Understanding and Accepting Change in Our Professional Lives

April 11, 2017

In a previous role, I was directly involved in implementing complete process changes. In one particular project I was involved in, the field personnel at this retail organization had been following the same HR processes for the past 10 years. The leadership team at this retail giant sought to bring efficiency to the HR process completion at each retail location, so employees could focus more time on customers. Research was performed regarding current processes and we quickly identified that there were significant deficiencies resulting in a lot of wasted time. This resulted in the organization’s leadership determining that a complete overhaul of everyday processes was required. With this implementation of new processes came resistance from many angles, which is a common occurrence with any organization when it comes to change. To get employees to fully embrace these new processes, management needed to understand what was driving the resistance from the employees – was it uncertainty, a rigid organizational culture, or something else entirely? Management also needed to understand the employee’s fears as well as phases of emotions they would experience during this new process implementation. Ultimately, the large retailer focused on change management and this was a major factor in getting employees to follow these new HR processes, saving time and money.  This experience is specific to a Large Retailer process change but all of these fears and emotions are what we all could experience when we face changes in our everyday professional lives.

One key factor in handling change of this magnitude is to have “Change Agents”. What exactly is a “Change Agent?” A Change Agent is someone who represents the interests of another person or the company, and his or her job is to lead and make sure everything goes smoothly throughout the transition. Thus, a change agent is able to perform their job proficiently and is very respected by others, which helps in facilitating change. These Change Agents are essential when making changes, otherwise, you risk the change not sticking, or new process not being followed. If possible, get the most respected employees within your organization recruited as Change Agents. If other employees see these Change Agents embracing the new processes, they are more likely to accept and follow the new processes quicker.

It is helpful to understand all of the emotional phases a person goes through when facing change in order to determine how to best facilitate change management. Some emotions that people normally experience when going through change include:

  1. Shock
  2. Denial
  3. Frustration
  4. Depression
  5. Experiment
  6. Decision
  7. Integration

Below is an example which shows the progression and highs and lows of these emotions.

It is extremely helpful to understand these emotions and accept that you or your employees will most likely experience one or all of these at some point during change.

It is also good to understand the fears that are experienced when handling change.

  • Fear of the unknown: What will happen to my company, my job, or my life as I know it now?
  • Fear of not being in control: What should I do? Should I just wait around while they make decisions that could seriously affect my life?
  • Fear of being inadequate: I know how to do this job now, but will I be able to do it as well as they expect me to when everything has changed? And if I can’t, what happens then?
  • Fear of moving outside your personal comfort zone: I’ve been doing my job this way for years, and I’m very good at it. Why do we have to change what has worked so well for so long?

If you understand that these fears are normal when you or your employees go through change it will be easier to get the final phase of change which is “Integration”.

There also are some key ideas when assisting employees through change:

  1. Communication is Key
    • There is no doubt that employees often view change from a different perspective than their managers. Many employees believe that management doesn’t understand their side of the story, and managers often feel it is the employees who don’t understand why the change is necessary. This is why communication is so vital during any change circumstance.
  2. The Positive Side of Change
    • If you routinely describe your current job as boring or menial, then perhaps a change is good for you. One of the most positive aspects of change is that it is never boring. On the contrary, it can create passion. And passion-and the excitement, creativity, and energy that accompanies it-is the spark that keeps people going.
  3. Embrace Upcoming Changes
    • Many people are content to live their lives by playing it safe. If fear, pain, and hard work are prerequisites of change, it’s easier to understand why some people are so dedicated to resisting it. They might be good at giving all the best-sounding reasons why this particular change is not right for their team or company. However, their underlying concern may be their fear about how the change will affect them, their job, or their lives.

If you’ve been reacting negatively to change, it’s important to modify your attitude and your behavior before it’s too late. Think about what you really want. Comfort at all costs? The status quo? The good old days? If those are the aspects you desire-if that’s what you’re waiting for, then you will probably soon be out of a job. If, instead, you want challenge and welcome change, you will always be employable.

In the world of Human Capital Management (HCM), the implementation of a new or replacement HR system is a major undertaking and major organizational change. One of the most often overlooked aspects of a system implementation is the change management piece. Luckily for you, HRchitect has experts that can help work with your team to ensure the change sticks and that your users have adopted the new system.

Here is some reference material that I found very helpful to help me and the group accept change:

  • “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard
  • “The Present” by Spencer Johnson