A Beginner’s Guide to Change Management: Strategies for Success

Jul 20 2022
9 min read
A Beginner's Guide to Change Management: Strategies for Success

If you want to stay competitive, you need to adopt a dynamic, agile way of working. Change is a part of everyday life, especially for businesses, which are in frequent flux. And the inventory of skills needed across numerous professions only grows by the day. 

Here at GrowthSpace, for example, we’re continuously updating our technology, including additions to our talent development solution, as well as our network of services and experts. We understand the importance of change management in today’s uncertain market. We believe that, regardless of one’s role or level in an organization, everyone can benefit from a better understanding of how to make professional changes, and make them well. 

Why Change Management?

If you thought a change management process is only needed during a crisis, think again. The pandemic and ensuing economic slowdown have demanded organizational development, but it’s actually something a company should be thinking about, if not doing, on a regular basis. 

That’s because the business world is changing at a rate that makes it very difficult for employees to adapt rapidly. A phenomenon called ‘Martec’s Law’ illustrates how technology changes exponentially, while the rate of organizational change actually slows over time. Companies can battle this by leveraging new technologies and being more competitive as a result. 

Why Do People Resist Change?

The chances that a first-time change initiative will fail is around 75%. Why? Leadership is a factor, but just as important are burnout issues and the fact that many employees don’t have the right skills or attitude to do their part. 

And, when employees are too tired or simply not equipped for change, they resist. This can take the form of ‘active’ resistance, with express refusal to participate. A more common type is ‘passive’ resistance, where the employee procrastinates, denies understanding instructions, and may even start quietly looking for a new job. 

It’s up to leaders to recognize the signs of change resistance, such as a failure to stick to change management schedules, gossip, and an overall bad attitude. But the answer to resistance is not punishment. To make the medicine go down more smoothly, communication is the solution. 

Different Types of Organizational Change

From minor to major, changes to a business all need to be performed efficiently. When a change management process fails, it just makes the challenge that the change was meant to address all the more threatening.   

Developmental changes

These changes include incremental adjustments that are meant to improve or correct a certain process. Developmental changes can be things like switching to a new billing system or adopting a talent management platform. 

Transitional changes

These changes are when an organization makes an extensive switch but still maintains its fundamental character. A classic form of a transitional change is a merger/acquisition that may involve adding new team members or full departments to the current organization, while still selling the same product.  

Transformational changes

These changes signify a drastic shift in the way a business operates. It is often combined with developmental and transitional changes and occurs over a long period of time. At the conclusion of a transformational change, many aspects of the business will be different, including culture. 

Top 5 Change Management Strategies

Behind every change is the driver of any successful move – people. A central part of implementing a change management strategy is to get people on board, which is more complicated than it sounds. It often goes beyond explanations and encouragement because, as noted above, resistance can be significant in any organizational change. 

With that being said, here are the top five strategies for getting your people behind your next big move:

1. Adopt and Adhere to a Change Management Model

Leaders are up against company culture, organizational momentum, and human psychology when enacting change. To make change happen, they need the right tools to guide them. Change management models help leaders connect business strategy to action, which increases the likelihood of success.

But how do you pick a model? That depends on where your people are in terms of acceptance. Here are three of the most popular models:

Prosci’s ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) model puts the focus on minimizing resistance by encouraging feedback. ADKAR concentrates on the role of the individual as opposed to the team. The goal is to present change as more of a cooperative venture than an order from the head office.

Lewin’s Three Stage model consists of ‘unfreezing’ a current process and analyzing it to increase stakeholder understanding; changing the process; and then, based on feedback over time, ‘refreezing’ the process. Lewin’s model is meant for companies where senior management is supportive and is all about getting the team to design the change strategy. Lewin allows major changes to take place over a relatively long time so that associated training programs can take place to accommodate the move. 

Kotter’s Eight Step change model specializes in creating enthusiasm in an organization by:

  1. Creating a sense of urgency
  2. Building a guiding coalition
  3. Forming a strategic vision and initiatives
  4. Enlisting supporters
  5. Enabling action by removing barriers
  6. Generating short-term wins
  7. Sustaining acceleration
  8. Instituting change

This is a top-down model that depends on strong leadership. However, it is not structured to incorporate feedback, so practitioners need to add these functions. 

2. Put Your People First

Even when communications are excellent, there will still often be a group of traditionalists who won’t see the light. But there is an answer to hold-outs. 

Some people just want to be heard, particularly those who have been around a long time. They often have unique insight regarding their function or department and can add valuable advice. 

Being proactive by listening and addressing their concerns head-on can minimize their fears and sense of being ignored, and even improve the change process by heeding their advice.   

At the core of this move are leaders who can make change easier through employee engagement. For an HR practitioner, this shows that engagement can go beyond enhancing interest in daily work; when it comes to change management, employees can be important contributors as well.

3. Communicate the Importance and Nature of the Change 

Obtaining the buy-in of stakeholders can be a chicken and egg situation. What do you explain first? People need to know what to do in their revised role, but if they are constantly thinking, ‘exactly why am I doing this?’, they can end up questioning the whole effort. On the other hand, it can be difficult for a worker to translate a change strategy into their daily activities. 

That’s why the Prosci ADKAR model is among the most popular. It acts as a checklist for employee understanding and attitudes. It is not a one-time deal; instead, ADKAR should be run through on a regular basis to ensure that all of its factors are either in place or being developed. At the very least, a practitioner should review stakeholders’ ADKAR status at three vital waypoints – while preparing the change, while implementing and adapting related actions, and when sustaining mid- to long-term outcomes. 

It all boils down to communication. When communication for a change management program works, it eliminates doubts and makes clear exactly how a person’s role should change. Even better, a great communications program inspires employees to the point that they proactively inquire how they can help. 

4. Set a Clear Timeline and Updates for the Change 

It’s easy for employees to delay their part in a change management program because they are often busy doing their normal tasks. By setting a clear schedule, and getting leaders to make sure that it is being followed, timely completion of the change across the organization is more likely.

But it’s also highly important. On an internal level, organizations interact in mysterious ways. When one employee or team doesn’t complete their task on time, it can delay implementation in all kinds of places. Noticing bottlenecks and resolving them quickly can avoid costly setbacks and confusing blame games.

Finally, providing updates can have a huge impact on morale. The ‘gung-ho’ feeling that employees get when everyone is working hard and succeeding creates positive momentum towards faster completion. In addition, it always boosts morale to recognize and reward any special efforts that are moving the change strategy along at a more rapid pace than expected.  

5. Put Leaders and Managers in Charge

Not all leaders are managers. Whenever a serious change is going on, keep that idea in mind. 

That’s because a leader might be the charismatic employee who simply ‘gets it’, and brings everybody else along. It’s true that effective managers are out in front when it comes to leading change, and meeting objectives often depends on them. But when you think about how resistance can persist among some employees who simply want a voice, it’s everyday employees who are most likely keyed into such challenges and most able to help.  

These everyday leaders are essential whenever the program bogs down. By understanding the attitudes of coworkers, they can act as go-betweens. Leaders will inform higher-ups of looming problems, while they can also deliver advice, support, and enthusiasm to colleagues who aren’t fully on board. 

Change Your Change Culture with Growthspace

Change management doesn’t just happen – driving it are some serious skills. Because change can be required at many levels of an organization, your talent development solution should be flexible enough to handle lots of employees with lots of different L&D requirements. That’s why Growthspace has become a leading platform for companies that need to upskill and reskill, rapidly and at scale. For changes ranging from individual talent development to comprehensive, wide-scale L&D initiatives, Growthspace is the key. 

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