By Elizabeth Lewis | August 1, 2019
We’ve all heard about the importance of change management in implementing big organizational changes (mergers, acquisitions, new business systems rollout, etc.), but I’m always amazed how often workplace-related change projects (like moving to a new location or bringing in all new furniture) are undertaken without incorporating change management principles. Maybe it’s because it’s assumed that a new work environment will be received positively (spoiler alert – most people don’t like change!) or maybe it’s because it seems too complicated to consider a change-managed approach.
In my experience, two things are uniformly true about workplace change: 1) no matter how well-intentioned (and well-designed!) the change is, it will be met with resistance and 2) you can minimize resistance by capturing the “swing vote” (leveraging early adopters to become change champions) through an intentional change management approach.
And while I’m an advocate for developing a plan and strategy for any workplace change project, sometimes it isn’t practical or accessible. So if you’re working on a project that will change your employee’s, or client’s, work environment (a move, renovation, expansion, reconfigure, new office/site, rebranding, department move, seating upgrade, amenity space, the list goes on), and want to increase the likelihood of successful (and mostly painless!) implementation, check out these 5 tips:
5 Tips for Successful Workplace Change:
- Establish an executive sponsor – It’s important that employees see a leader that they know and trust engaged in the project, setting the direction, understanding the risks/benefits and communicating the vision, strategy and plan for rolling it out. Create opportunities for open dialogue with this leader (consider holding weekly “office hours”, or monthly “State of the Project” meetings).
- Communicate the “why” – Clearly articulating a clear executive vision is critical to gaining credibility with employees. If they truly understand why the change is important for the business, they’ll be more ready and willing to rally around change, even if it’s uncomfortable for them along the way. And the “why” can’t just be communicated once; craft a series of messages around the project’s significance and your vision for success. Target these messages to users, stakeholders and influencers.
- Build a user experience team – Select cross-functional subject matter experts and stakeholders to join the project team and create shared ownership of the success of the project. Not only will this ensure your project is focused on the right things (do employees really care about having an outdoor patio for 3 months of the year, or would they rather have a well-equipped work café?) based on the users of the environment, but it will help build engagement and support within, and beyond, the user group.
- Create an internal communications plan – Identify a communications lead for the project, and develop a project logo and name. Create a calendar of activities and messages, with a mix of content, media, delivery method and author. There’s no such thing as “enough” communication when it comes to workplace change! And the more you can make communications visible, fun, and recognizable, the more positively they’ll be received.
- Involve middle managers – So often even the most well-intentioned projects fail because middle managers are not part of the project or change groups, and aren’t kept up to date on what’s happening. In order to build support, ensure middle managers are always “first” to hear about project developments and updates. Give them the opportunity to be part of decisions that impact their teams, and allow time to update them 1:1 so they can ask questions and feel as if they are an important part of the project’s success (which they are!). Make sure they have the information they need to build support from their teams, rather than putting them in a position where they’re caught on their heels when questions or concerns are raised by their employees.
These five tips can and should be part of the initial planning phase of your project. The most common reason a change project goes sour is that the project becomes known of, but without detail, specifics or any formal communication from the company. This leaves employees to wonder, assume, gossip and create rumors that waste a lot of time and productivity, and cause managers and leadership to spin their wheels when they should be focusing on the business. If you can build these five tactics into your project from the start you’ll go a long way toward building excitement, engagement and ultimately adoption of the change.
Next time on the blog, we’ll explore 5 more change tips that can help during the middle and later stages of a change project. Stay tuned!