Employee Readiness to Commit to Change

Have You Considered Whether Your Employees Believe in the Change?

Four female employees assessing whether their employees are ready to commit to change.
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images

Are your employees ready to change? Employees are more apt to support change if they are ready to make changes. This means that they believe in the changes, have the time and energy to invest in the changes, and your organization outside of your department or work group is ready to support the changes.

For example, a CEO sent an email asking about how his executive staff felt about starting a continuous improvement process using work teams.

The immediate response from several who have real world experience was that the organization was not ready for such a process.

They’re right. The company is making the transition from tactical to strategic and that transition is taking up all of the available energy.

You can assess the readiness of your organization to participate in change. Instruments are available to help you assess readiness, as well as qualitative information from internal or external staff and consultants.

You'll want to answer questions such as these:

  • What is the level of trust within your organization?
  • Do people feel generally positive about their work environment?
  • Do you have a history of open communication?
  • Do you share financial information?

These factors have a tremendous impact on people’s acceptance of and willingness to change. If you can start building this positive and supportive environment prior to the change, you have a great head start on the change implementation.

The commitment and support of your employees are essential when change works.

Obtaining employee commitment to the changes makes all the difference when change is introduced in an organization.

Employee Commitment to Change

A new manager asked me how she should go about getting her staff to buy into some changes she wants to make in the operation of their department.

I asked her whether she wanted to spend the time on the front end necessary for earning staff commitment to the changes. Alternatively, I told her that she could spend her time policing the changes on the back end.

The manager is going to have to spend the time. There is no way around this investment. But, it's a lot more fun and motivating when the manager spends the time helping her employees ready themselves to make a commitment to the change. With their commitment, change moves forward.

Indeed, if staff members reacted unfavorably to the change if the manager failed to obtain their support and commitment, she might even have her ideas sabotaged and / or an open position or two to fill. Employees vote with their hearts and with their feet. They most frequently leave managers, not their jobs.

At the minimum, without their commitment, her staff would experience a lack of motivation and feelings of disgruntlement.

The manager in this example chose the first path, but not all managers do. You need to recognize that if you want your employees' wholehearted commitment to any change, you must involve them. The employees you expect to implement the change must be involved in the creation of the change.

That doesn’t mean that they set the ultimate goal by consensus, but you must involve them significantly in defining the picture of what you want to attain on the far side of change. You also need to involve them in the details about how to get there.

If you want to foster employee commitment to change in an environment in which employees are ready for change, you must involve the employees. They need to help you:

  • Design the changes,
  • Implement the changes, and
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the changes.

Employees will never wholeheartedly support a change that they were not involved in creating.