Seven principles for managing change in the workplace


Over the next year, your organization plans to introduce several significant changes to employees, including a realigned organizational structure, a redesigned compensation program, and new health plans. What steps can employers take to ensure the success of their change initiatives?


Seventy percent of change initiatives never fully achieve their desired objectives, according to ClearRock Inc., a leadership development and outplacement firm. While that high failure rate may be surprising, even less is known about why the other 30 percent do succeed.

Drawing on its experience helping organizations implement change, ClearRock advises employers to consider the following seven principles:

    1. Acquire broad-based support. Change programs often lack buy-in from those affected by them. Sharing responsibility during the change process generates the involvement needed to ensure success. The more involved others are in the change effort, the more supportive they will be.

    2. Ask employees for solutions to problems. One of the biggest complaints employees have is that they feel they do not have input into decisions that affect them. Present the problem to employees and seek their input into potential solutions, rather than issuing top-down directives.

    3. Build a mandate for change. Leaders need to encourage others to accept change and help them understand its benefits and advantages to the organization as well as to them. Outline where everyone fits into the implementation of the change.

    4. Lead by example. Changes, especially ones that may be painful for employees, will be more successful when management leads by example and shows how they are also being affected.

    5. Manage the impact of change on others. Change requires patience and a willingness to give it the time it requires to succeed. Managers must deal with a wide range of others' emotional reactions to change.

    6. Communicate fully and frequently. Much of the fear surrounding change is fear of the unknown. Both the benefits and any possible disadvantages of change programs must be communicated to all employees.

    7. Provide a forum for reaction. Employees need an opportunity to share information with each other and management, to ask questions, and to discuss issues of concern. Employees' comfort level with change rises when information is shared, questions are answered, and concerns are addressed.

Source: Why Only Three Out of 10 Change Initiatives Succeed, issued April 9, 2014; ClearRock, 225 Franklin Street, 26th Floor, Boston, MA 02110; telephone: 617-217-2811.

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