Managing businesses can be done in so many different ways. Apart from deciding your company’s values and mission, setting goals, creating a financial plan, and marketing your business, managing your employees could be the most critical one, for they are the true essence of your company, without which there is no way for you to succeed.
Managing employees can happen smoothly as long as everyone understands and is aligned with the business values, views, and plans. Yet, since the market is growing more rapidly than ever and the competition with other businesses has become even more fierce, a process like change management can be mandatory to help your company continue growing and meet your customers’ needs. This is when the opposition kicks in.
It is often pretty challenging for employees to accept change, let alone align with it. As a consequence, the transition from one system to another might not just be intimidating but also time-consuming and draining for you as well as for your employees.
But do not worry; we have got you covered. In this article, we will look at change management in terms of the process before we dive into why your employees might be resistant to it as well as demonstrate seven key considerations you probably want to think about to manage such resistance better.
So let’s hop into it.
What is change management, to begin with?
Simply put, change management refers to the process of assisting your employees in transitioning from the system they are so used to and have worked with for some time to a brand new system that is necessary to help your company improve efficiency and continue to succeed in the future.
So no matter what position your company is in at the moment, you are going to go through some change management at some point, whether you like it or not. In fact, change management has actually become more critical today, with managers and CEOs having to be flexible to change their business strategy in different ways to stay in the competition and satisfy the demands of their customers.
Since resistance to change is quite normal, for this is a merely human reaction, it can come more or less from anyone within the business team. The primary stakeholders, such as employees and customers, are not the only people who complain about and resist the change. Resistance can also come from top-level management, such as senior leadership, CEOs, or even shareholders.
In other words, each of these individuals or groups has the potential to push against your future plans and decision-making. That is why fully understanding the type of change you want to implement and learning about your individuals’ reasons to oppose it are essential to better manage this resistance and make sure the transition process happens as smoothly as possible.
Types of Change Management
Changes within the business can be any of these four types:
- Structural changes,
- Strategic changes,
- People-centric changes, in terms of the people involved,
- Technology changes.
One thing all of these types have in common is that they are going to disrupt, or at least somewhat affect, the different groups or individuals associated with your business. In other words, any of these changes will either make your people retaliate by banning and getting on board or resist your change.
Now that we know what types of change your employees may resist, let’s explore the different reasons behind such resistance.
Reasons for Resisting Change
In many cases, change processes are organisation-wide, clearly affecting employees massively. For some reason, the majority of employees anticipate that the change soon to be applied will disadvantage them in one way or another. As a result, they will kick against it, even if they have not yet known what it is all about.
Here are the most common reasons behind your employees’ resistance to change:
1. Fear of Losing Their Jobs
Many employees show resistance to change for fear of potentially losing their jobs. This fear could pretty much be stemming from their lack of trust in their direct managers, CEOs, or those individuals conducting the change management process. This makes them, the employees, somewhat anticipate getting laid off at any moment.
2. Fear of Losing Control
Rejecting change is also strongly tied to how good your employees feel about working in your company, which is pretty counterintuitive, but let’s elaborate further.
Throughout the time your employees have worked in your company, they must have made some or a lot of progress doing their jobs. As a result, many employees become quite dependable and trustworthy, which, by the way, may have been influenced by your flexibility.
Such reliability, in turn, boosts the employees’ confidence and makes them feel pretty comfortable in their job roles. As change more or less brings about some disruption, employees can resist it simply because they do not want to lose that sense of assertiveness and control they already have.
Change, in this case, pretty much feels like going back to the drawing board. Just the idea of having to learn something new from scratch and build this confidence again is as intimidating as it is strenuous.
3. Bad Timing
A third reason why employees might be reluctant to accept change is the timing.
It may happen that you are super sure the change management process is much needed now, but your employees might find this very timing quite bad.
This can be attributed to many reasons, either related to their execution of work, professional development and career growth or even some other personal reasons. While you think this is the best time to go through the change management process, it could be the last thing your employees want to handle at the moment.
Ways to Handle Resistance to Change
Now that you understand the different reasons why your employees will most probably resist the change you are about to carry out, it is highly critical that you learn effective ways to deal with and better contain such opposition. This is not only important for the success of the change management process but also tremendously crucial to the well-being of your employees and their feeling of confidence and security within your company.
So let’s take a look at the seven factors you want to keep in mind when going through a change management process.
1. Understanding the Form of Resistance
So the first thing we need to consider is analysing the forms of resistance and understanding its nature and where it is coming from. Is this resistance related to technology? The structure of the change? Or does it have something to do with the people involved?
Knowing the area from which resistance stems will allow you to focus on it. It will then be manageable for you to plan around and mitigate this risk as well as form a response to any potential forms of resistance that may occur in the future.
To do that, here are some key questions to ask yourself:
- Who is resistant to the change? Why are they so?
- Which area is the resistance related to?
- What plans can I set to prevent such resistance from becoming a bigger problem or happening again in the future?
So the next area that we can look at is in terms of having clear, transparent communication at all stages and levels of the process. This simply means that employees and customers are well-informed about the entire change process and what exactly they need to do. This will be crucial to your overall success and increases the likelihood of your stakeholders accepting the change and getting on board with you.
Yet, this probably is going to take time and effort. That is why it is vital to put the measures in place and ensure that any queries, questions, or even frustrations are dealt with appropriately and that all groups are managed effectively and correctly. This pretty much determines whether you are successful or not within this overall change management process.
To ensure this happens smoothly, use the following questions to ensure your communication is clear and transparent.
- Do my stakeholders understand the change process and know exactly what is required from them?
- Am I ready to answer all their queries and questions?
- Do I have the correct systems in place to effectively deal with any problems that might pop up?
To make sure communication is done appropriately, it is recommended you conduct a stakeholder mapping analysis during this stage, as this is the tool that allows you to look at who your key stakeholders are and to which one of them you need to communicate the change process effectively.
The third thing to consider is collaboration. In fact, this is a great way to manage change and deal with any form of resistance. Collaboration is not only effective with employees but also at the management level, where individuals have a certain degree of power and influence. Getting and maintaining those individuals’ buy-in is super important for the success of the change process.
So how does this collaboration thing work?
Well, getting your employees and other individuals to collaborate with your future strategic decisions gives them a sense of power and influence over any decision-making. They feel valued and appreciated and that their opinions are essential for the company’s growth. This, in turn, gives them a feeling of worthiness and increases your chances of getting their buy-in to the change.
Some key questions you may want to ask yourself at this stage include:
- Is my management team involved in the decision-making process?
- Do I share with them a vision of the overall outcome?
- Do I have clear systems that allow collaboration in the overall process?
- Do I have the correct system in place to receive guidance at the different levels of the change management process?
The next factor looks at the involvement of your stakeholders within the change process, which, by the way, is a strategic approach during the change management process. It would help if you always encourage participation at all stages of the change management process. This includes the planning and implementation stages.
Believe it or not, some employees might actually know your business and other employees better than you. Consequently, involving them at any or all stages of the process is a win-win situation. You are going to get the best contributions that will lead to the success of your change management process, and they will feel important, confident, and appreciated.
In addition to this, you need to guarantee a sense of actual control regarding decision-making. Whether it is with your employees or customers, if they feel like they have a sense of control over future decisions, they are more likely to get on board and buy into the overall changes being made. That said, you must always think and work out how to involve your people throughout the change management process.
Another effective way to manage resistance to change and make your people accept it is to look at rewards and incentive systems. Obviously, this is dependent on the capacity of your business. If your company can handle it, promotion opportunities and bonuses are effective ways to encourage your employees to welcome the change.
That said, for smaller-sized companies where promotions or tangible rewards might not be available, mere recognition can still be a strong motivator towards accepting the overall change process as well.
Recognition could be as simple as looking at your individuals and praising them for their contribution to the business and the overall change management process. This will hopefully lead them to influence others within your company to act in the same way as well.
So what you want to ask yourself here is: can I set up a recognition system for my employees? Is it possible for me to offer them promotions or bonuses?
Providing adequate training and support is another key way to ensure you are managing resistance effectively. Both are going to play a massive role in understanding how individuals or groups within your company will be affected by the overall change initiative and ensuring that they know how to get on board with it.
For example, if you are conducting a digital transformation and implementing a new software system without the correct training and support, eventually, mistakes are going to show, leading to future problems and maybe developing a likelihood of failure.
To prevent that, you must provide your people with the correct tools they need to test the new system and encourage them, through experimentation, to learn fast. This will actually be key to the overall change management success.
So some things you actually want to keep in mind here are if everyone understands what they are meant to be doing, if there is sufficient training in place for any new software systems and whether or not you are providing everyone with the correct tools to ensure that they are aligned with the new ways of working.
7. Champion Appointment
The final step of looking at resistance to change and how you can manage it is by appointing change management champions or key leaders across the different departments of your company. Those are the best individuals to represent the company, and they must align with the new change management.
When those champions are approachable and experienced enough in the change process, they can support anyone who may be experiencing issues or problems and help them understand the new system and what is required from them. This way, they, the champions, are more likely to lead by example, encouraging other employees to be less resistant to the change.
Besides helping with the overall change management process, appointing change leaders will also boost your confidence. When everyone is being managed effectively, resistance is unlikely to build on top of this.
To implement this step, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have reliable employees in my workplace that can lead by example?
- Are they experienced enough to support their teammates?
- Are they approachable and able to represent the company in a positive way?
If you do feel a change in management is best to be implemented in your company at this very moment, resistance from your employees toward the whole process will immediately follow. This resistance is caused by many reasons, most of which revolve around the fear of losing their jobs or the sense of control they developed over the years.
However, resistance does not mean you should back off and stop your plans. You just need to understand how to properly deal with such an issue in the most appropriate way possible.
In this article, we have demonstrated a few practical ways to help you better manage resistance to change. From communication, collaboration, and involvement to using reward systems, providing support, and appointing champions to lead by example, all of these will definitely help you get your employees’ buy-in and have a smooth transition.