Much like street signs, preparing your workers for changes that are up ahead can make transitions less bumpy.

How to Effectively Manage Change in the Workplace

It's said that change is life's only constant. But if it is so commonplace, why do so many people have a hard time managing when it becomes necessary?

Such difficulties are particularly evident in the workplace. Staff members can tend to operate by the adage of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," believing there's no reason to change merely for change's sake.

While there may be some truth to such a mindset, fundamental change may be unavoidable when the old way of doing things is no longer working, but the context as to why hasn't yet trickled down to your workers and their day-to-day responsibilities. Even when change is acknowledged as inexorable, staff may still be reluctant to embrace it, especially if they've established a routine that's worked for them.

All this is to say that change can't be suddenly and summarily imposed – it must be managed in a methodical, measured and thoughtful manner. If new processes are in the works or senior staff are being replaced, here are a few strategies you can implement so staff members will be more embracing of change, rather than resistant to it.

1. Describe what personnel can expect
With the possible exception of birthday parties or Christmas presents, people tend not to enjoy huge surprises: They like to know what's coming well in advance of events actually taking place. That's why it's pivotal to provide plenty of advance notice to staff regarding any impending changes. Providing them with sufficient heads up through smart communication tactics not only enables them to prepare and adjust, but also provides an opening for them to ask questions, so that they're appreciative (or at least understandable) of why the change is happening. These inquiries can spur conversation that can be addressed in company meetings or correspondence.

2. Define the change at the individual level
There's a reason why weather forecasts on local news programs are popular: Clouds and rain or soaring temperatures affect them personally. The same holds true for changes; staff want to know exactly how they specifically will be impacted. Whether it's a new software, chain of command, office setup or operational rule, be as precise as possible in explaining how each individual will feel the effects. Here as well, specificity can lead to discussion, which fosters greater understanding and – ideally – acceptance.

3. Elaborate on why the change is required
One of the biggest frustrations with any change is not knowing its purpose. As previously referenced, while change can encourage growth, workers may feel like the shift is pointless if they don't understand the context that led to it. While certain transitions may be "eyes-only" – intended to be seen by certain personnel, not the whole organisation – be as forthcoming as you can in outlining the reasoning for the change. Context is king and details can make believers out of those who were initially resistant.

4. Avoid "sugar coating"
While change may at times be necessary, there may be growing pains along the way, ones that certain departments may feel more acutely than others. It's important to be transparent about this possibility so workers can better absorb complications and understand that they're not alone in their frustrations. In other words, if the change will be tough at the outset, say so. There's a certain level of comfort in knowing that everyone is in this process together so people don't feel like they're all alone or are the only one who is struggling with the transition.

Change rarely comes easily – but at the Institute for Communication, Management and Leadership, we can make it easier by providing you with the skills you need to lead and succeed in implementing strategic change. Contact us to learn more.

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