How to Manage Change and Build Employee Commitment

Stage 4: Checklist for Change Management

Business people demonstrating that they're all in this together as they embark on the start of the introduction of change to their workplace.
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Do you want to know how to introduce changes at work so that their introduction will build employee commitment and support? You can if you follow these recommendations and accomplish first, the three initial stages that build employee commitment to change.

The Fourth Stage of Managing Change

In this stage of the change process, the change is introduced to a greater portion of the organization. Detailed plans are developed by the change team that is leading the effort.

These change agents should have involved as many people as possible during the planning stages. The degree of their ability to involve other employees will depend on the size and scope of the hoped-for changes. 

The Job of the Change Leadership Team

The change leadership team also needs to recognize the fact that the employees will experience the changes in many different ways. They will professionally react to the introduction of the changes, but even more importantly, they will respond to the changes at the personal level—and this can be the most powerful response of all.

This is because employees need to travel through the four phases of personal reaction to change before they are ready to accept and integrate the changes. While some employees will move through all four phases in ten minutes; other employees will take months to traverse the same path.

What the Introduction of the Change Needs to Accomplish

At this introduction stage, the change leadership team needs to ensure that the following initiatives are accomplished.

  • Determine how roles and jobs will have to change.
  • Provide general education to the organization for everyone to understand what the change means to the organization and how the change will be managed.
  • Plan the needed training sessions for employees to share the change expectations and parameters with the whole organization. Specific training for jobs and departments is also usually necessary
  • Identify internal or departmental project managers or teams to help integrate the changes if needed.
  • Provide other employee training opportunities, as needed, so employees are equipped to make the needed changes. These may include:
    —Technical training for changes to jobs,
    Supervisory and management training—both about the changes and the expectations and in any managerial skills that need strengthening,
    —Project management training,
    —Change management training, and
    —Human relations training such as team building and meeting leadership.
  • Begin planning changes in the organization's reward and recognition structure and practices to parallel and reward changes in support of the innovation effort.
  • Build in feedback mechanisms so that employees know how the change is progressing. Increase communication a hundredfold.
  • Provide consequences for adopting or rejecting the changes—over time, but not too much time. Begin with rewards and recognition for early change adoptees.
  • Provide ways to say goodbye to the old ways and commit to the new ways of doing business. These are called ceremonies and they are a powerful motivator. In one organization when police officers fully adopted community policing, the street officers wrote down all of the ways in which they formerly interacted with their communities. Once they had written down all of the old methods, they tossed the papers in a trash can and set the papers on fire. A powerful letting go.

    Introduce Change to Build Employee Commitment

    People react to change in many different ways. The degree to which employees will support and commit to desired changes depends partially on their natural reactions to change and partially on how the changes are introduced.

    You can encourage people to enroll in the changes you wish to implement by applying the following change management ideas whenever a change is introduced in your organization. (These suggestions are adapted from the ideas of Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard University.)

    • Provide a vision of the change with clear details about the desired new state early in the process.
    • Demonstrate your active commitment to the change; create a sense of excitement for the future. Active commitment includes holding people accountable and rewarding and supporting positive employee efforts and contributions.
    • Share information about the change plans to the greatest extent possible with all of your employees. Share as much as you know as soon as you know it.
    • Provide time for staff members to become accustomed to the idea of change.
    • Involve all employees in planning the change.
    • Divide large changes into small, accomplishable steps. Create specific measurable goals and milestones for the small steps and the overall change process.
    • Keep surprises to a minimum. Focus efforts on effective communication during each phase of the change process to allow everyone to see what is coming. Specific details about the impact of the change on individuals, where known, help people adjust to change more quickly.
    • Make new standards, requirements, and policies that result from the changes clear.
    • Offer positive reinforcement and incentives to reward early successes and to serve as role models and desired behavior from the rest of the organization.

    Deal With Personal Reactions to Change

    Most people are deeply attached to their current habits. Making changes involves more than just learning new skills. People need a transitional period to emotionally let go of old ways and move toward new ways.

    The four phases of change acceptance are denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment. To move through these phases, when change is introduced in the organization, employees move from denial (external environment) and then to resistance (internal environment) that are both based in the past.

    As they begin to accept the changes that have been introduced, employees move into the future by first entering the exploration phase, and then, if all proceeds as planned, they end up in the commitment phase looking to the future and completing the introductory stage in change management.

    The 4 Phases of Personal Reaction to Change During Introduction

    Employees pass through four phases on their way to committing to the changes that the organization introduced. Remember that these four phases are occurring during the fourth stage of the six stages you will experience in a change process. This is what happens at each stage.

    1. Denial: The change is not yet real to employees. Nothing happens that is seen by the individual employee. Work continues as usual. Individuals may think thoughts such as, “This change will go away if I ignore it.”

    “The organization will change its mind.” “It won’t happen to me.” “They can’t possibly expect me to learn that.” “But, we’ve always done it this way.” And, “I’m too old to start over doing this a different way.”

    2. Resistance: Employees experience anger, doubt, anxiety, and other negative emotions. They tend to focus on their personal experience of the impact of the change rather than on how it may help their organization.

    Productivity and output can decline. You may experience resistance from employees as angry, vocal, strident, visible, off-putting, confrontational, and scary. Resistance can also be silent, sullen, withdrawn, non-verbal, hidden, undermining, and sabotaging.

    Both exist and you must be prepared to deal with both forms of resistance.

    3. Exploration: People begin to focus on the future and on how the changes may actually help them. They are eager to learn and to understand the impact of the changes on their job and sphere of influence. This phase can be stressful as employees search for new ways to behave and relate to one another.

    At this point, people also recognize that change is not going away. So, even if they still feel unsupportive, they look for ways to make the best of the change for them personally and in their jobs.

    4. Commitment: Employees have enrolled in the change and are ready to move forward with action plans. Productivity and positive feelings return.

    In conclusion, the Introduction Stage of Change Management is challenging, reactive, and stressful—but also exciting, energizing, and strengthening. These tips and suggestions will help you effectively and professionally deal with the introduction of changes in your organization.