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How to take change from resistance to acceptance

17 Apr 2020 By Philippa Lucarz

Change is inevitable in business, but for it to have meaningful and lasting impact, it needs to be managed effectively, says Philippa Lucarz

If change is inevitable and constant, we need a resilient and agile workforce in order to evolve and keep pace in today’s fast paced world, so we don’t get left behind.

Finding the right pace for change is often difficult and unique to each organisation at any given point in time. There is a fine balance to strike: you must weigh up the urgency, risk, and reward, whilst also being honest about your organisation’s internal resilience to adapt and respond. You want to move fast enough to thrive, while keeping everyone on board.

We are all aware of the important legal framework and responsibilities that kick in when managing any change which will impact upon your people (e.g. redundancies, TUPE, varying T&Cs, etc).

Compliance with the legal framework does just that – it keeps you compliant. What it doesn’t do is guarantee that your change will be successful, that your change will be viewed positively, or that people will start to work in new and different ways. The success of any change programme lies in the conditions you create for your people to thrive and evolve in a psychological safe environment.

Whatever your change is, whether it’s introducing new technology or a new performance management framework, there are several factors which will help your change programme have the meaningful and lasting impact which you’re looking for.

Create buy-in

Buy-in starts well before a pitch. When seeking approval and buy-in, your proposals shouldn’t come as a surprise. You need to build momentum well before your proposal. People rarely like a step into the unknown.

As the phrase goes, plant the seed and water it regularly. You want your change management programme to evolve as a natural and logical next step, rather than something which feels very different and unexpected. Make it easy for them to make the transition.

Make change feel safe and familiar

People like what is known and what feels safe. Focus on the outcomes and not what’s different. We want evolution not revolution in order to be successful. Appeal to the pack mentality – create the perception that everyone is doing it. This is a great way to build buy-in, because no-one wants to be the odd one out.

Show how easy it will be to make the change – don’t overwhelm them with how new and different it is. Yes, we want a big outcome and impact, but we don’t want them to feel it is out of their reach or that it involves significantly more effort for them.

Focus on the worldview of your audience and align your cause

You need to understand change from their perspective. What are their views, thoughts, or feelings likely to be? You then need to find the commonalities between your cause and their worldview and align your purpose with those shared interests. You need to adjust the positioning of your message to the views and beliefs of your audience. That will inevitably mean tailoring messages differently for different stakeholders.

Persuade through compelling narrative

Emotional connection is the number one thing that gets people to change or engage. Feelings are what inspire people to act. You can create more meaningful persuasion through storytelling, rather than statistics. Statistics appeal to the logical side of the brain and justify decision making, rather than influencing decision making.

Nip negativity in the bud

Negative noise gains momentum too. If anyone is not bought in, speak with them. Invest the time to understand where there is disconnect, so you can reconnect them and realign them to your cause. This will help with your wider communication strategy: if you can understand how their train of thought developed, you can improve your positioning or approach.

Identify your change champions

These should be people who are well-liked and trusted by the very group of individuals who you are trying to influence. It’s not always helpful to front your own change proposal, it can be far more effective to have key influences fronting your campaign. The strategy for every change programme needs to be unique and tailored to your audience.

Philippa Lucarz is director of human resources at Myerscough College

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