Leading during change: How effective managers help employees adapt



More than two thirds of major change programs fail.

Despite this, it is vital for businesses to change and adapt to be successful.  Rapid developments in technology are bringing equally rapid change to the organisational landscape.  Effective change management is critical in successful businesses, resulting in meeting or exceeding objectives, remaining within scope and completing projects on or ahead of schedule.  

Unfortunately, far too often change is thought to be a static process.  Without an effective change process, 70% of change interventions fail (Keller & Aiken, 2008). It is not enough to simply install a change intervention, it must be implemented.

Consider the installation of a new customer relationship management (CRM) application.  If one morning employees fired up their computers and found a new system was available, how likely would they be to use it instead of defaulting to their existing systems and processes?  Proper implementation demands a much longer commitment. It requires an alignment of business processes and communication about new ways of working. 

Constant change comprises consistent upskilling for employees, to ensure technology and practices are utilised effectively.  This change highlights the importance for employees to adjust to the digital age of ‘agile’ practices and globalisation.

HR managers are now required more than ever to leverage change management tools to assist in meeting market demands. 

Prosci's ADKAR, (see diagram below) developed by Jeff Hiatt, is a popular model for organisational change.  If you have ever watched someone make a change successfully in their life or at their job, you have seen ADKAR in action. Think about the first thing someone needs to make a change: an understanding of why the change is needed in the first place.
This is where the ADKAR model can facilitate change in employees and help them adapt.

   
Awareness

Awareness refers to an employee’s understanding of the nature of change.  This might include why change is needed, the risk of not changing, the drivers of change and the value to employees.  The number one reason for organisational change resistance is a lack of awareness about why the change was being made (Washington, 2005). Informing employees early about what and why change is occurring is crucial.

What would a change manager do at this stage?

Inform employees about why change is occurring, as well as the risks of not changing.  This information should come from an organisational leader or credible source. Employees need to be informed of the burning platform that is creating an onus for change.

Take our example of new CRM software. The benefits of effective implementation are likely to save the organisation money, as productivity increases, relationships are strengthened, and the integrated system reduces the likelihood of errors. Inversely, a failure to change is likely to push the organisation out of its present market share, as global competitors outperform in their capacity to reach (poach) potential customers.

Desire
Desire refers to the willingness of employees to support and engage in change.  This can be more challenging to facilitate, because sustained desire is typically intrinsically motivated.  Do not assume that building awareness will create desire for change.  Desire is influenced by the nature of change, an individual’s personal situation, their perception of the organisation and their own internal drivers.

What would a change manager do at this stage?

Change managers have a wealth of techniques to convince staff to change their behaviour, including creating a sense of urgency, outlining the ways change will benefit individuals and providing evidence of failures due to a lack of change.  Those involved in previous projects can understand the frustration associated with discarding a large portion of work due to shifting demands.  Thinking back to our CRM, demonstrating to employees how this new software will save them time is an easy way to build desire.

Knowledge
Knowledge is all about having the information, training, and education necessary to know how to change.  Employees require knowledge about behaviours, skills, job roles, techniques, processes, tools, and systems.  This may be difficult for some employees, based on their expertise, capacity to learn, peer support and access to educational 
resources.

What would a change manager do at this stage?

Ensure all relevant training and information is formally provided to employees to enable the change.  Instructions should be straightforward, clear and readily accessible.  For a CRM, workshops may be useful, but the digital age has provided opportunities for L&D teams to leverage online training at a more micro level. Google provides troubleshooting at a moments notice, so training can be more focused on the big picture.  Let employees explore best-practices collaboratively to further customise the system to their needs. 

Ability
Ability requires putting knowledge in to action and executing the required change.  It is not enough to tell employees how to change; they must be able to do it to a sufficient standard.

What would a change manager do at this stage?

Ensure all relevant training has been adhered to at an acceptable standard.  If more training is required, then this should be repeated until the employee has satisfactorily demonstrated the skills.  With our new CRM example, we may need to assess employees higher level skills for the software

Reinforcement
Once change has been actioned, it is critical to sustain the change.  This can be achieved through both internal and external motivators.  External motivators include recognition, rewards, and celebrations of shared success.  Internal motivators are intrinsic, and can be satisfied through achieving goals, working with others effectively, and taking ownership over work (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

What would a change manager do at this stage?

Check in with employees at regular intervals to see if change has been maintained.  If employees have done this effectively, recognise the strides they have taken to bring about and sustain a successful change.  For a CRM, it would be vital to check that employees are embracing the new ways of working.  A few stray employees who stick to prior procedures can undo all the hard work invested into change.  If capabilities have diminished over time, it may be necessary to revisit some stages of the ADKAR model.

Given that more than two thirds of major change programs fail, consider ADKAR as a guiding principal the next time you lead your organisation through change.

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”
Woodrow Wilson

Enabling effective change is made significantly easier when your employees are receptive. 
Psychometric assessments like the BusinessPersonality Reflections® can greatly assist in implementing change that sticks. Containing 73 personality scales that can be provided bespoke to your selection or development needs, the Openness to Change scale can quickly measure which of your employees are most likely to excel in the constantly shifting digital age.


Openness to Change

Openness to change measures an individual’s ability to adapt to varying situations, and their capacity to adopt new and different ways to manage tasks or solve problems.  That is, an individuals’ willingness to accept new ideas or procedures as opposed to those which are familiar.  The Openness to Change scale identifies individuals’ ability to be flexible in their thinking and solve problems effectively.

Due to the ever-changing and increasingly innovative workplace, an employees’ ability to adapt and change where necessary is vital to an organisation’s long-term prosperity.
A sample item for the Openness to Change scale that may be seen on our questionnaire could be:
I enjoy pushing traditional boundaries”.

Openness to Change has been shown to improve a range of positive workplace outcomes.  Wanberg and Banas (2000) conducted a longitudinal study examining employee openness to organisational change, finding job satisfaction was positively associated with openness to change.  Meta-analyses conducted by Marinova et al. (2015) identified job characteristics such as complexity, autonomy and task significance were predictive of change-orientated behaviour in the workplace, which in turn produced better workplace engagement.  Further, Chawla and Kelloway (2004) found staff retention was similarly positively associated.

Seppala and colleagues (2011) also found employees high in openness to change had higher levels of organisational citizenship behaviour, a construct defined by an employee commitment to their organisation beyond their contractual tasks.  That is to say, a propensity to change acceptance is seen more in individuals who want to go ‘above and beyond’ for their organisations.

Individuals who score highly on the Openness to Change scale tend to think critically, drive innovation, and at times question, challenge, or offer improvements to established procedures.  Also, highly scoring individuals are more likely to experiment and develop novel methods of processes, policies and procedures. 

You may consider using the Openness to Change scale in your selection and development processes if you want to identify individuals that:

·         Are flexible, open, and critical in their thinking;
·         Effectively problem-solve;
·         Strive for innovation;
·         Challenge convention and improve the status-quo.
Organisations can greatly benefit from employees that are open to change. Such workers will likely think critically, remain at their job long-term, and contribute to their organisation in ways beyond the average employee.

Get started with the Business Personality Reflections®  today by enquiring now, or learn more about our services.