Companies need to evolve in order to grow, but sometimes at work, as in life, we grow into familiar habits.
Bringing about change in your company can positively test people with new challenges. But it can also provoke the fear factor; things we're not used to can end up being a bit scary. New software systems, processes and environments can cause many folks to feel unsettled.
And embracing change in work can be harder than in our personal lives, where we can feel more in control of differing conditions.
So, how do you overcome this natural resistance to change in the workplace? Here are some strategies for business owners and managers who want to help their companies evolve without causing too much disruption.
Be a listener, not just a talker
You might have your heart set on making a change to company policy, strategy, or work practices - but have you asked your employees what they think? Listening to what the workforce has to say about the planned changes will ensure that they feel valued.
If you do it properly, you can gain a lot from their opinions. They might lead you to rethink something or offer a viewpoint which you hadn't considered before. Ask good questions and you'll get useful answers.
Show your enthusiasm
If you don't demonstrate that you believe in the changes, how can you expect others to follow? When communicating a change within your company, you need to explain the decision with conviction and excitement, in order to engage your employees. Don't hesitate - put your heart into it.
Make it a joint effort
Who will take up the responsibility of implementing the changes within your company? It's important that you involve the right people from the outset so that it's a joint effort, led by participation.
Whether it's a human or digital transformation; if people are not made to feel part of the changes, you'll be more likely to encounter resistance from them. Managers should do their best to make everyone feel like they're playing a part in bringing about the alterations, rather than simply being subject to top-down decisions.
Don't be surprised by resistance
If you expect resistance to change, you can be more prepared to deal with it. There are a number of typical reasons why employees could resist change, and you should take the time to understand and expect them.
Maybe an employee played a part in creating the current way of working that's being changed, and is worried that their workload will increase because of the change. They might have disagreed with the change when it was first suggested, or are currently performing well within the status quo. These situations are to be expected and need to be managed carefully.
Implement things gradually
Take a gentler approach. Try to implement the change gradually, giving plenty of warnings, and time between when you first communicate the change and when it is implemented. This provides employees with the breathing space to get their heads around what'll happen, as well as an opportunity to learn any new skills needed.
Drastic changes made quickly won't make anyone happy, and missing out on valuable testing and feedback means a higher likelihood of operational problems further down the line.
You shouldn't seek to stamp out any signs of resistance. If an employee wants to raise their opposition to the changes with you or a line manager, this should be seen as a positive. You should listen empathetically, even if ultimately you need to explain why the changes were made and that they will not be reversed.
Offering employees a keen ear can lead you to more clues about how other members of your workforce might be feeling, and so you can respond to these feelings more effectively.
Part of encouraging participation in making the changes is to offer a sounding board to employees. Make it clear that you welcome any feedback, and that you will take it into account when deciding policy and strategy. Be ready to make some tweaks to your plan when necessary, and always be open to improving - enhancements to your plan which are rooted in employee feedback will give you the best response. Remain understanding and open-minded while still being decisive.
Making changes can be a test of your management style, relationships within your organisation, and communication skills. The key is not to go it alone - don't have a 'us vs them' mentality. Try to get as many people on board as possible. This only comes by being a good listener and allowing your employees to feel invested in the changes. Do this over time, and you'll have a company full of invested, motivated people - and that's how you build a company culture.