When Change is Around the Corner

Word is leaking out that a team made up of City Finance and HR staff are working on a new payroll system and one of the new modules involves having staff log in electronically on a bi-weekly basis to complete updates on their goal achievement status. These electronic reports will then be gathered by their supervisors and the new annual evaluation form will be based on these reports. Many employees have been in the organization for 20+ years and they have always filled in a Word document covering their yearly accomplishments and left it with their supervisor who was responsible for finalizing their evaluation report.  Also rumored is that the accomplishment of goals must be reported in this new electronic format; if not, annual merit payments will not be provided.  Everyone is beginning to freak out about the possibility of not being awarded their expected merit payments if their reports are not submitted according to this new guideline.  Some employees are even planning to file grievances with their union to make the City stop implementing the new way of collecting information for the evaluation system.

Rumors, fears, and imagined disasters are spreading throughout the City’s workforce, as often happens with transitions.

Do you know how to minimize resistance and disruption while creating positive change in the workplace?  There are several steps you can take to help ensure smooth transitions.

  1. Communicate Early and Often

Communicate what you can, when you can, with all stakeholders as soon as you can, preferably when you begin planning for the change, to alleviate unnecessary anxiety. Focus on the benefits and positive aspects of the change. Based on the scenario above, the City’s HR leader can craft and communicate a general message that a new, best practice performance evaluation system is being implemented and the City is working closely with the unions and associations to set up training for all represented employees before the new system begins.  Ensure that the leadership team is involved in designing and relaying the messages to all their team members about the upcoming change(s) and supporting and encouraging all concerned to understand what is planned to happen and when it is expected to happen. Whenever possible, give employees a role in determining the timetable. If employees can be involved in determining how and when the new activities will happen, for the most part they will take ownership and engage in the implementation of the new activities.  In unionized environments joint union-association/management committees provide a forum for both parties to engage and move forward by incorporating the best ideas of both parties.

  1. Identify Ambassadors

Identify employees who are open to the change, particularly those who have an influential voice in your organization.  Get them involved early in the planning process. They can become your ambassadors by engaging other employees in discussions, helping them overcome their concerns, and finding out what most concerns the employees. You can then use this information in crafting messages to employees that help them feel less anxious while helping to ease the way of all affected employees toward acceptance of the new process, new systems, etc.

  1. Listen and Learn

Keep communication channels open.  Along with providing information about the change, give employees a chance to be heard. You may want to hold forums where you provide information on progress and request feedback. Another alternative is to provide anonymous suggestion boxes. When employees do speak up, listen. Do not argue or debate.  Learn everything you can about your employees’ stories so that you will better understand how the proposed changes will affect them. Carefully weigh the employees’ objections. Let them know they have been heard and, when possible, as well as how their concerns are being addressed. Perhaps there are some large projects going on in other parts of the organization and employees think they can only learn so many new systems at a time.  By listening and finding the right time to implement the new processes, employees will appreciate being listened to and therefore will be more engaged in learning the new processes.

  1. Train and Support

Provide training and support.  In cases where employees need to learn a new technology or process to complete their jobs, it is critical to provide training in a workshop environment so hands-on training can take place and/or scenarios can be discussed. Choose some of the organization’s ambassadors to serve as role models and trainers. Seeing peers actively embracing the change boosts the willingness to be open. In the case of the scenario described at the beginning of this article, the City would be well served to conduct two types of team-based workshops. One should be in a computer lab environment so everyone can practice inputting information into the new evaluation system, and the second can take place in a regular meeting room, where there are facilitated discussions on how to embrace continuous communication.  This will foster an environment where regular one-on-one meetings can be held with supervisors and their employees during which the weekly or bi-weekly accomplishments are discussed in a safe manner and agreed-upon results then entered into the new evaluation system. By conducting these trainings, employees at all levels of the organization will learn how to ask for and provide feedback in a mutually enhancing manner.  In many unionized environments inviting union leaders to participate in the training will also alleviate any concerns they may have and provides them with frontline training as to what the new system/process involves and how it will affect their members.

  1. Provide Tools for Success

Be sure you are providing all the tools needed during and after the transition. Provide mentors. Coach employees who are having trouble adjusting.  Make sure all support is given in a positive manner. Moving too swiftly on performance issues can send negative ripples throughout the organization so it is essential to adopt a caring, compassionate approach when giving feedback.  A study done by the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business supported the Gallup Organization’s findings that employees prefer receiving negative feedback to being ignored. However, training supervisors and teammates in how to provide constructive feedback will ensure employees feel connected and motivated to improve.  Ask employees how it is going. You may find out that there are barriers you hadn’t anticipated. Pivoting earlier, rather than later, in the process may make the entire transition and the overall outcome more successful.

  1. Evaluate and Celebrate

Once the change has been implemented, reflect on the process and the results. Identify what went well and what still needs improvement.  Gauge the level of employee commitment.  Celebrate successes.  Reward employees who have risen to the challenge.

Continue communicating after the process.

By keeping employees informed, helping them understand the need for, and benefits of, the change, giving them a role in the process, providing training and coaching, and listening to their concerns, you have a much better chance of a positive transition experience that increases employee engagement and moves your organization forward.

How can we help you implement change?

Koff & Associates has been engaged by organizations to facilitate the implementation of new performance evaluation systems.  We have highly qualified HR professionals with experience in implementing organizational change in unionized environments. We will be happy to support your organization’s leadership, HR team and employees as you implement new processes and systems to maximize your human capital.

Contact us.

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