This is a guest post by Stacey Marone – a graduate of Social Sciences and contributor for Scholaradvisor. She likes traveling and exploring new cultures. In her free time, she also does volunteer work. You can follow her on Twitter.
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, had it right when he said that ‘change is the only constant in life.’
At some point, we all experience changes in different aspects of our lives. We grow and mature as individuals because we allow ourselves to be changed.
It might even be said that changes are pivotal to survival. Even businesses, institutions, and organizations undergo changes in order to survive; to retain a competitive edge over their market; and to meet specific demands.
From their point of view, organizational change sometimes involves restructuring, merging, cost cutting, and system changes to introduce initiatives for improvement, address problems in their company, and overturn potential loss. However, implementing change is a difficult task. Not everyone in the organization would easily welcome and accept challenges to the status quo.
Top management should have the foresight to expect some form of resistance, and therefore plan out steps in tackling barriers to imminent changes in the organizational structure. Managers and leaders must understand where the resistance is coming from in order to develop appropriate implementation strategies.
Below are five things that the management can consider before putting the changes in place.
1. Unclear strategic directions.
Before pushing through any changes, a company or management must first assess its current situation. A lack of appropriate assessment may slow down implementation of changes, or direct the company away from its intended goals.
Once the problem has been identified, directions, visions, and objectives should also be determined, along with the concrete action plan toward organizational change. There should also be a deep understanding about the changes to be undergone to properly align the company with new strategic directions.
Unclear priorities, aims, and steps may result to ineffective implementation of a new system or structure.
2. Fear of the unknown.
As change is deemed constant, it is also inherent to human nature to fear the unknown, the uncertainty.
Employees become accustomed with the ways and processes of the present system that the slightest changes can interrupt that sense of familiarity. An organizational change would mean putting new system, new culture, new process in place.
As such, employees grapple with accepting the proposed changes because it means accommodating something unfamiliar. The security that they once had with the current system will be disrupted.
Moreover, affected employees are faced with the option to ‘take a leap of faith,’ which causes feelings of anxiety. It can be difficult for them to take that leap when it entails leaving their comfort zones, incurring losses (e.g. work, salary, profit), and falling short of new expectations.
3. Lack of employee involvement in the change process.
With the above in view, you are faced with the possibility of resistive attitude from your workforce.
The lack of knowledge, or even awareness, on the changes that are happening in the company can trigger the fear of the unknown. They feel blinded by the absence of information, and would feel left out.
Regardless of one’s loyalty and trust in the management, unverified information can shake steady foundations. The management should take into consideration their employees since the changes will affect them directly or indirectly. The management can make the employees feel involved by listening to their opinion, and informing them of how the changes will be implemented. Let the workforce feel guided through the change process.
Management should be wary of just dropping the news to their manpower without assisting them. This is to pacify anxiety among employees, and assure them that the changes to be introduced will be beneficial to everyone.
4. Ineffective communication.
When information is not properly cascaded, it results in dissonance and misinterpretation.
This may also account for employees becoming upset and resistant to change. An employee may lose interest in performing his or her duties if he or she feels out of loop with regards to changes in the organization he or she is working for.
Top management should lay out to their employees the cause for the organizational change, the solutions to be addressed, and how the entire process will affect them and their jobs. Be transparent about what is happening in the company to lessen employees’ fears.
An effective communication strategy should already be included in the planning stage of the change process since it is one of the keys for successful implementation.
Companies should also adopt such strategy when in sending messages to external parties such as suppliers, consumers, end users, and other stakeholders.
5. Absence of strong leadership.
A transition into a new structure or system can be difficult, especially if employees are left alone to figure things out for themselves. Resistance may double if no one would take charge of managing people during the transition period.
Also, the change process may not be adhered to or be disrupted if there is an absence of a leader. The management must all the more exercise superior leadership and management skills to direct the employees as the changes take place.
A leader should also be able to explain to the people the rationale behind the organizational change and how it will take place to obtain acceptance and follow through from them.
Ultimately, companies and managements that envision a new structure should have strategic planning with clear objectives. Also an effective communication protocol for relaying information, empathy on people and systems to be affected by the changes. Last but not least, an understanding of the possible causes of resistance to the changes.