When Your Business Navigates Change, Involve Your Employees in the Process Early
If there's one constant in business, it’s this: Change is inevitable.
Nothing stays the same forever and organizations might face changes in several areas: the structure of the business,individual processes and efforts to comply with government regulations.
Often organizational changes come about as a result of external forces, such as environmental regulations, new state laws or a federal directive, such as the Affordable Care Act.
Just as change is inevitable, so is resistance to change. While change management will look different for every company, here are few guidelines for leaders to follow to help them effectively navigate:
Leaders should make it a priority to communicate changes as early as possible. Business leaders should have their finger on the pulse of the regulatory environment so that change does not come as a complete surprise.
As soon as a new law is passed or a fresh regulation approved, the company's management should share information directly with employees.
Once managers receive their directives about how to adapt to the new compliance needs, they should sit down with members of their team to let them know how their daily work will be affected and how the company will prepare them for this.
Leaders should never wait until the last minute to begin prepping the workforce for external changes. The sooner employees are involved, the better.
If employees need to be trained in new processes, start that training early. Some leaders jam in training at the last minute, which can cause employees to suffer from extreme anxiety -- and lead to extreme resistance.
Work as far in advance as feasible and create an environment that shows that everyone -- leadership, management and employees -- are all in the same boat because of the shifts.
Related: How to Lead Your Team Through Change
If the change is a strategic one, employees will have no external institution to blame. When changes come from leadership, employees' resistance and poor attitudes may be directed at (and will have the most impact on) managers and leaders.
An excellent way to mitigate potentially negative reactions is to get employees involved in the decision-making process rather than thrusting change upon them months down the line.
Share the company’s vision for the change and gather employees' input. Let employees ask questions and provide feedback. Giving staffers a voice in organizational change helps create a buy-in for the transition.
Leaders should never ignore individuals who are change resistant. Neglecting them will only make it worse.
Resisters will have the ears of team members and their attitudes and behaviors can spread. Addressing resistance directly not only helps contain it but also lets managers coach team members amid their fears surrounding change.
Navigating change is never as simple as it seems. Leaders should always keep in mind that employees are human beings and will have real feelings about change. Getting employees involved early on and creating a plan can help mitigate resistance and ensure that the change ultimately results in success for the company.
Beth Armknecht Miller is a certified managerial coach and founder of Executive Velocity Inc., a boutique firm offering talent management and leadership development solutions. She chairs a monthly Atlanta meeting for Vistage, a company that hosts advisory meetings for small business CEOs. Her latest book is Are You Talent Obsessed?