By Margaret (Maggie) Carey
Motivating change is a crucial element of change management. It is human nature to be resistant to change, especially as organizational change can often pose a threat to an employee’s job security, competencies and skills, and overall perceived worth. Two ways to motivate change are: 1) to proactively combat resistance to change and 2) to create change readiness.
Proactively Combatting Resistance to Change
As an organization begins a change management process, employees must go from the certainty that they currently work in, to the uncertainty and ambiguity that lies ahead. This uncertainty and ambiguity may cause anxiety and resistance to change. However, there are proactive steps that can be taken to combat resistance to change.
First, express empathy and support for those being impacted by this change. Some may struggle more than others to cope with the proposed change. Withholding judgement and expressing genuine care and compassion for employees through active listening can make a huge difference. Showing genuine interest in employees’ emotions will allow them to express their concerns and fears, which may even lead to a method of joint problem-solving.
This might be no surprise that the second step to combat resistance to change is through clear and consistent communication. Rumors can often muddy the true information regarding the change process. Have one or two explicit channels of communication for disseminating information; if the information did not come from this channel, then it must not be true.
Lastly, you can proactively combat resistance to change by getting people involved. Participation in the development and implementation of change can be the easiest and most effective way of overcoming resistance to change. Getting people involved can also allow for more people to identify and potential barriers that may arise and how to combat them, and likely it will also get employees interested and invested in seeing the success of this change.
Creating Change Readiness
There are a number of ways to create change readiness. First, broadcast the positive desired future results that the change will bring at the individual, group, and organizational levels. It’s very important that these positive expectations are attainable and credible. This will allow employees to see the benefit of implementing and supporting this change.
Second, often the current state has obvious pain points and inefficiencies. Pointing these out and contrasting them with the desired end results can help to create a desire and excitement for change.
Lastly, highlight the natural and inevitable external and internal pressures that will eventually call for change. External pressures (like foreign competition) and internal pressures (like employee absenteeism, turnover, and disengagement) can serve as triggers for change.
Motivating change is essential to effective change management. Without working proactively against change resistance and creating change readiness, the excitement for motivating change might be lacking. Utilize these two tactics to break through the barriers that exist in effective change management.
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Organization Development and Change Chapter Ten: Leading and Managing Change. Thomas G. Cummings; Christopher G. Worley