How managing change effectively can have a positive impact on workplace wellbeing
When we think about change, it is often in terms of the external environment and how that affects our organisation – new technology, changes in legislation, economic recession other such factors. However, also considering internal change and how that affects our employees, their wellbeing and their performance, is important for the successful management of our organisations and the people within them.
At the heart of every successful business lies a strong understanding of how change affects staff wellbeing, roles, and efficiency. With effective management of change comes improved employee engagement and productivity, which in turn leads to not only a more positive workplace but a more resilient one.
In my previous articles, I have discussed the first 5 work elements that the HSE identify as needing to be managed effectively to promote healthy workplace wellbeing – demands, control, support, relationships and roles. Last but not least, we conclude with the final element, changeand how managing change effectively by understanding its effects on employees can have a positive impact on workplace wellbeing.
Why is change so hard?
Managing change is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of leading people. Mostly because it involves exactly that, people – a broad spectrum of individuals each with their own needs, feelings and complex range of emotions.
It is well-documented that we all go through several emotional states when faced with change. Shock, denial, anger, frustration and even depression, before shifting to acceptance, enthusiasm and then finally moving on.
That is a lot of emotion to help one person manage, let alone a whole workforce. That is why change can be so daunting and why so many organisations struggle with it.
However, what we know is that the better change is managed, the more likely it is to be successful. And when we talk about success, this doesn’t just mean minimal disruption and difficulties along the way – although that’s important too – but also positive outcomes such as increased employee satisfaction, improved performance, increased resilience and ultimately, a positive impact on the organisation’s bottom line.
So how can you successfully manage change within your organisation?
How to lead your team through change?
As with the other HSE work elements, good communication is the key to managing change effectively.
When dealing with a significant change you may find yourself in the likely position where you have to deal with hostile and even aggressive behaviour. During this time it is vitally important to maintain positive regard for your employees and remember their normal “default” behaviour. Change creates anger and frustration based on fear, and people are not necessarily thinking logically, but rather reacting emotionally, so it is your job to help navigate people past this and move forward as smoothly as possible.
The HSE management standard that organisations should strive to achieve is that “employees indicate that the organisation engages them frequently when undergoing an organisational change” and that “systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concern”.
Clearly stated, people are much more willing to accept change if they understand the reasons for it and have been communicated with effectively throughout the process.
Change the way you communicate
Think about how to share these reasons for change by using different channels of communication rather than a simple mass email. Will everyone get the message this way? – not everyone has easy access to email while others might be totally overwhelmed by overflowing inboxes or some just “don’t do email”.
What other communication channels could you use so that this important information is better understood? – meetings, noticeboards, presentations? Think about which methods would achieve the best coverage for your organisation.
It is also useful to think about what motivates your employees, and therefore the language that you use to deliver your message. Do you talk about increasing profit, growing the business and opportunities? Undoubtedly that will resonate with some of your employees, but what about those who are driven by stability, expertise or recognition?
Can you convey the benefits in other terms, such as increasing job security, opportunities to specialise or improving the organisation’s public profile? Try to develop a vision that everyone can relate to.
Understand what motivates your employees
Of course, to develop this relatable vision accurately, managers and leaders, need a firm understanding of what motivates their employees and of their team’s individual motivators. Using the Motivational Maps® tool will give you a road map to understanding your team and how they are likely to respond during a time of change.
Motivational Maps will help you recognise your employees’ true motivational drivers, understand how individual drivers affect the performance of the team and identify reward strategies that actually work.
This will not only prove invaluable when communicating change but also:
- improves working relationships
- enhances appraisal processes
- improves recruitment
- supports change management
- improves employee loyalty
- improves performance and productivity
By using motivational mapping tools and understanding the effects of change on the workforce, organisations can ensure that they are well-equipped to handle the challenges of change in a positive way.
Whatever your approach, communicating effectively during a time of change is one of the most important things you can do as a leader, to not only help your employees accept and embrace the changes happening in your organisation but also to maintain good employee wellbeing and ensure a smooth transition as you consult with your staff. This leads me to my next point…
Consult your staff about a change
Genuine consultation with your workforce is a vital component in ensuring that your employees feel they have some influence on the proposals. All too often change, especially significant change is shared once a full-blown plan is already in place. This leaves people feeling undervalued, and helpless in the face of little control.
It might also mean you are potentially losing out on some great ideas from an undervalued resource, as often the best innovations come from the people on the ground.
It is best to consult before, during, and after the change has happened. Think about the optimal ways to gather feedback from your employees. Consider surveys, focus groups, and information feedback sessions but be careful not to miss serious issues among all the concerns that will naturally arise.
Help people through the Change Curve
Remember when dealing with change that not everyone moves through the process at the same pace. The fact is some people are simply better equipped to deal with change. They will move through the process quickly, without much resistance. Others however can get stuck at any stage of the process and will need more support to make the transition more seamless.
The important thing is to recognise where people are on the “change curve” and provide support to help everyone pass the finish line at a pace appropriate to them.
Make positive changes by making “change” positive
Change is inevitable, but by putting people first and understanding how change affects your employees will not only create a strong wellbeing culture where people feel valued and safe but ensure that change has a positive rather than a negative impact on your workplace wellbeing.
Ultimately change fails when people don’t fully understand, believe in or engage with the process. For change to safeguard employee wellbeing, communication needs to be clear, concise and consistent. It takes commitment from management to make an organisation more fluid and ready to change, but it also takes commitment from the employees themselves.
By recognising that change is a part of any successful workplace, we can help people accept new ideas and embrace them with confidence. By focusing on the benefits for everyone involved, we can create an open and collaborative environment where people are excited about the future and looking forward to what the next change might bring.
So, when it comes to managing change, remember that your employees are an essential component of your organisation, so give them the support they need to be ready for anything!
As a professional member of the International Stress Management Association and holder of a CPCAB-accredited Level 5 Diploma in Mental Health & Wellbeing Awareness, through More Than Motivation, I help businesses carry out a wellbeing reviews and develop a strategy for implementing change management and supporting staff during the transition.