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Managing Change in the Workplace

REPOST ARTICLE SOURCE: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/managing-change-in-the-workplace.html

Change can be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in the work environment. Whether it’s a new employee adjusting to rules and responsibilities, or someone who has been on the job for years, breaking old habits and learning new tasks can be overwhelming. As managers, our challenge is to make change easier for our employees. This is not a simple task, but there are ways to make the transition a little easier.

There are many reasons why change can be difficult for people. For one, I think that the older we get the more we appreciate predictability in our lives. We like to know that we will show up at work and see the same people, work at the same station, and perform a function that is familiar to us. We get comfortable. Sure some days are busier than others and offer certain challenges, but overall we feel pretty confident about what is expected and how we will accomplish our tasks. Change can disrupt this predictability and cause a great deal of distress among employees.

Some people adapt to change easily, while others are skeptical at the first sign of change. As a manager, the challenge is to find a way to implement change without creating a stressful environment. Even though you can’t entirely predict the impact of change on the work environment, there are a few things you can do to help prepare yourself and your employees for change: good planning, communication, making yourself available, following up and listening.

Planning
Whenever possible it is always a good idea to plan ahead for change. People usually like to know how a particular change is going to affect them. Dropping hints or providing vague answers can cause unnecessary anxiety and make the change more difficult to accept. Therefore, try to have as much information about the change as possible before introducing it to your employees. Chances are the more organized you appear the more they will trust not only you, but the change itself.

Communication
It’s important to communicate effectively with your employees, especially when introducing change into the workplace. One thing people seem to forget is that communication goes both ways. Even though it is important that you provide employees with the information they need to perform their job, it is equally important that you not only allow, but invite communication, feedback and questions from your employees. It is important for them to know that they have a voice, that their concerns and ideas are heard and valued. Also, the more information they have, the more comfortable they will feel and will probably be more willing to accept the change you propose. Make sure that when implementing the change, the employees or at least those impacted by the change know why the change is happening. Communicating change in the workplace effectively is one of the most important factors that can help things go smoothly.

Availability
Even though you are likely running in a million different directions throughout the day, it is important that you make yourself available to your employees, especially during a time of change. They will probably have questions, especially at the beginning. Knowing that you are available to address their concerns could make them feel a little more secure and confident about their role in the change.

Follow-up
Following up with employees to check on progress is a key element to implementing change in the workplace successfully. How has the change impacted their job? Are any adjustments needed to make the work flow smoother? Have there been any unexpected outcomes as a result of the change? Set a date to follow-up with your employees and follow through with it. Their feedback is important to ensuring a positive outcome.

Listen
So often we get caught up in everyday activities that we forget to truly listen to our employees. It’s true that you may not be able to make everybody’s job easier or more efficient, but it is worthwhile to listen to what your employees have to say. They may bring a problem to the surface. They may have ideas to make a process run smoother. Employees can offer great ideas if we take the time to listen to them. As a manager you can do everything right, you can plan ahead, communicate, make yourself available and follow-up, but if you don’t listen you could be missing a key element to implementing a successful change.

It can be easy to turn a blind eye to the concerns of our employees when we have piles of work stacked up on our desk. There are days when we all wish we could have a quick five-minute meeting about a change we want to implement and have it be easy and flawless. Unfortunately, as managers it is our responsibility to make sure that a change is implemented correctly and effectively, and sometimes that takes time.

It is also important to make sure that everyone or at least a majority accept the change and are committed to making it a success. This will not happen unless everyone understands the reason, and what is expected of them. Though change is inevitable, people take a while to readjust to new situations, and this must be kept in mind. Fears, doubts and any other concerns should be solved efficiently and quickly before it gets out of hand. Leaders who are good at communication and have a rapport with the employees will be the most apt to get such problems resolved.

As frustrating as it can be, taking the extra time to pay attention to the concerns and needs of employees can save you time in the future. It is important, regardless of the size of your department, that you have the support of as many employees as possible. Their attitude will affect the attitude of others, so it is important that the change gets off to a good start.

An interesting fact regarding change in the workplace is that more than half of these initiatives fail. This happens mainly because every time there is a change initiated, focus shifts to how the change is being implemented, and if it is in sync with the planning of the management. In such a scenario, more focus is given to the change than to the people affected and impacted by it. Though this is important and obviously the reason the change was implemented in the first place, the change disturbs the routine of employees, and this can be addressed by seeming to shift the focus to them, and any doubts they might have about the change. Addressing the people impacted rather than implementing process rules regarding the changes would go a long way in making sure that the transition happens smoothly.

Change can be difficult for people to accept, especially in the work environment. It is our job as managers to not only supply our employees with the information they need to implement change in the workplace effectively, but also to follow through and make sure that the change has a positive effect on the department. By listening to our employees, making ourselves available and communicating effectively, we have the power to make a potentially difficult change successful.

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