Only 30 percent of all change programs are successful, according to John Kotter’s 1996 landmark book, “Leading Change.”
Decades later, that statistic still holds true.
So what are you doing to perpetuate that statistic, and how do you break out of the norm to implement successful change?
Here are five things that are commonly overlooked by people who are leading change, and what you can do to turn those mistakes into successes.
1. Lack of proper planning
Most people don’t understand why change is important, and they’re looking to you for answers. Your employees want to know what success looks like, how they fit in with the change and what you expect of them.
Not knowing can create fear and angst within your workforce. Distracted by the “what ifs,” your employees will likely be less productive and may even start looking for work elsewhere.
Don’t make the mistake of processing the change for yourself, then moving five steps ahead of your employees and expecting them to catch up. You have to meet people where they are in order to get them where you want them to be.
Before you start implementing anything, make sure you have considered exactly how the change will affect every aspect of your organization and how you will measure success.
Ask the following questions:
1. Where is the change going to take you?
2. How will you know when you’ve gotten there?
3. Who will need to be involved?
4. Who will it directly and indirectly affect?
5. Do you have the support and approval of management/key stakeholders?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start developing your plan.
2. Lack of clear communication
How are your stakeholders communicating the change? Are they open to feedback? You need key personnel in your company to back your plan for change and help you implement it. Without their support, your efforts are doomed.
A lack of communication around the change has negative results on your employees as well. If kept in the dark, employees will create and share their own ideas of what they think is going on. This leads to rumors and mistrust of management.
Your employees’ feedback is vital to your change initiative. Your employees need open avenues to communicate their concerns, and you need to know if your change is not working as intended, so you can make adjustments.
3. Not fully understanding how it will affect your employees
You have to be explicit about the changes to your organization will affect individual employees. Will their job duties change? How will they benefit? Why is the change important to your organization?
Review your processes, policies, tools and resources. Make sure there’s clear alignment between them and your workforce. Do they have everything they need to do their job as efficiently and effectively as possible? You may need to provide additional equipment or training to get your employees up to speed on new initiatives.
Before you roll out your new initiative to a whole department or to the entire company, test your changes with a small group of people so that you can make adjustments, if necessary. Get the test group’s feedback and communicate it to all other employees, so they know you’re listening to their perspective and willing to learn from it.
And when it’s finally time to put the new plan in place larger group, be sure to check in with your employees regularly. Talk directly to them. Get input on how things are going and if there is anything that that could make their job easier or more productive.
4. Failing to follow through
You get what you measure, so track the progress of your change. Conduct training on the changes and its effects. This will help you employees be more confident about doing things differently.
Expect that you will encounter resistance to the change somewhere along the way, and have a plan on how to deal with negativity – don’t just accept that not everyone is happy or will be happy.
Keep the lines of communication clear and open throughout the entire process and well after the new initiatives have been implemented. Ignoring the concerns of your employees can lead to disgruntled staff members going “underground” to subvert the change without the knowledge of you or other management personnel.
5. Not recognizing a job well done
Celebrate your success, and make sure your employees know they’re part of the celebration. Recognize what your employees are doing well and reward them for it. They need to know that the change is successful.
Give your employees feedback on their participation. These feedback loops should be sustainable and built into your long-term strategy. Acknowledge that your employees are doing something differently, and that they’re doing it well. Encourage managers and supervisors to provide constructive feedback to their employees.
Successful change involves everyone in your company, so make sure everyone feels good about it at the end of the day.
A key takeaway
To implement successful long-term change, you should spend most of your energy and effort on planning, communication and understanding the effect the change has on your company. Planning is what makes implementation successful. When you plan well for change, less rework is required, and implementation will run smoother.
If your company is undergoing change or planning for change, consider how Insperity’s team of HR specialists might be able to help you.