Change Management Lessons About Employee Involvement

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A wise person once said never to expect 100% support from any individual who was not personally involved in devising a change that had an impact on their work. The wise person was right.

People don't mind change once they get used to the idea and have had the opportunity to provide input about the direction of the change. Even asking an employee's opinion and then later choosing another direction is significantly better than never giving the employee a voice in the change.

Don't Treat Employees Like Children

Creating a work environment where employees feel they have the power to initiate change is also positive and a tribute to your work culture. But, more frequently, employees find themselves caught up in changes that others are initiating. 

In these instances, what employees do mind is being changed. Having no voice in a change that will affect their job or workflow is treating your adult employees like children. They resent it, and you have created something for them to push back against—never a good situation when you need your employees to change.

In any change, especially one that affects the entire organization, it's impossible to involve every employee in each decision. But when change works, more often than not it's because the organization has gone out of its way to use employee involvement.

Employee involvement is the difference between sad and unhappy foot-draggers and engaged, excited employees who were trusted to give their input. You don't want to create the first when you need change to occur in your workplace.

Employee Involvement in Effective Change Management

These are the steps you'll want to follow as you involve your employees in helping make a change:

  • Create a plan for involving as many people as possible, as early as possible, in the change process. Make this plan with your change team, your senior managers, and whoever will be leading the charge for the change. This senior or management team plays a critical role in building and developing support for change.
  • Involve all stakeholders, process owners, and employees who will feel the impact of the changes, as much as possible, in the learning, planning, decisions, and implementation of the change. Often, in change management, a small group of employees learns important information. If they fail to share the information with the rest of the employees, the remaining employees will have trouble catching up with the learning curve.
  • Leave no employees behind. If a small group makes the change management plans, employees affected by the decisions will not have had needed time to analyze, think about, and adjust to the new ideas. If you leave employees behind, at any stage of the process, you open the door in your change management process for misunderstanding, resistance, and hurt.
  • Involve each employee in meaningful decisions about their work unit and their work. An effective way to do this is at the departmental level. When the changes are in progress, talk to your team and then, to each employee individually. Your purpose in having these conversations is to let each employee participate in identifying the impact of decisions on their job.
  • Build measurement systems into the change process that tell people when they are succeeding or failing. Provide consequences in either case. Employees who are positively working with the change need rewards and recognition.

Dealing With the Naysayers

After allowing some time for employees to pass through the predictable stages of change, negative consequences for failure to adopt the changes are needed. You cannot allow the naysayers to continue on their negative path forever; they sap your organization of time, energy, and focus, and eventually, affect the morale of the positive majority.

The key is to know, during your change management process, when to say, enough is enough. Most organizations wait too long, and employees have a powerful opportunity to inflict damage on your goals.

Help employees feel as if they are involved in a change management process that is larger than themselves by taking these actions to involve employees in making the needed changes effectively. When the progress of the changes is measured, you'll be happy you did.