Most likely, you have experienced an organization change or new initiative within your company, department, or role. For most, change can be intimidating, uncomfortable, and downright scary. Plus, getting people to actually “change” is a tough, uphill battle. People have trouble seeing the positive in change. Visualizing just how it can truly make a difference, or perhaps what it would actually look like on the other side once the change was made, is difficult. Inevitably, people naturally tend to cling to the known rather than embrace the unknown. This is why organizational change is one of the hardest jobs out there, because people just don’t like it and will do anything to resist it.
But what if you were asked to contribute in a meaningful way to how that change would happen rather then just having it pushed down your throat? What if you were to help shape what the change would in fact be? Would you be more likely to give it a chance if you were given a chance to make it your own? In my experience, and especially as of late, it has become more and more apparent to me that meaningful change must come with meaningful engagement.
Making Things Happen
I find myself having many conversations with companies who are trying to create meaningful change and are discovering that engagement is the answer to change adoption and acceptance. Giving the opportunity to every employee to share, discuss, and ideate on a potential change is critical to gaining insights into the success factors and struggles when driving a large scale organizational change initiative. Rolling out a large change management initiative, with positioning an innovation challenge prior to the rollout, has proven to help educate employees on the change and understand their fears or even excitement about it. Being able to have people share and develop ideas to further the cause or initiative will get their skin in the game and make them feel part of the change experience.
I feel that there are a couple of reasons why collaborative activities really do support the main tenants of corporate change:
- Educate and Advocate in a Meaningful Way. When asked to engage, there is usually some context as to why you are being asked to do so in the first place. Providing this context in a way that will also communicate the change opportunity will help to educate them on the change and drive to turn them into advocates when engaged.
- Break Down the Silos to Drive Greater Adoption. By getting employees engaged — regardless of location, hierarchy, or organization — you are breaking down one of the oldest inhibitors to change: the silo. Both big and small corporations face this issue of only working with those that are near you or next to you. Giving people the tools to go beyond their physical walls will help to drive change in itself.
- Push to Think Differently. Getting people out of their day-to-day role, even for just a little bit, might create a greater opportunity to embrace change. Asking them to take some time to contribute to a collaborative effort will give them the opportunity to turn on some new habits and turn off some old habits that prevent change.
- Gain Acceptance Early. If you want people to accept a new initiative, you must make sure they are involved in the process in some way. Whether it be in planning the change, making a decision, or providing an opinion, it is all important to gain acceptance early by giving people an opportunity to get involved in the change in their own way.
Reaping the Benefits of Engagement
Additionally, there is such value to those managing change to see people engaged in the process of change to know how to adapt the message to influence adoption and behavioral change. While being immersed in understanding the change, you are also being asked to contribute to the change going forward or engaging on how you are or will embrace that change. Keeping your staff involved and actively working is a success you can continue to reap the benefits of an engaged, collaborative workforce.
Bottom line, if people do not feel they were part of the development of new methods or they do not see clear value to them, they will stick to old practices. By keeping employees involved, there will be a greater change of adoption and support of the change. Giving them the opportunity to get involved will help to drive that acceptance. Whether it be a new process, new acquisition, new brand, or new product, change management is leading the way for collaborative innovation activities centered around adoption and acceptance of a change.