of the change. This is reinforced by BetterUp: “It is important to cultivate a culture of transparency whenever feasible and to share information as often as possible with employees, especially when trying to navigate a change. Without it, employees can become defensive, lack trust in leadership, and not have adequate time to process the information, which leads to further pushback.” There is no quicker way to erode trust than to withhold information or share it haphazardly. For example, if the change being implemented could raise concerns about job security, get ahead of that by communicating accordingly. Make sure you are anticipating any potential concerns and addressing them during your communication strategy. Ideally, you’ll be providing answers to questions before they’re even asked!

2. Get your Leaders on Board

Involve your leaders, specifically people managers, in decisions about change early and often. Your leadership teams are most often the people representing decisions, and it will behoove an organization greatly to ensure those leaders understand what’s coming, why decisions were made, and their role in communicating any information. Leaders can also provide valuable input on potential roadblocks, allowing you to plan how to address potential challenges, instead of simply reacting to them.

Furthermore, your leaders are often managing teams, and will typically be the first to field questions from their employees. Ensure your leaders are equipped with the information they need to answer questions, support the change, and allay concerns.

3. Engage Employees in the Change Process

Much like your leaders, identifying key employees who could serve as ambassadors for change can be hugely beneficial. While it may not be logical to invite all employees into the conversation before the change is made, inviting a select group of employees to do so is a tactic worth considering. This will strategically equip key employees with information and exposure to the change ahead of time, allowing them to help their peers manage it. It also demonstrates a level of trust in those key employees, engaging them at a level they may not have been previously. This will go a long way in gaining their buy-in.

Once the change is rolled out, consider surveying all employees for their feedback. A willingness to listen once the change has been communicated demonstrates your commitment to your employees as part of the process. You may also gain some valuable insight from this feedback that could present opportunities to continuously refine the changes you initiated.

4. Provide Support during the Change

One of the biggest drivers of anxiety when it comes to change is fear of the unknown. Make sure your employees know that they’ll be adequately supported during this period of transition. For example, if the change being implemented involves a new process, technology, or tool, provide appropriate training and access to resources in order to set employees up for success. Check-in with employees regularly throughout the transition period to make sure they have what they need, and if not, find ways to mitigate this.

5. Celebrate Successes!

Change isn’t easy, so take the time to celebrate the wins – even when they are small! Celebrating success can help reinforce the benefits of the change, build momentum, and increase employee morale. Celebrations can take many forms, including recognition programs, team outings, or public acknowledgments. “Recognizing both privately and publicly those that are helping facilitate the change or adapting to it, even in small ways, can further create employee satisfaction with the changes” (BetterUp).

Resistance to change is a common challenge that organizations must overcome to support business growth in this competitive landscape. Effective communication, involving leaders and employees in the change process, providing training and support, and celebrating success are all strategies that can help to overcome employee resistance to change. By implementing these strategies, organizations can ensure that change is embraced, not feared and that their employees are invested in the success the change will bring.

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