The Importance of Human Factor in Change Management

In the volatile business environment, adaptability is one of the key factors of success. Companies everywhere must keep up with the latest trends in order to stay competitive.

Everything changes so quickly – the way we do business, the technologies we use and interpersonal relations in the workplace. The change seems to be the only constant thing.

Even though it is not the easiest approach, change management is a tool some companies use to improve or in some cases, fight for survival. It covers a wide range of actions: reducing staff, switching to outsourcing, approaching core business in a new way to expand business in a new direction, changing responsibilities to using sub-contractors, selling a business unit or merging departments into new ones.

I would like to focus on the human factor here – what its relevance is and to which extent it influences the success of the change management.

By using motivation, change management ensures people are kept informed and have all the means to face the new challenges ahead.

In few words, human factor can be defined as the sum of different causes and actions that take to involve people affected by the change, throughout the entire process. A study conducted by Hiatt and Creasy indicated that top obstacles in change management process are employees and middle management resistance, poor sponsorship, inadequate resources and corporate political opinions. This means four out of five obstacles are related to the human factor! That is why every organisation has to pay great attention to people: if they are ready for the change and if they understand how it will actually impact them.

changeThe “Towers Watson 2014 Global Workforce Study” has revealed that the attitude people have when facing organisational changes is determined by their attitude to change in general. With this knowledge, management can identify and treat differently employees that resist the change from those who embrace it.

Whatever the reasons for the change are, it’s the people who will have to carry it out and exactly this is the importance of human factor! If you want your change to be a success, convince the people who will do the real work.

We must be aware that, in today’s world, the simple concept of change threatens the feeling of stability.

Based on 2014 numbers produced by Towers Watson, more than 70% of the changes that occurred were related to major changes in the organisation, such as a merger or acquisition, downsizing, restructuring, a sale of a business unit or job outsourcing.

Sometimes, even something as benign as introducing a new software or a new procedure may be perceived as job-threatening by some employees. It’s not rare that this kind of stress causes low levels of productivity or even opposition to the change.

How Do We Manage This?

Focus all of your attention on your employees – observe how the change affects them and act accordingly. For change management to be successful, the reaction of the employee must be acknowledged and addressed.

Repetita Iuvant

Establish the message to communicate and keep repeating it! Use the same keyword and the same images until everyone in the organisation is familiar with it.

The message should be simple and clear. Even if you may displease someone, being straightforward will be rewarded in the long run. Avoid changing the message for different audiences: they will speak to each other and highlight the differences more than the similarities; this will create mistrust.

Do Not Hide

Speaking directly to individuals and/or smaller teams allows people to ask direct questions and quell their fears. Be honest with your team and don’t dodge the truth. If you are the one who delivers the bad news, you will be in control of how they are delivered. Explaining the reasons behind hard choices will make it easier for them to understand and manage the situation to their advantage.

Don’t run away from the bad aspects of the change. Explain the consequences in the case the change process is being dragged out or stopped. Delivering bad news alongside its silver lining is far better than keeping secrets. A little tip: maintaining eye contact is important when reassuring people.

Teamwork

Task distributionCreating a feeling of unity is fundamental. The concept of “being in it together”, the feeling that the whole organisation will succeed or fail together must be present among the team members. This will isolate those who are hoping to keep the status quo for personal reasons.

Be sure that the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) is transmitted and understood so that novelty is also seen as an opportunity.

This is a good opportunity to identify and isolate those who will strongly oppose the process as well as those who are willing to work together to achieve common goals.

This time is great to do some talent management and single out the next team leaders and/or middle management because during this period natural leaders emerge. Make sure to acknowledge and reward their initiative and hard work.

Achievements and Milestones

Achievements are not reserved only for the management. The whole organisation should be praised for each success! Celebrate them formally, communicate the details and the next steps. Again, this will help build the team morale and fire them up for the next steps.

What Is Morale and How Can It Be Influenced?

Morale can be defined as “a mental condition or attitude of individual and groups which determines their willingness to co-operate”.  (Edwin B. Flippo).

Flippo defines two attributes – high morale and low morale – indicating the sense of purpose and emotional involvement of the person.

A high morale exists when employees manifest a favourable attitude and are confident the company can achieve its objectives. High morale words: enthusiasm and loyalty. On the other hand, when the attitude influences the ability and willingness to achieve company’s objectives, we are talking about low morale. Low morale words: apathy and laziness.

Morale can be influenced by management. If it applies the right measures, management will have employees satisfied with their job and a high morale environment. Morale can be improved even with low-cost customised measures, based on organisational culture, employees and type of changes to be implemented.

Motivation – Can We Influence It?

Motivation refers to internal and external factors that determine people’s interest and commitment to a topic and willingness to make efforts in achieving a goal.

In professional meaning, motivation is defined as employees’ desire to perform, regardless of their current emotional state.

Motivation has been a subject of debate between those who say you cannot motivate an employee that is not self-motivated to perform and those who say anyone can be motivated with proper instruments. Both sides agree that motivated employees are more committed to their work and become better employees as they achieve their goals and, more importantly, they manage their own development and help others do the same.

In change management process, motivation is crucial, as it represents the difference between “leavers” and “stayers”, between healthy and toxic environment and, in the end, between failure and success of change implementation. The management has to focus on making employees feel personally involved in the organisational changes. This will create a more responsive, responsible and committed attitude on their part and will help have an easier and more effective transition to the new status. Also, having a personalised approach to each employee and seeing to the fulfilment of their needs is what will ensure that people are drawn to working towards the desired goals.

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