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Change is good for business – and here are seven practical tips for a smooth transition

When is change needed in business, and how can businesses successfully manage change? These seven tips will help you on your way.
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Research suggests that around 70 per cent of change and transformation projects fail, and that little has changed in the past ten years since John Kotter wrote his article “Why Transformation Efforts Fail” suggesting only 30 per cent of change programmes succeed.

Change, however, is essential for a company’s survival and most will have to implement and manage change at some point.

Reasons for introducing change are varied from the existing market having changed irrevocably, for example IBM switching from mainframes to PCs, to businesses wanting to exploit a change in the market or a new market, such as Shell going into renewable energy.

One of the biggest challenges for any business going through change is ensuring that employees embrace the change. While the reasons for the change may be clear to the management, making employees believe that change is for the better can be harder than many companies anticipate.

Earlier this year a report from the Institute for Employment Studies suggested HR professionals need to develop new skills to tackle change and that they need to think about replacing more established ways of managing change with “evolving fluid approaches”. It’s clear that new approaches are needed to ensure companies can better embrace change.

Here are few practical tips for successfully managing employees through a period of change:

1) Assume employees won’t understand the reasons for change. Therefore explain, explain again

Finding ways to expand employees’ understanding is not as hard as it sounds. The fact is that most people’s imaginations may become limited by the narrowness of their day-to-day experiences but they are capable of understanding the reasons for change. People are far smarter than you think, assume this and don’t patronise them or ignore them.

Open questioning discussions will help employees rediscover what they know but have not necessarily connected with in the reality of their working environment. 

2) Convince them that change is possible, with change goes fear

Providing employees with proof that change is possible by giving examples from within the organisation or similar organisations can help them relate to why the change is needed.

Stories about how challenges were met and what benefits were generated will resonate with them and help them believe they can also benefit. This approach is particularly powerful if people are ‘walked through’ previous case studies as if they were taking part in the process.

3) Encourage their participation in the process

There is no substitute for hands-on experience and active participation to engage people.

Create some practice scenarios based on real-world problems that may need fixing. This approach will enable workers to practice new activities without feeling under pressure or getting caught up in the baggage of a real situation. 

Set up some ‘easy win’ lead-ins to help get the process started and enable staff to see that open thinking and open team-working can and does create some remarkable effects and outcomes. Then appoint change champions who can make it happen.

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