Psychology for Business
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1st May 2018

Approaches to Change

In the current climate people are very focussed on Change. What are the reasons for change? We know that environments are changing in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, where globalisation, technology and increased need for efficiencies to survive are impacting on the experience of the workforce as much as those leading change.

What types of change have you encountered? What is your experience of change? Which have you learned more from, success or failure?

Research both academic and practitioner tells us that many change programmes fail and that to make them successful organisations should focus their training and tools on helping managers to:

  • Understand why people resist change
  • Role model desired behaviours
  • Talk with their team early and often
  • Ask employees for input

We focus on three issues when you are trying to bring about a change in the way things are done in your organisation:

  1. Considering the impact on the individual in managing change
  2. Recognising and managing resistance to change and understanding why change fails
  3. Your role as a leader in the management of change

Individual differences

When we are bringing about change we sometimes forget that there are individual people with their own personalities, experiences, levels of coping and lives outside of work that are going to be the difference between the success and failure of the change.

We know that where there is a lower acceptance of change there is reduced job satisfaction leading to lower productivity, this effect is greater when the individual is more personally affected by the change. So, it is important to understand the change from the individual’s perspective and leadership style is important for creating commitment to change, especially when personal impact is high to make the change successful.

Resistance to change

There is often a focus on the resistors to change and yet we do not focus enough attention on those who want the change and help to implement it. The role that positive employees play has often been ignored. When employees have a psychological investment in the organisation and identify with it, these positive emotions impact on employee attitudes and behaviour associated with outcomes relevant for change:

  • lower cynicism
  • higher emotional engagement
  • lower deviance
  • higher citizenship

Leaders role in change

Research has shown that managers can improve change success by taking account of counterintuitive insights about how employees interpret their environment and choose to act. McKinsey (2009) states there are 4 basic conditions necessary before employees will change their behaviour:

  1. Compelling story – so that employees see the point of change and agree to it
  2. Role modelling – encourage colleagues to see others that they admire behaving in a new way
  3. Reinforcing mechanisms – small unexpected rewards have greater effects on employees’ satisfaction with a change program, they generate longer-term motivation
  4. Capability building – having the skills required to make the desired changes

Research tells us that those organisations who invest time, energy and money in the sensitive and careful management of change processes are those that will be around longer and are likely perform more successfully. We have all been feeling an increase in the pace of change and organisational survival depends upon learning and adaptability, and useful components of effective change management. Taking an evidence-based approach at Impact, we use psychological models to help guide our clients through changes at work. If you would like to find out more information about our approach to change and how we can help you and your organisation to manage change successfully, contact us here.