Preparing for Change

Preparing Your Staff for Organizational Change

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: My association will be doing a major reorganization soon, which will result in some people changing departments and/or managers. What can I do to prepare my staff so that the change is as successful as possible?

A: It’s an understatement to say that organizational change isn’t easy. However, there are steps you can take before the big reveal to smooth the transition. I’m assuming that you’re not quite ready to announce the change but want to do what you can before then. I commend you for thinking this way—the more you do up front, the easier the change will be.

Start by thinking about your employees. Hopefully you know them well and understand who will respond positively to change and who will dig their heels in and fight it, no matter what you do. Identify “change champions”: the people who will jump enthusiastically into a new initiative and will help bring others along. If you don’t know who you can count on to be a change champion, now’s the time to find them.

One of the reasons organizational changes often aren’t effective is that people have “change fatigue.” Many people react to constant change by flying under the radar and ignoring the change, because they know in a few months you’ll spring some other change on them. If that’s the case, then why get on board with this one? (Or so this line of thinking goes.)

To prevent this, be sure to consider whether your team is ready for change at this time. You should be able to evaluate their readiness by monitoring morale and engagement. Fully engaged employees are more likely to accept change because they’re fully committed to your organization’s success.

Find your change champions, reinforce the mission, and listen to your employees—these actions will lay the groundwork for a successful change.

During your staff meetings and your interactions with individual team members, emphasize your organization’s mission so that your team is thinking about the big picture. This mindset should help them accept the changes you will be making.

Successful organizational change requires a well-crafted communications strategy. Before you announce the change, discuss the trends or challenges that are precipitating it so that your employees have a chance to offer possible solutions. Although you may not use their suggestions, be sure they’re heard. This will go a long way toward preparing them for the change.

Find your change champions, reinforce the mission, and listen to your employees—these actions will lay the groundwork for a successful change.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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