Change is seldom easy to accept, especially in the corporate world. As people settle into their jobs, their routines, and their roles, it becomes difficult to present new approaches without hearing complaints. Maybe it’s a policy change or a change in the workflow. It may be something that requires training, as a new time-tracking system. Even if it’s something innocuous, like switching to a new coffeemaker in the break-room, any change can be hard to implement in an environment that involves different personalities and levels of expertise and assimilation.
The problem occurs when change, or even the fear of change, stunts productivity and lowers morale. No matter where this kind of fear comes from, it should be addressed early, before it infects other employees and departments, causing a domino effect that will impede the adoption of anything new.
HR departments tend to know a thing or two about this, since HR is usually the implementer of new policies, the “change police,” if you will. As such, HR professionals have a crucial role in helping managers and employees get over their fears, so they can understand and accept change. They also need to be able to detect when resistance to a specific change is well-founded.
Here are a few tips for how HR professionals can help employees handle change.
Communication should also be as clear as possible, not only concerning the change itself but also the reasons for the change. Just as no one likes these kinds of surprises, they don’t like to feel that things are changing for no reason. There’s always a reason, so share it with the employees. Of course, this is all within the bounds of what can in fact be shared, while respecting everyone’s privacy and the decision-makers’ preferences. But try to communicate as much and as early as possible about every kind of change that comes up.
Along with more open communication, important changes should be followed by a period of close observation to determine their actual feasibility and to pinpoint possible downfalls. If there is resistance, managers should be encouraged to find out it’s source and reasoning, since this may offer clues to deeper problems. Although some employees may resist change just for the sake of maintaining the status quo, others may have very real reasons to resist. Managers should be able to differentiate one from the other and follow up with the latter since the issues they raise could mean the success of the change itself.
Covert resistors complain about the change around the water cooler. They raise diversionary questions at meetings explaining the change or even ignore these meetings altogether. These types of covert actions are unproductive and unhelpful. On the other hand, overt resistors use meetings as a chance to openly bring up legitimate questions, point out downfalls, and suggest other options. The key is to offer employees an avenue to express their resistance in a manner that will be helpful.
It’s true, change is seldom easy to accept, and it’s also often difficult to implement. A crucial point for HR departments and managers to remember is to not give up. The worst fate for any change is for it to not happen at all. It’s better to change the change, so that it is successful, than not to have it at all if it’s something that will ultimately benefit the company. This is why overt resistors are so important—to raise valid objections and possibly offer different methods to achieve the same end result. It’s also why HR and managers who are advocates for the change should do their best to spread the word about the positive results the change will bring to the company and its employees.
International HR Director for OSF Global Services, Andreea is a veteran recruiter who has seen them all. She developed HR recruiting strategies and retention programs that guarantees the success of the company. She is a people person and she handles very easy new relationships with new employees, but her most interesting challenge is to find the middle way between company’s best interests and employee’s needs. To learn more about Andreea contact her on LinkedIn.