Understanding the People Piece of Change

Have you ever been at a place in your career or life that you just wanted to freeze? That moment when the stars align with the right balance of challenge and passion. Maybe it was a time of feeling recognized and valued as well as deeply connected to a team or collaborators. Then what happens? Boom! Something changes and we are caught off guard. We may even sense being blindsided, never seeing what was about to happen. What is it we are experiencing? Simply another change has erupted that may bring uncertainty or even chaos.Throughout the years helping all size teams as well as individual leaders face a constant level of change has taught me many lessons about change strategies. Probably the most key takeaway when confronting change is that it is not the actual change that matters but rather people’s reaction to change. All the procedures and processes put into place when a change ripples across a work world will be far less successful if the people piece is not addressed.

Four Ways To Deal With The People Piece Of Change

1. Never Make Change In Isolation

One organization I worked with decided on a merger with several smaller firms. The leaders at the top negotiated everything in private and one day just announced this acquisition. Panic set in with the employees who became very concerned about whether or not they would still have their jobs. The actual merger and consolidation of the company’s new processes was never the challenge. It was the people piece and how they were going to survive. The senior leaders forgot to include the human side of the change.

2. Decide How The Change Will Be Rolled-Out

In another firm I worked with a change had just come down and there was confusion on how to share it with the rest of the organization. Oftentimes not much thought is put into introducing and explaining a change aside from the new strategy or new tasks. Keep in mind that the way a change is rolled-out can have a deep impact on people accepting or rejecting it. Some things to consider are:
  • The venue- town hall, firm wide call, individual meetings.
  • Who will deliver the change message? The individual or small group needs to be credible and trusted .
  • The message should not only be clear but also reflect the values and rituals of the organization.
  • Leave room for questions and concerns.
  • 3. Consider The Different Team Member Personalities

    When change happens leaders might want to think about the different personality styles on the team and how they may react to change. This people piece is extraordinarily important if some team members need to have a deeper explanation of the change while others just need the basics. Working with several hospitals that merged into a larger hospital system it was apparent that some of the team members were very emotional about the change. That led to creating a change management program that allowed individuals to share their feelings. It was so helpful in creating good will and care for each person.

    4. Build-In Thoughtful Follow-Up

    The final people piece is to establish periodic follow-up with the team members to see how they are managing after a change. Here is where empathy comes into play in addressing the human reaction to change. Some ways to touch base may be:
  • Set up one-on-one meetings with team members to hear what is and isn’t working for them. Remember routines probably changed and as a result work lives too.
  • Host social events to get a read on where everyone is in the change process.
  • Re-evaluate and make necessary adjustments if team members are struggling with some aspects of the change.
  • Encourage leaders to be more approachable as well as open to bringing back feedback from their teams.
  • How have you or your organization included the people piece when rolling-out a big change? What has worked for you?Related: How Gratitude Impacts Organizations