Answer “why” to compel people to ask, “What can I do to help?”
Awareness of the need for organisational change is perhaps the most important step in managing change effectively. Indeed, a lack of awareness is cited by Prosci as the number one reason for resistance to change. So, what is awareness to change and why is it so important?
What is awareness?
Awareness can be described as the act of making the emotional rational. It is the way in which we answer the question, ‘Why?’.
There must be an incentive to change that overwhelms remaining at the status quo. The reasons for change are framed in negative consequences and positive benefits:
- The negative consequences of not making the change
- The positive benefits of making the change
When people understand and believe the need for organisational change, they become more accepting of it and are more likely to support it.
Awareness drives organisational change
Just as when making a change in their personal lives, it is awareness of the need for organisational change that drives organisational change.
When someone is told by their doctor of the need to change diet and exercise regime or risk premature death, the willingness to make that change increases substantially. This is not to say that the person did not already know the downside of their current lifestyle – but making it personal and giving some real-life consequences gives the argument for change a great deal of momentum. This is also true in the context of organisational change.
Making effective change comes from employee engagement
The argument that people do not need to know the reasons behind the existence in their organisation has largely – and thankfully – been debunked. In various surveys and studies, employee engagement has been shown to have a positive impact on organisational performance. For example, Gallup found that companies in the top quartile in employee engagement outperform bottom quartile companies by 21% in productivity and 22% in profitability, as well as:
- 37% lower absenteeism
- 25% to 65% lower staff turnover
- 48% fewer safety incidents
- 41% fewer quality defects
Employee engagement in change is not developed by telling people what to do. Like a doctor telling a patient to consume less alcohol – it rarely happens.
Employee engagement in change is developed by answering the question, ‘Why the need for organisational change?’. This provides compelling reasons for an employee to do the ‘what’.
In the context of the need for organisational change, awareness provides employees with compelling reasons to become involved in, and contribute to, organisational change: it reduces resistance from the root up.
An organisation that makes their employees aware of the need for organisational change is more likely to be successful with its change initiative.
What does awareness of the need for organisational change look like?
To develop awareness of the need for organisational change, managers must answer the questions that employees will want to ask. In an organisation which benefits from a learning and change culture, effective leaders create positive energy in a collaborative environment that benefits from open and honest communication. This enables exploration of the key concerns and desires of all employees:
- What organisational change is taking place?
- How does it align with the organisation’s vision?
- Why is the change being made?
- What are the risks if we do not make the change?
- How will the organisational change affect the organisation?
- How will the change affect the wider community?
- How will the change affect me personally?
When there is a need for organisational change, it is imperative that an organisation provides the information necessary for its people to understand the change. People who are unaware of why the change is being made are less likely to contribute to the change and more likely to actively resist it.
Change takes people out of their comfort zone and asks them to change habitual behaviours. Thus, resistance to change is natural. By providing people with awareness of the need for organisational change, and by answering their questions, we can combine rational decision-making with their emotional feelings. The organisation can therefore help its people to replace negative emotions with positive ones.
It is these positive emotions that create the buy-in required for organisational change to be successful. Put another way, awareness helps to create the employee engagement that encourages people to go the extra mile – the organisational culture that provides impetus to reach potential through organisational change and beyond.
In our next article, we will examine how an organisation can best communicate the need for organisational change. In the meantime, to discover how our Learning Map System could help you to improve your employee engagement strategy, get in touch with BigPicture Learning today.
(See how awareness of the need to change engages employees in the change project, as told in this case study.)
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