Market pressures, increasing regulation, decreasing revenues, reputational erosion and other internal and external forces often stimulate the requirement for organisational change. In response, organisations may embark on structural, strategic or operational changes to move them to a higher plane in their development.
In response, organisations may embark on structural, strategic or operational changes to move them to a higher plane in their development.
Even with the most rigorous strategy in place, the road from A to B is challenging. However it can be more difficult if the people piece and connection with the EVP (Employee Value Proposition) and employer brand is either overlooked or not given the priority and visibility it requires to support change success.
The broad definition of change management is around an approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. It is an organisational process aimed at helping stakeholders to accept and embrace changes in their business environment.
A recent staff guide for a leading Australian University stated one of the goals of change management as ‘the alignment of people and culture with strategic shifts in the organisation, to overcome resistance to change in order to increase engagement and the achievement of the organisation’s goal for effective transformation.’ Corporate Leadership Council research says 60% -70% of significant and complex change management programs experience issues with inertia and stop as they fail to produce the planned outcome.
Organisations face varying levels of resistance to change, for example:
• Staff dislike the unknown
• Many think things are just right the way they are
• People see no need for change at all
Even when management is supported with tools to efficiently manage processes and resources, change requires much more. You are managing people with change anxiety, confusion over what change means to them and fear of uncertainty.
For example, managing the emotions of staff whose roles may be under review due to organisational change is difficult for most managers. Successfully managing the change process and giving voice and support to the emotions staff may feel during any transition is fundamental to the program’s success.
Whether or not your organisation has a well-managed EVP and employer brand, people are inherently cynical about change. Stress, organisational upheaval and change, the absence of a platform on which to build messaging from the most senior level, internal communications and the ‘what’s in it for me in the changed organisation’, makes engaging staff more challenging, particularly if the culture already requires work.
There may be conflicting goals within the organisation, for example:
• Increasing resources to accomplish goals while cutting costs to retain revenue
• Hiring consultants to deliver key projects whilst other roles are reviewed
Without an EVP and employer brand and channels to effectively communicate, staff will talk, worry, make things up, build negativity, create factions; they may even take action. Best practice indicates communication is most effective when coming from the CEO or MD of the organisation.
Change often goes against the values held dear by staff. It may challenge how they believe things should be done. Therefore the natural defence for people threatened with potential loss is resistance, disengagement or both.
The reasons people resist or disengage are personal and completely valid. They can include perceived loss of working conditions, money, pride, security, satisfaction, responsibility, authority or status. They may feel a lack of respect, have received personal criticism or not been able to provide any input.
My experience has seen the best outcomes occur when the people/culture alignment with strategy is the number one priority. But many organisations are unable to work this success driver into the change program, or cannot dedicate the required resource to manage potential fall-out. In the most extreme cases, culture is not on the table at the C level.
If people are an organisation’s greatest asset, business genuinely needs to support them through change. Every organisation has a sense of its EVP buried somewhere in its DNA. If it’s there and unmanaged, don’t wait for a change program to be underway and feel the inertia get the better of it. Engage at the highest level of business from the outset. Ask the difficult questions. Make the hard decisions. Harness what’s there and put some rigour around it. Anxious employees need something to hold onto and business leaders have a responsibility to provide this for their people in times of change.
Someone very wise once said to me ‘Marketing, HR and Strategy folk can develop the fanciest programs for change. But if the CEO and MD don’t, or won’t, get it and there’s disconnection between them and the front line staff, you’re more likely to fail.’
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