A Smooth Transition IS Possible! Here’s How to Make Change Easier

Change can be chaos, thoughtful transformation, and much more. It all depends on how you handle it. Here's our best advice.

When you think of change, do you see chaos, or thoughtful transformation? 

Change can be both of those things, and much more.

It all depends on how you handle it.

Providing Security During Change in the Workplace

Here’s a riddle for you. Can change be made in the workplace in a way where people feel safe? Can change and stability live together?

When I was a teenager, my mom would always say “Good morning!” in a really upbeat way. I would roll over in bed and grumble, “Those words don’t go together.” Today I realize that they DO go together, and I’m grateful for my mom’s energy. 

The same idea can be applied to “change” and “stability.” Some people might adamantly insist, “No, you can’t have security during change or transition.” Others may say, “Yes, you can.” It really depends on how change is handled, and each stakeholder’s perspective.  

The Paradox that Makes Change Easier

Employees adapt to change most effectively when they are in a safe, secure environment.

Wait. A safe, secure environment…during change? Can those two things go together?

Yes and no. 

During the change process, you can be thoughtful, planful, intentional; you can actively work to make the change process a smoother transition for everyone involved.

However, you can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs. In other words, you have to have a measure of disruption for change. There is something happening today that you want to be different in the future. By its nature that is disruptive.

To Help Employees Through Change, Introduce Stability

How do you create stability during change? You PLAN for the disruption. You plan to help the people impacted by the change, or experiencing the disruption. You help people understand what is going to happen and how it’s going to affect them. You follow that up with concrete steps that provide a sense of security and safety within that disruption.

At a high level we talk about winning buy-in from stakeholders, and this involves effective communication. But when it comes to communicating, there is a continuum. There are degrees to which we can engage people in the change process, especially when we are trying to empower stakeholders and create stability. How far are you willing to go to put your people first? 

Communicate with a Multi-pronged Approach

Frequent communication—in fact, over-communication—is key in laying the groundwork for a smooth change process. 

This doesn’t just mean saying things in an email repeatedly. This means using multiple methods of communication to communicate the same message. 

For example, you can speak with  stakeholders who are going to experience disruption during the change process, and follow up with a letter or email. Making the time for in-person connection and organic conversations can go a long way to building trust.

Explain All the Details

Stakeholders need to know details about the coming change. This includes WHY the change is happening, when it’s happening, how it’s happening—they need to know all this at the most granular level. Share as much information as you can with the people who are going to be impacted by the change or disrupted by it.

Open the Floor for Questions

Allow avenues and time for those who will experience the change to ask all the questions they have and be able to dialogue, not just at one point in time but throughout the change process. 

In addition, create processes that are responsive. The more available you are, and the more timely your responses, the greater sense of trust you will establish with your team. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and share what you will do to find the answer. Then get back to them as soon as you can. Yes, this can be time consuming—but it will pay off. 

Be Empathetic and Prepare for a Variety of Feelings

People experience a wide range of emotions during change. They may be terrified, unsettled, agitated, angry, enthusiastic, excited—the more people you talk to, the more reactions you’re going to find.

We need to cultivate a deep understanding of this so that we can empathize with whatever emotions people are experiencing. This understanding will also inform the concrete steps we take before and during the change process. The more we are prepared to acknowledge and work through the turbulency of change with our people, the more successful the process will be.

Change Is a Tunnel, So Focus on the Light 

When you first enter the tunnel of change, your team is losing what they know. They are saying goodbye to their familiar territory and venturing out into the dark, the unknown. They aren’t in the new reality just yet. 

So how can you help them navigate through the tunnel? 

Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel—the positive outcome. Not the darkness of the tunnel.

When you’re driving on the highway and you come to a long tunnel, you go through it because you know there is a light at the end. It’s a short-term darkness that results in you getting where you need to go. Focus on where you’ll end up, and you’ll be motivating your team to drive through the tunnel. 

Managing Change: It’s All About How You Handle It

If you’ve ever been involved in change management before, you’re no stranger to the ideas I’m telling you. It’s Change 101—communicate, check in with your team, empathize, plan, etc. But in real life, these aren’t always the easiest things to do. We are in a hurry. We think the information about the change might upset people. Or we underestimate the emotional responses of our team. We have the best intentions, but it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to managing organizational change in a way that doesn’t leave your team feeling like they’ve been blindsided.

I have dealt with small change efforts ($100K projects that affected 10 people), big change efforts (multi-million-dollar projects impacting thousands of people) and everything in between. 

My big takeaway—how these implementations are handled makes a DRAMATIC difference.

7 Ways to Help Employees Deal with Change in the Workplace

Change can be fun. It can have a positive impact. It’s a necessity. We can’t avoid it—so let’s do it in a way that is stable and sustainable. A way that gives people a reason to trust that we are managing it well.

Whether or not change will be a positive experience is largely dependent on you, leaders! 

So here are seven ways you can help your team have a sense of stability during the change process:

  1. Facilitate consistent communication (in person, in writing, internal websites).
  2. Create forums for people to submit questions and provide rapid response answers. 
  3. Make FAQs available to the whole team.
  4. Let your team members know how much you care about them. 
  5. Designate team members to respond digitally to remote employees. 
  6. Be genuine and open about what you don’t know.
  7. Allow casual dress, bring in lunch, tell the team how much you appreciate them (these and similar gestures can go a long way).

When you make the time for these simple but powerful actions, the atmosphere in your organization will become one of transparency and trust. Your team will understand that you are really thinking things through (meaning, they’ll know that change is being thoughtful and intentional).

Even if you hate change, you can still experience the hallmarks of good change when the process is handled well. So try the ideas above—or even just a few of them—and see where that takes you and your team.

Good luck to you in your change effort! 

At The Human Priority, we believe in high collaboration, high trust, high respect. We believe in creating workplaces where you can have co-conversations and a sense of community. This is what creates the Workplace Fairytale! This is where people come together and do awesome, great, phenomenal things together. We can help you accomplish this! Learn more about our business consulting services.

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