Everyone copes with change differently….

Change has the ability to strengthen a team, or to do irreparable damage. Understanding how your people will react will help you navigate the situation and come out stronger at the other end.

But how do I know how my employees will react?

The first port of call is always the question of ‘Is the change internal or external?’

Teams tend to react more positively to external changes. Often the ‘we’re in this together’ mentality arises, bringing employees and managers together in helping the business cope. There is also an element of accepting that this sort of change is completely out of their control, and once any initial frustration has passed, people realise that there is little point in resisting it – even if they don’t agree with it (hello Brexit).

Internal changes are slightly different. Whether it’s restructuring, launching a new HR product, process change or promotion, they’re planned and executed by you as either HR, a manager or a business owner. If these changes are not managed and communicated correctly they can cause great disturbances amongst your people.

Now you need to think about your team…

A solid and effective team is made up of 4 types of change profiles, all cope with change differently. As HR, a manager or business owner you need to understand how individual reactions will impact the business, and how these profiles shape team dynamics.

Type 1: The change embracer

These individuals have a results-oriented approach. They’ll react quickly and wholeheartedly to changes. In fact, they’re usually the ones initiating change within the team and challenging the status quo.

Type 2: The change negligent

Optimists who go with the flow. These individuals just aren’t that bothered by change. They’re a real asset to a team, their creative solutions and willingness to adapt can help keep others motivated.

Type 3: The change resistant

These steady decision makers will need time to prepare, they do not like to be rushed. If things change quickly they’ll put up with it, but there will more than likely be a backlash later when their true feelings are revealed.

Type 4: The change cautious

The objective thinkers of the team. Careful and concerned with the effects of change, they focus on maintaining the standards regardless of what else is going on.

What is the next step?

Prepare the team for change. Identify how it will impact each individual, and the team dynamics overall.

Identify who your company ‘influencers’ are (the change embracers), and get them involved with the communication and implementation. Think about how you would take a new product or service to market, and come up with a ‘marketing’ plan for your HR or business change.  

Regular communication – be it face to face, or digital (again think marketing), will help you keep employees informed of upcoming changes. Take the opportunity to discuss implications, concerns and create a shared understanding of why the change is happening. Allow them to question, challenge and propose alternatives within the change process. Yes, it might sound terrifying but it will help build commitment. Approach change with empathy and honesty, and remember to treat your people like adults.  

Last but not least…

Allow your people control over the implementation. Don’t worry, you won’t lose control but it will help them take ownership. Identify the influencers and let them be your voice.  People are far more trusting of their peers than they are of managers. So let them be the voice on the ground, creating a positive noise.

Change is constant and can’t be avoided, but how we as HR, managers and business owners manage change in our teams is critical to its success.