How to Help Employees Change in the Workplace

on July 31, 2017

The Dog Days of Change

There’s something about summer and the inevitable transition into fall that always makes me think about change.

Remember summers as a kid? You would battle the lengthening days of May and struggle through the stifling first few days of June before you would burst through those doors out and onto the hot blacktop. The school year behind you and nothing but sweet freedom in front of you. You could hardly see the new school year creeping in the horizon as you planned pool parties and beach days. And as your summer eventually came to a close, you’d walk confidently across that blacktop and through those school doors emboldened by your summer full of experiences – a little older, a little wiser, and ready to take on the year.

Every year and every fall you knew what was coming – you’d go back again and bit-by-bit learn more. It was change – albeit slow – predictable and incremental.

Remember the summer after high-school graduation? There was the same antsy battle as the summer approached and the same elation as you said goodbye to homework and exams. But, there was something different. That destination at the end of summer was fuzzy. Sure, it was “college”, but what did that mean? What did that look like? Oh, the anxiety and the excitement. The pressure and the exhilaration. The fear of the unknown.

Change in the Workplace

That’s how our employees and colleagues see change in the workplace today. That horizon creeping up over all the day-to-day work, change initiatives, strategic priorities, and external marketplace pressures is fuzzy. What does it look like? What can I expect? What does it mean for me and my team? How can I prepare?

That summer after high school, as you went to leave for college, you prepared. And the preparation was different than previous years. You took steps to understand what to expect by asking parents, friends, and family members about their college experience. They told you stories about college – what it looked like, felt like, how to live alone, manage your schedule, and make friends. So, you packed all the necessary things – like hot plates and shower shoes – and went boldly into the unknown. You went into the change with an open mind and knew you would to have to adapt and flex as you learned more about what it meant to be an adult.

Continuous improvement mindset, agility, and transformation are all business buzzwords we use in the workplace to describe and try to harness the same skills we all used to successfully adapt to college.

Three Tips to Help Employees Change

Everyone is capable of change and adaptability. Here’s how to get them to remember they can do it:

1. Share the why

If your employees knew all that you know, would they make the same decision? Would they ask the same questions, prepare the same way, and build the same skills? Through storytelling and self-discovery, share the why behind where we are going.

2. Create a compelling future state

Use visualization to help paint that picture of what’s over the edge of the horizon. Help make that picture a bit clearer by describing what it looks like and feels like, so that we can prepare and pack our hot plate and shower shoes.

3. Create two-way dialogue

Just as leaving for college created fear and anxiety around the unknown, so too does change in business. Have a conversation about your current state, compelling future state, and shifts to get there. Get feedback from your employees, listen, and respond. Alleviate the anxiety by creating two-way dialogue as you learn, flex, and adapt to the new normal.

Want to Learn More about Helping Employees Change?

Does the change in your business feel like “the dog days of summer”? If so, contact me to continue the conversation on how these tips can help what’s over that horizon seem less anxiety-producing and more manageable and exciting.

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