Embracing change: What you need to know that your staff aren’t telling you

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With any change comes a fear of adjustment. One of the toughest places to implement change is in the workplace. When your organization plans for a system upgrade or major system change, how can you prepare for the shift?  There are many elements involved which can make change seem daunting – I am going to touch on one aspect: what your staff are not telling you.

When change occurs, it is a self-assessed risk to voice your opinion, especially if it is contradictory to the topic at hand.  People are afraid to speak up and risk appearing unsupportive.  What they don’t realize is that by not speaking up, they are in fact saying a lot – you just have to pay attention to the non-verbal cues they display.  A lack of eye contact, lack of response to emails, increase in absences, lack of feedback (when invited to provide it), curt responses, and excuses for not getting something done are just a few examples. They’re communicating that they’re adverse to change and that there will be some resistance.  When this occurs, consider things from your employee’s perspective – they’re being introduced to the changes at go-live. If they weren’t a part of the testing, decision-making process or project activities and are now being asked to use the system every day for every task, they might resent how little input they had. Having such little involvement in a large-scale project is what commonly leads employees to resist change.

There are several ways you can help your organization prepare and move forward with change.

  1. Invest in your employees. Be sure you are doing what you can to help employees adopt the new system. Thoughtful planning of initiatives can bring about positive change rather than letting it become a forced change that users will resist adopting.
  2. Admit defeat. Recognize that the power really lies with your users. People aren’t robots and need to feel that they have power over their job and how it’s going to be done. This is why micro-management doesn’t work; it strangles and cuts off the individuality of a person. People need autonomy. When there is change, we need to feel that we have some kind of control and that’s where job autonomy comes in. Provide the framework for which this autonomy will be exercised so that it’s productive and the system can indeed reach all of the organizational goals that were identified.
  3. Make it manageable. Your positive change initiatives don’t need to be delivered in one large piece, instead, break them up into smaller, more manageable activities. Doing so provides a variety of initiatives that will impact more users who are adapting to the change in their own way. For instance, check-in regularly with your employees. Invite their feedback and provide a safe forum where they can express their feelings without negative consequence. Ensure each user is supported by another who can empathize and show them how the system does actually work. Surround them with knowledge like materials and videos so they have the help they need when they need it. Ultimately, your users need to feel empowered to do their job in the new system.
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I’ve prepared a preliminary “stress-test” that can be used to assess how your organization is adapting to a new system.  Once you know where you rank, you can take action toward facilitating introducing change in a positive manner. Tailor them to your organization so that you enable employees to use the system to its fullest extent possible.

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So what are your staff telling you?  Are they telling you that they are excited for this new change or are they wishing they had the old system back?  Do they see the many benefits this system offers and why it’s vital for the organization to have it? Pay close attention to what your staff are not telling you. You may be surprised at where your organization stands on the path to change.


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