Change Management: Tips for Success

With company shareholders and board members frequently focused on the bottom line, change management typically starts and ends with the numbers. This kind of tight attention to the goal — and not to the people responsible for meeting it — often results in disgruntled employees, resistance to the changes, slow adoption of new procedures and results that don’t always hit the mark.

However, it is possible to chart and navigate even drastic changes within a company and succeed, both in a financial sense and from a human resources perspective. Here are five indispensable change management tips for achieving this unique balance.

1. Involve employees

The most essential tip for successful change management is also the simplest: Include your employees from the beginning. A top-down approach doesn’t work. Upper management can become insular and secretive about changes, especially those related to layoffs or restructuring. Springing major changes on employees at the last minute can lead to anger, resentment, strikes and even violence.

Involve employees as soon as goals are set. Ask their opinions and get their input on how the business runs today and what they believe should be changed.

2. Delegate effectively

When you involve employees in the changes, be sure to give them tasks that contribute to the end goal. Managers should avoid shouldering the entire burden. Instead, let employees share ownership and responsibility for the transition, and they will feel more in control. Virgin founder and CEO Richard Branson recommends that companies “inspire all employees to think like entrepreneurs.” Spreading the workload and encouraging employees to solve problems creatively makes them feel integral to the future success of the company.

3. Address feelings

Be sure to take employees’ emotions and concerns into account when rolling out changes. Bad feelings can lead to low morale.

Following a couple very public issues at consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the company’s global managing director, Dominic Barton, realized that some major internal changes were necessary. In addition to establishing parameters for behavior around sensitive information, he created a confidential online portal for employees to anonymously contribute their thoughts and feelings on the situation as well as the change management process. After the initial hiccups, McKinsey employees eventually embraced the changes and the company has restored its reputation.

4. Follow through, but be flexible

Remain firm in your goals and ensure that changes are properly implemented and fully completed. If parts of the plan are left unfinished, it implies that the rest of the changes might be able to be avoided, leaving employees less committed to the process. Also, be sure to remain flexible. Be ready to alter your strategies, if necessary, to get past bumps in the road.

5. Stay positive

Remember that changes affect everyone in the organization, from the CEO to the administrative assistants. Demonstrate enthusiasm, if not for the changes themselves, then for the employees who implement them. This will motivate everyone to stay focused and dedicated.

The hallmark of successful change management is placing value not only on the numbers, but also on the people who make those numbers happen. Take into account their knowledge, experience, thoughts, ideas and emotions in order to ensure a smoother transition.