How to Support Employees Through Organizational Change
Key Success Factors 1-4: Consultation, Stability and Analysis
Key Element 1 – Consult With Employees and Their Representatives
Employees and their unions have the right to know as soon as possible about management decisions that may affect employment.
To ensure that employees and their representatives are involved in the communication process, incorporate the following strategies into your communications plan:
Get the message across in a simple, easy to understand format while meeting people's preferences for receiving and processing information.
Ensure the message remains fresh in the minds of people.
Maintain a consistent message through a range of communication media.
Communication Processes - Continued
The communication process is an integral part of change implementation and needs to be maintained throughout the entire change process.
This ensures communication does not become an ‘afterthought’ and helps the organization achieve open communication with employees.
Open communication occurs when an organization communicates change information with employees and their representatives as soon as possible.
To achieve open communication, an organization must ensure that all stakeholders are fully briefed and seek responses from employees through personal contact telephone or return from e-mail and follow up with further information.
Communication Processes - Continued
Communication should be framed in a number of ways, even for the same message.
Some people prefer a visual medium such as a poster. Others are more receptive to discussing the issue at a meeting or on the work floor. If you want to get your message across to all employees you need to use a number of media.
Follow the ideas listed below, to get your message across successfully:
Use visual tools such as PowerPoint presentations or color slides for group presentations.
Use e-mail attachments to provide plenty of information for people to delve into if they are curious and have a preference for reading.
Provide opportunities to discuss issues with groups or participate in informal chats where people have a preference for face-to-face communication.
Develop a lively, colorful web page for the change program and add plenty of text files for people to search through for information.
Use a newsletter, cartoons help to lighten the mood.
Put colorful posters in common areas and lifts, put in a contact number.
Adopt an 'open door' policy for staff, make it easy for staff to get time with you.
Communication Processes - Continued
Communication of the message you pass on must be meaningful to the receivers.
To ensure that your message stands out as meaningful amongst all other correspondence to staff, use the following tips:
Make sure the message is consistent and can be tracked back to other publicly stated strategies, principles and values.
Promote other strategies that support or confirm the direction you are taking.
Make the message simple by sticking to the core issues.
Attach logos, cartoons or pictures to all messages as recognizable symbols reminding staff of a particular change program.
Use a catch phrase to 'head up' important information and rally people to the cause, capture their imagination and harness their emotion to the task at hand.
Get people's attention, don't assume people will be attentive. Use quiet times to get your message across. Alternatively, arrange a session away from work, where people are free to speak and to listen.
Look back through past communication. Does the message make as much sense now as it did then? Have we drifted from our central message, principles and values?
Key Element 2 – Providing Stability During Change
Providing a period of stability leading up to a period of change can be a useful element for supporting people through change.
Although a significant period of stability would be ideal, it is rarely achievable within certain industries. Management can however, give employees a strong message that Management does not intend to 'rush in' the change for change sake.
A period of relative stability, if achievable, is a good time to conduct consultation and negotiation to work towards an agreed plan for change.
Periods of stability help obtain employee support for the changes being implemented!
Define the Purpose of Change - Key Principles
In order to provide stability during periods of change, follow the tips below:
Consult with employees and their representatives on employment arrangements in the planning process with the emphasis on maximizing the use of permanent staff.
For a short period, defer recruitment to vacant permanent positions, and fill these positions from within, or through secondments and temporary staff.
This should be done if it is anticipated there may be a reduction in the total number of jobs available at the end of the change process.
Fix dates for the start and end of the deferral time and stick to them.
Review the project workload and hold over non essential work until the end of the review.
Involve staff in the planning and analysis phase.
Allow enough time for employees and their representatives to have input to and review the plan -two weeks for each would be the minimum.
Publish the schedule for the planning and analysis phase.
Publish the 'conceptual material', papers, reports and readings as they evolve and are considered in the process.
Seek employee's comments on the draft plan.
Publish the draft change management plan and schedule as soon as it is complete.
Insource or outsource the provision of services in consultation with health unions.
Key Element 3 – Analyze the Extent of the Impact of Change on Employees
To understand the extent to which change will affect individuals, it is useful to have a working knowledge of the normal emotional reactions to change.
These emotional reactions are characterized by a number of stages. These stages can be beneficial to the individual and the organization if managed appropriately and are shown in the graphic below:
Stage 1 – Shock at Proposed Changes
This stage of change is often characterized by irrational fears, often fueled by rumor and inaccurate information. People become withdrawn, avoid others and insulate themselves against the change.
People exhibiting this reaction can present a 'no problems' facade and resist talking about the change. They also can act in robot-like ways and work with little energy. Energy is often turned inwards and used to maintain emotional distance.
Click for ideas to manage the shock stage
Moving through the shock stage provides time for people to reflect and helps them avoid jumping too quickly into new activities.
Ideas for Managing the Shock Stage
Managers should provide accurate information and explain what to expect of the change.
Information should always be consistent with what is being said by the project sponsor and other staff.
Make the first move and try to engage people in discussion about the change in their behavior.
Once people are willing to talk, focus on identifying their feelings and problems with the change.
Stage 2 – Retreat from the Situation
This stage of change is often characterized by sadness and loss. People focus on reminiscing about, and idealizing the past. People are worried about the loss of security, sense of direction, authority and control and often feel vulnerable.
Groups can close ranks and fear betrayal by others leaving the 'cause'. Energy may be turned to the past and used to maintain links with co-workers or 'doing it the old way'.
The retreat stage helps to maintain a sense of what was valuable from the past.
Click for ideas to manage the retreat stage
Ideas for Managing the Retreat Stage
Help people clarify what they specifically liked or 'valued' in the old system.
Help people develop a 'reality' base and separate facts from emotions.
Identify simple, practical steps to help them move to the changed practices.
Create rituals to recognize and say goodbye to the old ways.
Stage 3 – Reaction to the Situation
This stage of change is often characterized by anger and frustration, high levels of blaming, and complaining. People try to enlist support among others and tend to polarize groups into 'them' and 'us'. People may push for certain outcomes and then are unsatisfied when they get them. Energy is directed outward against the change.
Ideas for Managing the Reaction Stage:
Provide people with an opportunity to vent their emotions in a safe environment.
Try to bring out a realization of the cost of a fight.
Once anger is neutralized through direct expression, provide people with authority and responsibilities in the change process.
This stage helps people find energy and motivation to overcome blockages and move to a new situation.
Stage 4 – Passive Acceptance of What is Happening
This stage of change is often characterized by confusion and a sense of helplessness. People often experience a lack of direction and find it difficult to identify priorities.
People may also focus on collecting all the information before focusing on collecting all the information before committing to change.
People may take a 'victim' role in response to a sense of powerlessness and energy could be spent on passively, 'going through the motions'.
Ideas to manage the passive acceptance stage
In this stage
people can spend time collecting information, and planning for the future.
Stage 5 – Exploration
This stage of change is often characterized by a willingness to learn and to make collaborative plans.
Renewed interest leads to exploration into uncharted territory with the likelihood of anxiety, panic and a desire to know the rules before taking action. The work team may get over-excited about a range of ideas and have no idea how to implement them.
Benefits of Moving Through the Exploration Stage
• Searching and questioning leads to improved communication.
• Decision-making can become more participatory.
• Relationships are re-built and mutuality of purpose is re discovered.
Stage 5 – Exploration (Continued)
To deal with the exploration stage, follow the tips below:
Support individual's enthusiasm for projects.
Clarify boundaries, time, place and team rules.
Discuss objectives and reward individual effort and initiative.
Support open resolution of conflict.
Provide rituals to share and celebrate group effort.
Clarify areas of confusion and support realistic risk-taking.
Clarify formal, personal and collective relation- ships.
Stage 6 – Challenge
In this stage, the potential of the new is fully realized. The identity of the team is recognized and understood and roles relationships and expectations necessary to carry out the task are clear and well understood by all.
The benefits of moving through the challenge stage include:
Staff will function in an inter-dependent way, building on the work of others and experience a high level of work satisfaction.
People can make strong commitments and communication is authentic.
People feel valued and recognized for their contribution.
Stage 6 – Challenge (Continued)
To deal with the challenge stage, follow the tips below:
Keep validating the need for management of processes.
Encourage the team to talk about all aspects of their work.
Encourage honest, open communication.
Monitor underlying process.
Encourage discussion in areas of weakness and strength.
Key Element 4 – Provide Meaningful Work for Staff During the Transition
During all phases of change, it is important to provide meaningful work for all staff.
This need is particularly acute for staff for whom no immediate job placement has been found and are waiting for a placement somewhere within the organization.
Below are a range of ideas to provide meaningful work to staff during change:
Acknowledge staff’s need for meaningful work and discuss with the employee the work they would prefer to do during the interim period.
Assist employees to seek placement in existing departments within the organization.
Send staff for training and development so that they will be better prepared to deal with the change when it is implemented.
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