written by: N Nayab•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 5/19/2011
The fast-paced changes in business environment and competition make changes imperative. Many companies however, fail to leverage the advantages brought about by change owing to the resistance from the employees. Read on to find out the best tips for managing resistance to change.
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1. Developing a Mindset for Change
Change management initiatives fail without the active support of the stakeholders, especially the employees, on whose acceptance of change the success of change management depends. Employees resist change as it pushes them away from their comfort zone, forces them to discontinue their ingrained habits, learn new habits and skills, and trade certainties or uncertainties. The first tip in managing resistance to change is therefore, to develop the employee’s mindset for change. This requires selling change to employees, by highlighting why change is imperative and the benefits such change will bring to the employees and organizations.
Side by side with selling the change is the need to highlight the consequences of retaining the status quo, or in other words, why the change is unavoidable. Change managers need to ensure that the message “shape up or ship out" should not be lost on the workforce.
The key elements of change are business process restructuring, job redesign, reworked compensation and incentive plans, reworked business processes, and the like. The best change processes make the work of the employees simpler and more rewarding rather than complicated or tedious, and such proper implementation would end resistance to change, whereas improper handling of some such element leads to employee fatigue and stress, and hence resistance to change. For instance, a good change induced job redesign ensures job enrichment for the employee, who would hardly complain. A poor job redesign might however, overload the employee and lead to protests, stress, or loss of morale.
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3. End Obstacles
Changes sometimes fail as they reach physical roadblocks, such as a newly installed system malfunctioning and nobody knowing how to resolve it, the system not working the way it needs to leading to the process taking more time than before, some people not apprised of the change and therefore, not responding appropriately, improper documentation, and a host of other possibilities. Smothering out such issues as and when they occur is one sure way of ending resistance to change.
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Any successful change management intervention requires the active involvement of the change management leadership in minute details. The leader entrusted with the change needs to micro-manage the crucial transformational phase of the change process to resolve floor level glitches in the new processes and systems, clear doubts, end uncertainties, suppress rumors, and squash wrong or false assumptions regarding the change. Such leading from the front is an effective way to end resistance to change.
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5. Ending Uncertainties
A major reason for resistance to change is the uncertainties associated with change. Change results in a breakdown of existing hierarchies and reporting relationships, job profiles, and other aspects of work. Effective communication of the new standards and values, and what each employee needs to make a transition to the new requirements, combined with an effective two-way feedback and communication mechanism to resolve any doubts or issues is a sure way of managing resistance to change.
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6. Training and Development
One of the most common and time tested strategies for managing resistance to change is training and development interventions that enable employees to upgrade their skills and competencies, and thereby, approach the changed paradigms better. The training program should ideally follow and base itself on skills inventory that identifies the additional skills and competencies that each employee requires to perform their jobs in the changed scenario.
One of the most effective ways to manage resistance to change is by installing a system of rewards and punishments. Rewarding those who inculcate change by placing rewards for doing things the changed way becomes a powerful motivator for employees to change, and punishing or penalizing those who refuse to change by providing diminished rewards for those who do the things the old way serves as a powerful deterrent.
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8. Design Appropriate Rewards as Motivators
When designing rewards as part of managing resistance to change, management would do well to understand what motivates employees most. Money is a powerful motivator but need not motivate everybody. Some employees may value challenging work assignments that provide them with a sense of achievement or accomplishments over monetary rewards. Other employees seek affiliation, some others value specific benefits or perks such as tuition reimbursements, and the like, over incentive schemes. What works best depends on the value orientation of the workforce.
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9. Managing Emotional Aspects of Change
One major reason for resistance to change is the emotional aspects. While ending uncertainty, clarifying the reasons for change, and facilitating a month transition would end many emotional issues, entrusting the involved employees with ownership of the change process works best to quell any resistance that remains.
Entrusting ownership of the change requires considering their suggestions and inputs while formulating the change road map, and entrusting them with specific modules of implementing change.
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The general points notwithstanding, the main ground for resistance to change, and the means that work varies from organization to organization. Organizations looking to manage resistance to change would do well to benchmark earlier instances of managing change successfully, either in-house or in a similar company elsewhere to determine what works and what did not work, and base their strategies for managing resistance to change on such benchmarks.