How to help employees cope with change
Change and uncertainty are unsettling, and it’s up to the leaders to help employees cope with them and instill hope, claims Antoinette Oglethorpe. In this HR Zone blog post, she shares five techniques for coping with change: 1. Recognize that it’s a difficult time and encourage employees to think about what “surviving well” would look like. 2. Encourage them to focus only on what they can influence, and let go of issues that they cannot. 3. Ask employees what has helped them cope with difficult times in the past and what they are already doing to manage as well as they are. 4. Recognize and value employees’ hard work and resilience. 5. Identify the steps they can take that will make a difference. “Leave employees to cope with change and uncertainty alone and they are likely to become paralyzed by anxiety and increasingly demoralized,” Oglethorpe writes. “Use these strategies and it will help them see beyond their immediate limits, focus on what they can do and keep perspective, all of which instills a sense of hope and optimism.”
Change management needs to reinforce continuity
According to a new research report published in the Academy of Management, one important reason why employees resist change is because they view it as a threat to their sense of continuity of organizational identity. “Employees identify with and care for their organizations. People fear that after the change, the organization will no longer be the organization they value and identify with—and the higher the uncertainty surrounding the change, the more they anticipate such threats to the organizational identity they hold dear,” wrote the researchers in a Harvard Business Review article. They believe that effective change leadership must emphasize continuity and how the core values of the organization will be preserved. “In overcoming resistance to change and building support for change, leaders need to communicate an appealing vision of change in combination with a vision of continuity. Unless they are able to assure people that what defines the organization’s identity—what makes us who we are—will be preserved despite the changes, leaders may have to brace themselves for a wave of resistance,” they write.
Six ways for leaders to navigate change
For this Inc. piece, Natalie Nixon interviewed six leaders with diverse styles on what it takes for a leader to affect change. She summarizes their perspectives:
1. Vision transfer—leaders need to dream big and transfer that vision to the entire workforce.
2. Trust factor—great leaders affect change by taking responsibility for their actions and learning from the lessons to grow and thrive.
3. Mind the gap—listen to people and demand divergent perspectives and voices.
4. Handle culture with care—enabling a safe and nurturing culture is the essence of leadership.
5. Co-create and celebrate success—create multi-disciplinary teams and make sure every little change is celebrated.
6. Express change as a narrative—allow everyone in the company to find his or her place in the narrative.
“Live the change. Too often I see leadership saying the organization needs to change, but somehow they believe it is everyone else, except for them. That doesn’t work. Make sure that what you as a leader do differently is really visible,” says Maaike Doyer, Business Models Inc.’s CFO.
Questions every CHRO should be asking
“More than a mandate, change is an issue of survival. It’s time to ask new questions,” writes John Sumser in this HR Examiner blog post. Many of these questions are about the role of artificial intelligence in HR, such as its cost, limits and the human aspects of deploying it in the workplace. “Artificial intelligence is on the verge of turning all employee communications into data, and all communications patterns into automated processes,” he writes. “Freed from the yoke of insurance enrollments and annual review proctoring, how will HR strategically advise the organization?” Sumser’s compilation of key issues includes: HR’s role in a world where employees increasingly wear technology; how HR can make the best of chatbots; HR’s role post automation; and how to navigate outdated laws. “Surprisingly, this list barely scratches the surface of what’s already possible. What’s coming in the next couple of years is mind blowing,” he writes.
HR’s seat at the change table
Continuing the conversation about HR’s evolving role in organizations is Justin Wasserman, who believes that the function can be a strategic driver of transformation efforts. In this interview for Forbes Leadership with Sherry Thomson, CHRO of New Brunswick Power, Wasserman explores how Thomson was able to secure for her HR department a vital role in the organization’s transformation. “The first challenge was confronting the mindset that HR’s role was to be the ’employee advocate’ versus a key enabler in driving business results,” she told Wasserman. “We needed to reposition and reframe ourselves in order to support and lead the transformation. We then stepped in to engage the full workforce.” Thomson’s advice to other HR leaders includes understanding the business imperatives and listening to other internal business leaders. “A key way to build those relationships is to demonstrate tangible business results early on in any change process. Financial results speak volumes,” she said. “HR also needed to increase our understanding of the role we play in creating a culture where everyone can step in and participate in realizing the corporate vision.”