Change is now a constant for companies wishing to remain competitive and develop sustainably. In a constantly changing environment, knowing how to adapt and transform in depth is a prerequisite for survival.
However, it has to be said that these essential changes often come up against reluctance on the part of employees. Fearing that they will lose their bearings and be left behind, they put up resistance that slows down, if not completely scuttles, the transformation projects put forward by management.
This resistance, however understandable, is obviously counter-productive. They can jeopardise the very future of the company if change fails. So how can senior managers lead change and get their teams on board, rather than endure their reluctance? What best practices should be adopted to instil a positive dynamic and get all employees on board? Here are a few tried and tested ways to succeed.
It should be noted from the outset that in 70% of cases, resistance to change is the cause of the failure of a business transformation project. Resistance to change manifests itself in various attitudes and behaviours that hinder the transformation desired by the company.
First of all, it can take the form of inertia and passivity. The employees concerned drag their feet, show unwillingness and multiply objections. They are reluctant to adopt new working methods, tools or processes. This passive stance slows down, if not completely blocks, the implementation of change.
Resistance also manifests itself through argumentation. Some employees discuss decisions, negotiate and express their opinion against change with conviction. This is often the preferred form of opposition, seen as more constructive.
Sometimes resistance even turns to revolt. When employees see no other option, they may actively protest through trade union action, strikes or even resign. A deep-seated distrust is then expressed forcefully.
Finally, resistance can also take the form of more offensive actions to sabotage the project. Some employees openly denigrate the change to their colleagues. They virulently criticise the new directions and decisions. Worse still, they may deliberately slow down or hinder the smooth running of transformation projects.
These negative attitudes are rooted in understandable fears and insecurities. Change disrupts established habits and points of reference. It introduces uncertainty about the future and the employability of employees. This feeling of insecurity in the face of the unknown gives rise to epidermal reactions.
Resistance to change is rooted in a number of underlying causes that need to be understood.
Firstly, employees often struggle to see the concrete benefits of change. In the absence of education, the benefits for the company and for themselves remain obscure. This lack of understanding of the issues at stake and the potential benefits is a major factor in the rejection of the project.
Secondly, employees fear losing efficiency and no longer meeting expectations. Change requires new tools, methods and skills. Without appropriate training, they fear they will not be able to adapt. This fear of incompetence breeds mistrust.
Employees may also be convinced that change is a passing fad. In this case, they see the desire for change as a fleeting trend that will soon run out of steam. As a result, they see no point in putting effort into a transformation that they doubt will last.
In addition, poor communication on the part of management can fuel resistance. If the issues, procedures and benefits of change are not properly explained beforehand, employees will voice their opposition.
Change breaks reassuring routines. And yet we like to evolve in our comfort zone, our habits. This frightening upheaval provokes reactions of resistance, as a natural protective reflex.
Some employees may also feel saturated by the constant changes. The accumulation of changes without time for integration generates weariness and rejection.
Generally speaking, the lack of rewards associated with change makes it less desirable. If the effort required is not accompanied by rewards, motivation will suffer.
Employees are also often frustrated by the lack of prior consultation. Not involving them upstream in the change process leads to rejection. They feel presented with an absolute fact, with no possibility of influencing decisions.
Finally, change generates anxiety about the future. Fear of redundancy and the obsolescence of skills haunts people’s minds. This insecurity about the future of their jobs fuels mistrust.
There are several ways of countering resistance:
Firstly, communication must be continuous and used across all channels. Group information meetings are essential to announce forthcoming changes, explain the reasons for them and answer any questions. But communication must also be one-to-one, through discussions between manager and employee. Written media such as flyers, emails and internal memos, and visual media such as videos, are also effective ways of reaching all employees.
Secondly, in order to rally support, employees need to be involved in the project as far upstream as possible, from the moment the change is conceived. Through working groups, brainstorming sessions and surveys, employees can express their reservations, suggest solutions and feel that their voice counts. Managers need to listen carefully, and take on board relevant suggestions. Once the change has been defined, it is important to keep everyone involved, by asking for volunteers to become ambassadors for the change among their peers.
In addition, training must be tailored to the needs of each individual. This involves group training with an expert to share key knowledge. But it also means individual training and coaching by the manager, to reassure each employee of his or her ability to evolve. Training must start before the change, and continue afterwards to support the increase in skills.
Finally, it’s essential to reward and motivate teams. Managers should congratulate employees who are actively involved in the change process, either orally or in front of the whole team. Bonuses can reward efforts. Giving more autonomy and responsibility to the employees involved boosts their motivation. Everyone should feel that their commitment is recognised and appreciated.
Relying on these 4 pillars will help to overcome resistance over time and to get all employees on board.
Ultimately, change is frightening, but vital. To get employees on board, managers combine education, human support and active involvement. Resistance then gives way to collective mobilisation, the key to success. On this condition, change becomes a springboard to success.
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