The Best Tips for Implementing Change & Managing Resistance to Change in the Workplace
There is one commonality among all types of changes in the workplace, which is that people are naturally resistant to change.
If you understand this normal human behavior, then it’s much easier to learn how to implement change in the workplace successfully. Managing resistance is a big part of change management best practices, and it includes addressing employee resistance and transforming that into support.
This challenging feat takes skill, using the right tools, and knowing how to manage change in an organization correctly. This typically includes supporting change in the workplace using a change methodology as a guide.
What This Guide Provides to You
In this top AGS guide on managing changes in the workplace, we’re going to review best practices for implementing change management in the workplace, including how to avoid the problems that cause change to fail or fall short of expectations, as well as providing you with answers on how to manage change in an organization in any industry.
If you’re looking for proven strategies for implementing change in the workplace, you’ll find lots of excellent information below that can help.
Using a well-proven change methodology gives you a roadmap and critical insights on how to manage change. This translates to strategies for mitigating change resistance, enlisting a team of change champions, and tools for leading positive change in the workplace.
How to Implement Change Management
An average of 70% of change projects fail to achieve the desired results, which shows that just because an organization wants to make a change, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to go smoothly.
The benefits of change management best practices are that they address one of the biggest reasons change fails, which is leadership and employee resistance.
What is Managing Change in an Organization?
Change can happen for a number of reasons, and for many organizations, change happens regularly.
If you’ve ever searched “typical reasons for organizational change” or the UK spelling “typical reasons for organisational change,” you’re likely to get a long list.
The change covers any type of transition from an “old way” of doing things to a “new way” of doing things, and it can mean a change in management, software tools, or workflows.
Those leading change management are used to handling many different reasons for change, which can include:
- Mergers or acquisitions
- Digital transformation to new software
- Change in job roles
- Adding a new product or service
- Adopting a new business workflow
- Implementing cost-cutting measures
- Expanding and adding new offices or branches
Whatever the reason, managing change in the workplace means guiding employees, management, and other stakeholders through the desired change, ensuring all the logistics and tools are in place to support the change, and sustaining the change.
Knowing the best ways to implement change in the workplace includes understanding the human element of change and how change models and methodologies can help solve challenges of change in the workplace.
What Are the Challenges of Change in the Workplace?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tell everyone about a change, and it would just happen magically without much effort? Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of managing change in the workplace.
There are multiple challenges when it comes to how to manage change, but if you know what they are and how to navigate around them, you have a much better chance of success.
Typical challenges of change in the workplace include everything from employee resistance to logistical problems. The following are some of the most common barriers to implementing change management in an organization.
Employee Resistance to Change
Managing resistance to change is one of the biggest challenges for anyone leading change management. People are naturally resistant to change, and that resistance is usually coming from an emotional place.
Employees may fear a change, be angry that they have to change, or feel the change is doomed because of the past bad change experience.
Managing resistance to change includes being able to navigate multiple reasons for resistance, address them individually, and move a person from that resisting state to a supporting state.
Lack of Leadership Support for the Change
Another form of managing resistance to change is dealing with leaders who don’t support the change. They may be feeling many of the same resistance feelings as employees, but as leaders, they have the potential for much more impact on the change project.
Management and executives are a key component in leading positive change in the workplace. Their support is often vital to driving employee support for a change and ensuring you have the resources to successfully implement a positive change in the workplace.
Lack of Communication
When a change isn’t communicated properly, people end up in the dark and not knowing what to do or what to expect. Without a strategic communication plan, supporting change in the workplace becomes difficult for all involved.
Not Reinforcing the Change
The benefits of change management can be short-lived if the change isn’t reinforced to ensure it’s sustained. This means providing support for users after the go-live date to get feedback and make sure they’re working comfortably with the new processes.
Without proper reinforcements, employees can slip back into the old habits and ways of doing things, undoing a change that you worked so hard to implement.
Some challenges of change in the workplace come out of the blue and may be related to scheduling conflicts, software problems, or unexpected budget shortfalls.
Being agile and having the ability to problem-solve are both skills used in how to implement change in the workplace to get over logistical barriers.
Not Using a Strategic Change Management Plan
Anyone wondering how to manage change in an organization is going to find that successful projects use a strategic change management plan.
Not using a change model or change management best practices is often a recipe for failure for a change project. Change models/methodologies offer proven strategies for implementing change in the workplace successfully.
How Do You Prepare Employees for Change in the Workplace?
Keeping employees in the loop about a change is a vital part of how to implement change management best practices. Communication is key.
Rumors can spread quickly in any office when there is a lack of communication about a change. One of the best ways to implement change in the workplace is to take a bottom-up approach. You want employees to feel like they’re an important part of the change process, not just being told what they have to do.
The typical reasons for organisational change (if you’re in the UK) or reasons for organizational change (in the US), may make monetary sense to management, but make no sense to employees.
Preparing employees for change in the workplace, and change to their daily work life takes understanding the impact of change on each one and inviting their feedback.
Here are several tips on how to manage change when it comes to preparing your employees.
Create & Communicate a Vision Statement
For employees in an organization to understand a change, it helps to have a short 1-2 sentence vision statement about what the change is intended to accomplish.
Implementing change management without that can make it harder for everyone in an organization to understand the grand goal behind the change. The vision statement can instantly help generate support and enthusiasm for a change in the workplace.
Explain How They’ll Benefit from the Change
One mistake made by those leading change management in an organization is to only discuss the benefits the change will have the company.
For employees and leaders to get on board with a change, the benefits of change management need to relate to them personally. They need to know the “WIIFM” (What’s in it for me). How will the change make their job easier? How will it make their day-to-day work better?
Be Clear About Why the Change is Happening
It’s not uncommon when managing resistance to change to hear things like, “Things are just fine the way they are!” or “They’re only changing for the sake of changing.”
If employees don’t understand the details of why the change is happening, those types of attitudes can become a barrier to your strategies for implementing change in the workplace.
Did customer feedback cause the change? Did you have a vendor suddenly raise prices, which was a catalyst for the change? Sharing the reasons with employees can help significantly in managing change in the workplace by garnering understanding and support.
Communicate a Solid Timeline
Information on how to implement change in the workplace is important. When people know when a change is being phased in and which milestones along the way the company is aiming for, they feel more secure.
Keep employees in the loop about the change project timeline and any changes to it that may come up. Being well informed helps them to feel part of the change program and dispels fears that something will be sprung on them unexpectedly.
Allay Fears About Training/Competency
One of the big areas of managing resistance to change is to alleviate fear about a change. Employees can easily feel overwhelmed when they hear their job responsibilities may be changing and may be afraid that they won’t be able to perform as expected after the change.
Help allay fears by putting a robust training program in place that is designed to move at their pace. Explain that how to implement change management involves ensuring everyone has the support they need to become competent in the new processes.
Take Time to Answer Questions
Employees will naturally have many questions about an upcoming change in the workplace and to their daily routine. Communication needs to be a two-way street. Don’t just send them information about a change or tell them what’s going to happen, invite questions.
Allowing employees to ask questions and receive honest answers can encourage them to begin supporting change in the workplace even before the project begins.
Tips for Great Change Management in the Workplace
Coach Leadership to Help
One of the key steps in how to manage change in an organization is to perform leadership coaching to help leaders understand how they can support the change in the workplace and help encourage the employees they lead to do the same.
Not everyone has experience leading positive change in the workplace. Coaching leaders on change helps create advocates and supporters of the change at various levels of the organization, which can infuse enthusiasm for the change down through the ranks.
Enlist Change Champions for Support
Another “secret weapon” of good change management in the workplace is to build up a Change Champions Network. These are employees who are well respected in their various departments, and that can help change managers in a few different ways, these are:
- Letting change managers know about resistance
- Helping answer questions about the change
- Assisting fellow co-workers with proficiency in a new process
- Driving enthusiasm by supporting change in the workplace
How Do You Deal with Change Management in the Workplace?
Dealing with change management in the workplace is about understanding that it’s important and involves a process that employees must go through to accept and support a change project.
The basis behind many of the popular change methodologies and models is that if employees don’t change, then an organization can’t change.
While the typical reasons for organisational change (UK spelling) or organizational change (US spelling) may differ widely, the steps to deal with change management in the workplace follow a set pattern for all change projects.
- Preparing for change
- Managing change
- Reinforcing change
While they may use different terms, they’re both describing the same outline for ways to implement change in the workplace.
Preparing for Change in the Workplace / Unfreeze
During preparation, the project is being defined and assessed. This involves identifying stakeholders (those being impacted by a change), assessing the severity of impact, and creating your strategies for implementing change in the workplace.
Unfreeze relates to the need to identify resistance areas so you can begin to “unfreeze” old habits and ways of doing things. Communication with employees, including telling them the WIIFM, is a big part of this stage.
Managing Change in the Workplace / Change
Those implementing change management need to continually anticipate, identify, and resolve any resistance they see, to keep the change project on track.
Reinforcing Change in the Workplace / Freeze
An important part of how to manage change successfully is this last phase, which is to ensure that after a change project’s go-live date has come and gone that users don’t slip into the old ways of doing things.
Reinforcement of a change is about “freezing” the new behaviors, so they become habits and the “way we do things” moving forward. This ensures that a project leading positive change in the workplace is sustained into the future, so the benefits are fully realized.
What Are the 7 Rs of Change Management?
One of the mechanisms used when organizations are planning how to implement change is in the workplace is the 7 Rs of Change Management.
This is a series of seven questions that help define the change project by clarifying the reason for leading change management, the impact, and the benefits of change management for this specific change.
The 7 Rs of Change Management are typically used in technology-related changes, such as ITIL changes; however, they are also very pertinent to those needing help with how to manage change in an organization for any reason.
The Seven Rs of Change Management
1. Who Raised the Change Request?
There is usually a hierarchy and approval process that any requested change needs to go through. One of the first questions when managing change in the workplace to ensure that process has been followed.
2. What is the Reason for the Change?
Change management best practices include doing a project assessment, which helps to identify why a particular change is needed. It outlines the catalyst for a change (budget, improvements, changing company structure, etc.) so everyone can understand why it’s happening in the first place.
3. What Return is Required from the Change?
In order to define whether a change is successful or not, you need to have expectations. Do you want to reduce costs by X% annually? Do you want to improve customer experience and thus increase sales by $X per month?
Define in measurable terms the benefits you expect from this change in the workplace.
4. What are the Risks Involved in the Change?
Risk is going to be part of any change management project. When deciding on ways to implement change in the workplace, you need to look at what’s at risk if you DO change and what’s at risk if you DON’T change.
Identifying risks can help you manage and mitigate those risks so you can gain the full benefits of change management for your project.
5. What Resources are Required to Deliver the Change?
This question will be a part of your phase 1 planning stage for change management in the workplace. You need to identify all the resources that will be needed for successfully managing resistance to change, provide adequate employee training, implement a communications plan, and more.
Some of the resources you require may include:
- Staffing for the change management team
- A budget for the project
- Change management tools and software
- A room to hold training
- Equipment to facilitate the project
- Access to vendors involved with the change project
- Enough time for successfully implementing change management best practices
6. Who is Responsible for the “Build, Test, Implement” Portion of the Change?
It’s important to delegate tasks to the team responsible for managing change in the workplace. If expectations aren’t assigned, then the change manager can end up being overwhelmed with everyone looking to them for the execution of every part of the change plan.
How to manage change well involves having a clearly defined change management plan that includes which personnel is responsible for which parts of the change project implementation.
7. What is the Relationship Between This Change and Other Changes?
In technology-driven changes in the workplace, it’s important to know how a new IT process will impact others that were previously implemented to reduce unnecessary downtime or incompatibilities with digital workflows.
In other types of change, understanding the relationship between this change and past changes is part of managing resistance to change.
If an employee or leader has had a negative experience with a past change, they may resist this change because of that. Likewise, if they’ve had a good experience with a past change in the workplace, then they could be an excellent ally for supporting change in the workplace.
What Are Change Management Skills?
Certain skills can help with managing resistance to change and managing change in the workplace. They’re a combination of soft skills and knowledge about change management best practices.
Developing these skills can help anyone wondering how to manage change successfully develop the personal skillset they need to be successful.
Important Skills for Change Management Best Practices
- Excellent verbal and written communications
- Understanding of change management methodologies & models
- Good problem-solving abilities
- Transformational leadership skills
- Ability to work with a wide variety of personality types
- Project management skills
- Strategic thinking and agility
- Ability to coach/mentor/train others
How to Implement Change in a Company
How do you successfully implement change and execute change management in the workplace?
It involves a series of steps and a strategic plan going in. Managing change in the workplace means understanding how important a change management methodology is and giving the change process the time and attention it needs to become successful.
While individual change models may have slightly different approaches, all change management best practices involve taking a similar path.
Here are some of the standard practices to use if you want to fully realize the benefits of change management at your organization.
Laying the Foundation of the Project
The project assessment helps you lay down a solid foundation for change management in the workplace. During the assessment, you’ll answer the 7 Rs of change management, and create the parameters for your project, including timeline, budget, team responsibilities, goal, etc.
Creating Your Team
The size of the team managing change in the workplace and managing resistance to change will vary according to the size of your organization and the scope of the change project. You want a team that has a variety of skillsets, such as project management, training, interpersonal skills, and more.
Managing Resistance to Change with a Change Team
It’s important to have a change manager that understands the benefits of change management, has experience driving change, and is familiar with the change management best practices in standard change methodologies.
Assessing & Analyzing Your Organization
Before you just jump into a project for change management in the workplace, you need to know who’s being impacted, how they’re being impacted, and how ready the organization is.
This is accomplished through these standard analytical practices:
Gather Your Change Support
It takes more than just the change management team to drive successful support for a change in the workplace. There needs to be support for the change spread throughout the organization at all levels, including both leadership and employees.
Two important tools for successful change management in the workplace include:
Put Your Game Plan & Planning Tools in Place
With the information from your various project and organizational assessments, you create a change management roadmap that your team can follow to implement the change.
Part of managing change in the workplace involves having the right digital change management tools that can help you analyze how the project is going in real-time and keep track of everything from user training to your leadership coaching.
Manage Resistance to Change
Managing resistance to change is a large part of how to implement change in the workplace that gets the results you want.
Resistance to change will come before you even begin managing change in the workplace, continue throughout the change project, and show up after the go-live date.
It’s important to know the tactics for managing resistance to change both proactively and reactively.
Implement Your Change Plan & Stay Flexible
This is where your pre-planning goes into action. Implement your change plan, which will show you the benefits of change management by laying out all the steps for you to follow.
You want to be flexible to adjust for any barriers that will inevitably come up and problem-solve to ensure they don’t derail the change project.
Support Users After the Change to Sustain It
Users will need support for several weeks after a change go-live date to ensure they aren’t running into unexpected problems.
Without proper post-change support, it’s easy for users to fall back into old ways of doing things when they hit a problem with a new process and don’t have any help overcoming the issue.
Conclusion: Successfully Managing Change in the Workplace
User resistance to change in the workplace is just as inevitable as the need for organizations to continually change to stay competitive and resilient.
Adopting change management best practices can help ensure that change goes as smoothly as possible and that the most important component of successful change – the people – are adequately guided through the change.
Change management in the workplace is a natural part of any business. Changes can both come from within, such as a digital transformation to improve efficiency, and from outside a company, such as a drastic change in consumer behavior during a pandemic.
Whatever the reason for the change, managing change in the workplace using a strategic methodology as your roadmap can make all the difference in how employees feel about a change and how an organization benefits from that change.
Free Change Management Templates FREE Change Management Templates (Excel, PDF, PPT)
Authors: Ogbe Airiodion (Senior Change Management Lead) and Francesca Crolley (AGS Cloud Content Producer)
Content on Airiodion Global Services (AGS)'s Airiodion.com website is copyrighted. Questions? Contact Airiodion Global Services (AGS) .
All-in-One Change Management Tools.
Free Change Management Templates
FREE Change Management Templates (Excel, PDF, PPT)
Images: Microsoft 365 Clip Art Image(s) (Bing images licensed under the Creative Commons license system.), https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-men-having-conversation-935949/