How to take your people with you on a change journey

Change is inevitable. Be it in business or personal life, it often requires new ways of thinking and doing – shifting people from what they are used to, to the unknown.  For many, change can be a positive thing. But it can also generate a feeling of uncertainty and resistance. Take Brexit – it divided the country leaving half the population jumping for joy and the other half scratching their heads.

No matter how well designed your change programme is, not everyone will be on board from day one. Inherent or even justified resistance to change may lead to decreased morale and disinterest, causing a knock-on effect on your ability to capitalise on any benefits the change might bring. But here are a few things you can do.

1. Identify and empower

One of the first steps to ensuring successful change is to identify who will be impacted. This isn't necessarily just the senior team, but often includes others throughout the organisation. From here, you can consult and recruit people who are prepared to 'champion the change' for their functional area. We recently worked with a public sector organisation who was going through significant IT change, and we established a network of over 400 'change champions' who helped to deliver the solution into the operational teams. These champions helped to review materials, communicate key information, attend workshops and act as a key point of contact for their business area. The result? The champions ensured a smooth transition of teams to new ways of working.

2. Engage

Engaging with people is key – before, during and after the change. Set up forums, calls or meetings to discuss upcoming changes. And seek input from those not only at a senior level, but those who have more practical knowledge of the day-to-day working systems and processes. One approach we take with organisations looking engage with their people, is to set up roadshows to reach out to teams in different locations to show the work being done and what impact this has for the teams. These will provide you with an opportunity to meet with real business users and collect their feedback which can be incorporated into the final product.

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3. Listen

As simple as it sounds, a fundamental element to landing change successfully with your employees is taking the time to listen to their concerns or questions. You'll then be able to take on board their ideas and, where feasible, incorporate these within the change process. While working with an organisation in the public sector, we led various change impact assessments with representatives from the business to define the change and what it means for them. These sessions allowed us to collaborate with the business to collectively define the change and how best to transition to the new ways of working.  

4. Communicate

During periods of change, people look for clarity and honesty. Providing clear and frequent communications to your employees will ensure they feel more involved in the process. And communication shouldn't just take place once a change has happened. While working with a government organisation going through a substantial change programme, we established a text messaging service to inform senior stakeholders when releases went live – encouraging the business to adopt the new digital service.

Implementing successful and lasting change requires strong leadership – but this doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with an autocratic approach. Recognising the importance of bringing your employees with you on the change journey is fundamental to ensuring the change is successful and, most importantly, sticks.

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