Rolling into 4Q there are plenty of demands on business; finishing strong, evaluating performance, prepping for the next year. The need to modify, adapt, change is implied. When is it truly embraced? And who leads the charge? For most organizations, change has been the constant, especially in the churn of the 2007—2009 recession. Change is personal. Understanding the process of change isn’t enough to lead it successfully. Also needed is a proactive strategy for keeping employee engagement levels healthy.
In times of change, employees demonstrate various levels of resistance; indeed, their level of engagement is at risk. Why is this a concern? Engaged employees drive more revenue, make customers feel special, refer friends and neighbors for jobs and boost productivity for themselves and their work groups. When engagement ebbs, business suffers and conversely, when engagement spikes, rewards are bountiful and measureable.
For over 100 years, Dale Carnegie Training has been recognized as a catalyst for employee engagement. What I’ve experienced recently in our Pittsburgh operation, has given me a fresh perspective and appreciation for the multi-dimensional challenge of change and its direct impact on employee engagement. For simplicity, let’s regard employee engagement as the “all in” barometer. EE are producers, they care and they are loyal and they are trustworthy. This is radically different from dated perceptions of EE equating to “satisfaction” or “happiness.” EE is about business results and securing maximum results that are mutually beneficial to both employee and the company. Change imposes a threat to all levels of EE. In other words, even your best performers can become disengaged and your poor performers may get lost. Albeit, the dip may be temporary, but why gamble?
In my professional role, I’ve coached hundreds of professionals to boost employee engagement amidst change. It wasn’t until recent events within our local Dale Carnegie franchise that I’ve discovered a deeper understanding of change and its many stages. Change surfaces from many sources. When introduced one at a time, most find it inevitable, reasonable and even exciting. When change is layered, it is threatening and resistance is inevitable. Common sources of change are technology, compensation, job responsibility and organizational structure. In our Pittsburgh operation, all 4 are being rolled out simultaneously. Oh, joy!
Now here’s the interesting part – my reaction, despite my “coaching hat.” I have to confess, resistance has many faces. See if you recognize any of these change-response behaviors; ignore, defiance, nay sayer recruitment, challenger. Change is personal! At the heart of any response is the person’s evaluation of “what does it mean to me.” As a baby boomer, I, like many, intellectually regard change as stimulating and necessary. In companies where Gen X and Y prevail, the role of leaders to communicate the need for change and its potential impact to the individual becomes even more crucial. Once the change message is introduced and interpreted, the emotional reaction will include an element of self doubt and feelings of inadequacy, even for the most highly engaged. Those who recognize that professional confidence will be shaken during times of change, must prepare accordingly. Emotionally, change must be processed through its many stages:
- Change initiative introduction (communication, communication, communication)
- Interpretation (will always primarily be in the context of the individual; supervisors will consider team members secondarily)
- Emotional Response (self doubt arises regardless, often preceded by anger)
- Physical Response (ability to handle stress, anticipation and/or disappointment manifests with eating, sleeping, appearance, etc.)
- Effect (outcome as changes are adopted or modified)
To keep engaged employees engaged and to reduce disengagement during change, here are some nuggets to incorporate:
- Discuss with employees on an individual basis, What they do well, what they like to do, and then relate this overlap to what’s good for the company
- Identify behaviors that will be counted upon relative to the change initiative
- Provide support by being available to listen and ask questions (associated with item #1 above)
- Patience throughout stages. Change is a process, not an event
- Show appreciation for feedback and keep lines of communication two-way
- Identify areas where additional Training & Develop will address the “how to” of desired change
Change is a given and makes most uncomfortable, at least initially. With patience, your more highly engaged employees will rally. You can count on them to self-initiate, learn and lead again.
This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Western and Central PA, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Pennsylvania. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @dalecarnegiepa.