Change is the new constant, requiring managers to master how to lead and delegate.  You must be prepared to embrace hairpin turns of digital transformation. Disruptive trends, market volatility, and the recent pandemic have radically changed the way teams work and workplace functions.

According to a joint survey by Forbes Insight and PMI on more than 500 executives, 85% voted that change management is crucial to be successful in these times of unprecedented changes. But, even for agile businesses, the biggest roadblock towards change management is employee’s resistance to change. And without a shift in the mindset of both individual and institution simultaneously, effective change management fails to create the impact.

New process implementation and the learning curve associated with the change are challenging enough to get employees on board. We humans resist anything that jolts us out of our comfort zone because we are creatures of habits by default. To overcome the resistance to change, managers will find these tips useful to navigate through the deceptive waters of transformation.

1) Upskill your workforce: In this decade of increasing automation and dynamic business trends, upskilling has become a priority. To make employees feel relevant to their workplace, organizations must create opportunities that continually develop their skills. Forward-thinking organizations realize that training is crucial to succession planning and employee motivation.

Managers can use resource management software to get a 360-degree view of all resources, non human or human, across the enterprise. Project vacancy and people on the bench reports provide insights on resources on the bench so that they can be assigned to suitable training programs pre-identified as critical to their professional growth. They can then re skill or upskill to become work-ready. When employees acquire new skills, they are competent to fill in an important position and hit the ground running which creates a win-win situation for both the employee and the organization.

2) Involve every layer: Employees resist change especially when change decisions are made without asking for their input. So, employee buy-in is indispensable for the smooth implementation of a new process. For effective change management, involving middle management and frontline workers for impact analysis is indispensable. Tapping early inputs from them smoothens the path for complex change initiatives in a matrix structure with multiple lines of reporting.

The challenge lies in getting everybody together. Senior management would be pressed for time weighing operational decisions, while the workforce themselves would be occupied with their weekly schedule.  That, and the belief that it’s simpler and far more efficient if fewer people are involved. On the contrary, broader involvement while time-consuming pays dividends in the future.  It helps everyone understand the way forward and how a decision was reached, actioning responses to strategic goals. So, it is imperative to create the optimal conditions for teamwork and collaboration by involving them at every step of the change management process so that they feel invested in and accountable for success.

3) Company culture alignment: Most planners do not take the existing company culture into account when designing the transformation process.  They probably view it as a past legacy from which they want to move on or feel it is malleable enough to transition effortlessly without the explicit attention.

Skilled change managers who are consciously in favor of organizational change management best practices don’t shy away from making the most of the existing company culture. The energy emanating from the elements of culture like employee thinking, behavior, way of work, and emotions should be aligned with the change initiatives to make the change more sustainable.

4) Build employee trust: Even the best-laid change management plan will grapple if there is no trust which usually comes from the top down. As a manager when you build a relationship outside the change window, it fosters an environment of trust and leverages your employees’ readiness for change.

When change managers take the initiative of delegating trust by sharing information and communicating with key shareholders, it helps in eradicating issues before they become future roadblocks. Trust building minimizes risks in daily activities, aligns employees with the organization’s vision and strategy, provides learning opportunities, and builds transparency.

5) Set specific goals: With several parts moving in tandem in an organization, implementing change and achieving efficient transformation can be tricky. Managers must set specific and incremental goals instead of using vague statements like reducing costs and improving efficiency.

Managers must connect SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely with the change management system. Creating a benchmark works as a yardstick to measure progress against the goals set and then adjust processes as required. So that when projects drag on, employees are still on track towards attaining the end goal without losing interest and motivation along the way.

6) Creating a crisis: Crisis management is a backup plan when change management founders and plays a critical role in the organizational change management process. In many businesses, a crisis is already prevalent in the form of missing important deadlines, project failure, or high employee turnover. In this scenario, crisis intervention will help identify the causes, develop coping strategies, and relieve the current issues.

But what if your organization is not amid pronounced crisis and yet failing to achieve productivity goals?  Sometimes disruption is all it takes to motivate people out of their comfort zone towards transformation. When managers create an urgency for change, employees are nudged to introspect and find a better approach. Making employees a part of the process pivots accountability from the very start, rather than just a means to an end. Creating a crisis necessitates the need to change otherwise, the status quo lingers.

7) Rigorous planning averts resistance: Obscurity causes people to resist any activity as the possible outcomes are unknown. “Ambiguity aversion” which means preference over known risks over the unknown explains the reason behind employee’s resistance to change.

Ambiguity arising due to the lack of clarity between the present and future state causes employee despondency. To overcome this ambivalence, a quantifiable plan with incremental milestones and communicated end goals should be chalked out. So, instead of asking employees to deal with the change, managers must demarcate landmarks and track progress so that teammates feel like they are moving in the right direction.

The Takeaway: Building an effective and efficient change management model can be time-consuming and costly. But once it’s in place, the rewards can be abundant Successful businesses are defined by their potential to fiercely adopt constant transformation. Change managers must ensure a disciplined approach towards change management and continue to oversee it to stay ahead of the competition at all times.

Author bio: 

Mahendra Gupta is PMP certified with over 10 years of expertise in smart workforce planning and resource management. He presently works for Saviom Software as a Project Consultant, where his experience has enabled multinational businesses around the globe to diversify their project portfolio. Follow his work here.

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