Your Project Management Office is home to some of your organization’s most radical change makers.
Your Project Management Office is home to some of your organization’s most radical change makers. They strive to bring efficiency to your project management efforts through organizational changes, documentation, tooling and training. From the PMO’s perspective, change is exciting and filled with opportunity.
But not everyone in your business will share this way of thinking. In fact, you can expect over a third of your employees to resist instances of change.
This is partly down to a quirk in the human brain; we’re wired to fear change. In the workplace, this resistance can result in increased stress, distrust, and even the intention to quit. The more changes you implement, the more likely you are to trigger “change fatigue”.
This is why change management requires a cultural approach.
The Cultural Dimensions of Change Management
Research suggests that employee attitude is the largest contributing factor to the success of your change initiative. If your people resist change, you’ll end up implementing processes that may work on paper but not in practice.
A cultural approach takes this into account. It focuses on targeting “resistance to change” and transforming it into “readiness for change”.
“The more the employees are ready for an organizational change, the more they believe in positive change outcomes, consequently increasing the chances of success.” — The Psychology of Resistance to Change, Nabeel Rehman et al
Through clear communication and support, you can reduce stress, fatigue, and disengagement — in turn, increasing the success of your new processes. Here’s how.
6 Steps to Building a Culture of Change
1. Create a Communication Plan
70 percent of employees state that senior leadership continually updating and communicating strategy is one of the biggest factors driving their engagement, according to an HBR report. On the other hand, a lack of transparency can significantly impact their happiness in the workplace.
So, when pioneering a new change, create a communication plan tailored to employees at every level. Beyond outlining what the change is, this plan should communicate:
- How it will affect the employee. Will they need to use a new tool? Will it require a new step in their day-to-day tasks, such as logging a certain metric or following a new process checklist?
- The reason behind the change. Almost 40 percent of employees say “lack of awareness around the reason for change” contributes to their resistance. To prevent this, discuss how the change will aid the business and its overarching strategic goals.
- The personal benefits. Balance out any fear and anxiety with positivity. Your employees may ask, “What’s in it for me?” If they do, you’ll need to provide them with a convincing answer. Will the new change streamline their most tedious tasks? Can they ditch that cumbersome software that used to cause them stress?
2. Deliver Training
Some change management initiatives will require entirely new ways of working. For example, when adopting a new workplace communication platform, your employees will have to get to grips with unfamiliar user menus and settings. In this instance, live training and recorded walkthroughs will help them get up to speed quicker, in turn boosting engagement and productivity.
3. Ask For Feedback
As we stated earlier, change can trigger a range of negative feelings, including worry, anxiety, lack of control, and uncertainty. If your employees have no way of communicating these concerns — or providing feedback on what caused them — they’ll only worsen.
You can alleviate these fears and make your employees feel valued by asking for honest feedback. You may choose to gather this feedback via:
- Employee 1-1 meetings with managers.
- Company-wide surveys, tailored to the specific change.
- Focus groups where employees can share challenges, benefits, and concerns.
- Bug and report logs, which can be useful in the instance of deploying a new tool.
4. Track Metrics and Identify Risks
Metrics are crucial for measuring the success of your projects. But you can also use them to better understand employee engagement. This is especially helpful if your employees aren’t vocal about their struggles.
For example, imagine your project team is in the midst of a new sprint model. Instead of delivering work every two weeks, they must now deliver it in one. You might track the speed of delivery, as well as deadlines, to determine how well individual team members cope with the adjustment. If tasks overrun, this may indicate difficulties with the new change. From here, you can escalate the issue and find solutions to the challenge.
5. Recruit Change Champions
Communication is important when encouraging employee readiness for change. So much so, that 30 percent of employees say they’re open to being shown why change is a positive thing by their managers or colleagues.
We refer to these advocates as “change champions”. These are people who are open to new ways of working and tend to fall on the extroverted side of the personality spectrum. You can use these employees or managers to stir excitement, answer questions, and increase positivity around your new processes.
6. Don’t Rush In
In an ideal world, change would happen instantaneously and without a hitch. In the business world, you need to exercise some patience.
The rate at which you implement changes must account for the time it takes for employees to adapt. As such, it’s important to create a change management timeline that:
- Avoids saturation and rolls out phases of your new project or process in digestible chunks.
- Embeds regular check-ins with those directly affected by the change.
- Factors in risks, such as technology difficulties or bugs.
- Contains contingency plans, should your initiative fail.
With this steady approach — coupled with ongoing communication and support — you will placate your employees’ natural resistance to change. And, with a more positive attitude, you’re more likely to make a success of your new initiatives.