In last week’s post I blogged about the sources of organizational resistance and some things you can do to overcome those barriers. Continuing with the change management theme, managers and leaders can take several actions to help prepare their employees for change. And when I mention “change,” I mean the kind of transformational change that tends to cause people anxiety. You can use the simple mnemonic C-TEST to help ensure you covering the basics when it comes to easing the anxiety your people may have when implementing something new.
Comfort: We are all creatures of habit. Once we get used to doing something in a certain way, even if it is slightly painful, it is often hard to adopt something new. Our daily activities or processes quickly become our comfort zone. When something is introduced that will disrupt our routine, we get uncomfortable and resist, even when we agree that the change is for our benefit. Making sure everyone understands why the change is occurring is only half the battle for leaders. Don’t get me wrong, leaders have to create awareness and understanding. But, leaders also have to make employees feel comfortable with the change. This can be done by letting employees experiment, giving them time to adjust, and rewarding the right behaviors.
Tools: Employees may question whether or not they are capable to do what you are asking. For example, if you implementing a telework program in which employees will be working from home, they might start asking about the equipment the organization is providing. (True story: a friend of mine worked for a large company that decided to reduce real estate costs by making employees work from home on a fulltime basis. They made the announcement with minimal lead time via the company intranet. My friend called me and asked, “Do you think I can take my ergonomically-correct chair home with me? I don’t have a home office.”) The moral of the story is that you need to consider all potential tools and equipment and what the organization will or will not provide.
Expectations: Employees may also question how their role may change. Ensure clear expectations are set for all employees. Are their work hours fixed or flexible? What turnaround time is expected? What are their individual performance metrics by which you will measure them? Make sure employees have clear line-of-sight to their responsibilities and priorities.
Skills: Are your employees competent enough to succeed in the virtual workplace? Conduct an assessment of their current strengths and weaknesses and what is required with the new work structure. Think about the training, both formal and informal, and coaching you can provide to get people up to speed.
Teamwork: Now that employees won’t always be face-to-face, are they able to effectively collaborate with one another? This area usually takes the most time and some experimentation may be involved so people don’t automatically become “email lazy,” over relying on email is the primary and only means of communication. Push people to interact in different ways from instant messaging to social media to desktop sharing applications to other cloud based apps. It may be a little painful at first as you go through a trial and error period to find what works best, but you may end up with a communication process that is more effective and efficient than when your employees worked elbow to elbow.