Taking on a new system or initiative isn’t always an easy transition. Without employee buy-in, the project may risk not getting off the ground at all. But understanding the cycle of emotions that employees experience will help you craft a communication plan to ease the implementation process.
Change is common in the business world, but that doesn’t mean employees embrace it with open arms. Implementing new systems and improved software help your business run smoothly, so why is there so much friction among employees during the implantation process?
For one, it’s a natural reaction to question the change – things work fine as they are, why do I need to learn something different? Another factor is an individual’s emotional intelligence and adaptability. Some people adapt more easily than others and are more welcoming of change. If you learn how to understand the emotional cycle of your employees, you’ll be able to break down the wall of resistance so that future implementations go smoother.
There are eight stages of the cycle (see Figure 1 from Managing Organizational Change in Operational Change Initiatives).
The “curve” starts at normal production levels and dips as morale gets lower. Here’s a list of each of the stages explained:
• Pre-Initiative: Employees are unaware of the changes and are used to the status quo.
• Denial: Employees reject the change because they don’t believe it will happen based on past failures.
• Anger, Pessimism, Despair: Employees experience negative emotions toward the project. They’re irritated about learning a new process that they didn’t request. In turn, their work productivity takes a downward turn.
• Testing: Employee productivity improves when they get hands-on experience with the new system or software. They become more comfortable with the change.
• Acceptance: Employees are finished training and accept their new roles.
• Post-Initiative Success: Employees are fully trained and operate at a higher level than before the change occurred.
Communication is important in any company, but it’s especially key for successful change management.
Once you understand the emotional cycle you can create a communication plan based on the pros and cons of human emotion. The plan allows you to assess each audience: how early do they have to be engaged, how often do they have to be engaged after the Pre-Initiative stage, and what medium to engage them in. (See Template 1 from Managing Organizational Change in Operational Change Initiatives for a guide.)
In the beginning stages of the implementation, it’s important to have open and honest conversations with your team to ensure everyone understands the scope, timeline, and benefits of the project. Then you’ll be able to determine how often you need to communicate with each team member during the implementation.
How does your company deal with new implementations? Do you have a communication plan in place?
Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson
Managing Organizational Change in Operational Change Initiatives – IMA
Change Management Best Practices Guide – Queensland Government