Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change: 5 Key Points to Address

We make a lot of recommendations for organizational change, continuous improvement and basically for making things better.

We know, too, that few people are as bushy tailed and bright eyed as our eager human resources and management readers.

Pity then that so often we run smack into brick walls. Some of those brick walls can take the form of C-suite resistance, for which there is one set of solutions. Other solutions are necessary for meeting resistance from steady, even dedicated and otherwise good employees.

In most cases, employee resistance to change comes down to simple misunderstanding. 

If you can carefully and clearly explain the “why?” behind every change, then you will, almost certainly, see better results. But that’s just the easy part.

Remember, for many of the people in your organization, committing to your organization has meant committing a good part of their lives.

Now, we’re usually talking about “positive change” here—more freedom, more transparency and more employee education (to name just a few examples). But any change can seem difficult to adjust to, so even the things that seem obvious to you might not appear equally positive to your charges.

1. Demonstrate Need – There is a big picture and often enough, your employees can not see it. Celebrating the last day of one employee after another undoubtedly affects employees and you better believe that they know that something is up. But what is it? Changes to the ways you hire, train, schedule and celebrate employees are all something of a mystery if you work in a company that doesn’t communicate well or much of anything at all. But don’t leave employees in the dark about any of these changes. Any employee resignation is a cause for alarm, and employees need to know that you heard the alarm.

2. Demonstrate Vision – This is a big word for anyone interested in organizational leadership. In concise terms, it can mean just explaining a lot of the “Why?” and exactly how and what your changes are intended to address. If you’re introducing more flexible scheduling, then not everyone will qualify at first. Work with everyone so that they clearly understand what they changes require of them, and what they can do to become recipients of all of the benefits.

3. Demonstrate the Benefits – This one also slips through the cracks. To you, it’s obvious. And employing “creatures of habit” can be profitable or it can be an expensive disaster. In both cases, employees know what they want, and they don’t want to be the last person left in a company that lost everything because it couldn’t adapt to change.

4. Demonstrate Support – Software doesn’t just mean everything is easier now. Roll-outs and implementations can take months and the frustrations can skyrocket. But that’s just the software. Lots of employees never get near the technical angels of the roll out and simply get instructions, sometimes by email. Make the right personnel known and available. Addressing doubts, fears, concerns or simple questions – in person and on demand is part of how tech companies do it. HR departments learn to do it too.

5. Address Routine – As much as we complain about it, the routine of work allows for a lot of things to get done. Workers can feel confident that few surprises are on the horizon, and in many cases, you’ll actually see better results because people can rely on the routine of the work day. Routines help them to manage time as much as calendars, smart-phones and meeting schedules. Work with team leaders to manage interruptions to the routine, whenever you’re presenting them.

Carefully managing change, however you do it, is the real key to success. Employees will put up real resistance to change that is improperly or carelessly presented. And though you probably can’t revolutionize the way your organization communicates, in some sense, a robust communications plan needs to be part of your implementation strategy. Let us know how you’re changes are being met in the comments section below.


Photo this page:                  

Dinosaur Adventure © Creative Commons lic. by Dave Catchpole on Flickr

Karin Jakovljevic

About the author

Karin Jakovljevic

Karin Jakovljevic is the head of marketing at Ximble, a powerful, cloud-based workforce management system, simplifying employee scheduling and time tracking for retailers, restaurants and small businesses.

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