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The Biggest Challenge of Company Change: How to Handle Employees’ Resistance

Progress is impossible without change.


You’ve surely heard this platitude before, which has become particularly popular in the business world in recent decades. As technology continues to alter the way we work and communicate, tackling change effectively is a top priority for companies both small and large. But while implementing new technologies and adapting one’s business model has become increasingly important, employees’ resistance to change has also become increasingly commonplace. Instead of simply dismissing this opposition as silly or even childish, evaluating why your employees are rebelling against change is a crucial step towards increased support and engagement. So, let’s get to the bottom of the problem!


The Problem: Why Are Your Employees Resisting Change?

While some of your employees may just be tough nuts to crack, chances are that their resistance doesn’t only come down to their character, but also to your approach to change management. We hate to break it to you, but “It’s not you, it’s me” could truly apply in this case! Check out three of the most common reasons why your workforce may not stand behind the impending changes:


1. Fear of the Unknown

What do the company changes entail? Who will be affected, and how? Will there be job cuts? If your employees have more questions than answers, insufficient communication lies at the root of the problem. You’d be worried too if you had no idea where the company – and your career – is headed!


2. Skepticism

Trust is a crucial aspect of any relationship, and business rapports are no exception. If your employees are skeptical of your management team’s ability to be transparent, or to successfully implement company changes, doubt and perhaps even resentment will fester. And if the management team is also wary of its employees, you’re truly destined for failure!


3. Bad Timing

It’s not only about how you communicate that change is underway, but also when you decide to do so. Sometimes, employees aren’t peeved about the company developments themselves, but about the timing. If they’re working on a big deal, are gearing up for Christmas, or are still adjusting to a previous change, your initiatives will be defined by stress, rather than success.


The Solution: How Can You Mitigate Resistance?

Resistance is often a normal part of change, but should eventually give way to acceptance and encouragement. However, if your workforce is also confronted with one – or several – of the above triggers, you’ll face the distinct possibility that opposition will continue increasing throughout the process. To tackle the problems that may come your way, take a look at our top five tips for improving your management style:


1. Be transparent and truthful.

Keeping your employees in the loop is key. Instead of throwing them in at the deep end and expecting them to swim, inform them of the upcoming changes as early as possible. Along with explaining why the company transformation is necessary, describe how it will affect employees and provide them with a concrete timeline. Remain transparent by sending out regular updates about the progress, even if not everything is going to plan. Your employees are likely to respect you for your forthright nature.


2. Get creative with communication.

There’s nothing wrong with email updates, but why not mix it up and raise awareness via several communication channels? Hanging up posters, presenting the impending changes in person, and using social media are all possible ways of spreading the word, and employing a combination of these channels is more likely to improve employees’ understanding of the process. And who knows, a funny GIF may even increase their enthusiasm!


3. Listen to feedback.

Making your employees feel valued is of the utmost importance, as they’re imperative to your business’ success. By giving them the opportunity to voice their opinions, concerns, and questions about the company’s digital transformation, you’re creating an inclusive and collaborative work environment that makes your workforce feel heard. Be sure not to dismiss any comments, but to address them fully – and, where possible, to consider making adjustments to your approach based on the feedback that you receive.


4. Take your time.

After all, haste makes waste. If you rush through the process and try to implement the change all in one go, you risk making mistakes, the biggest one of which is alienating your workforce. To ensure that your initiative doesn’t leave a sour taste in your employees’ mouths, adhere to the steps above, and gradually carry out the process over the course of a few stages, giving everyone plenty of time to adjust.


5. Keep the conversation going.

After the change has been implemented, it’s tempting to wash your hands of the process and call it done and dusted. You’ve done your job, right? Well, not really. In fact, the adoption process is just beginning, and responding to employees’ questions and comments is critical for maximising long-term engagement. Along with offering workshops and distributing tip sheets, let your workforce know that you’re still here to help make their transition as seamless and stress-free as possible. Always keep the lines of communication open!  


It’s true: progress is impossible without change. In today’s fast-moving, digital era, this statement is particularly relevant, and change has become a necessary phenomenon in all industries. Take your first steps towards a successful transformation with the above food for thought, and don’t hesitate to pick our expert team’s brains about our change management and learning services. Contact us in a few simple clicks!