The Human Element in the Dance of Change

Organizational change efforts are difficult and can easily be derailed. A common pitfall complicating change is the knowledge gap between change leaders and employees. By the time leaders announce an organizational change, having spent a considerable amount of time formulating the solution, they are naturally ready to execute the change.

Employees, however, hear the change announcement without the benefit of having gone through the change formulation process. Employees are likely to focus on the personal impact of the change first and then on the organization’s needs. Change can be experienced as confusing, disruptive, and even threatening, so employees need some amount of time to understand the change, process it, and become skilled at it. The human element of change has to be addressed before effective organizational change is likely to happen.

When communicating organizational change, anticipate and address what employees may be thinking or asking themselves about the change: the compelling reason for the change and its impact; the risks if change doesn’t happen; the end state of the change; organizational actions needed to implement the change; specific employee behaviors or actions needed to support the change; and resources available to equip and support employees through the change.

Consider training managers on the human elements of change, how to facilitate change, and the importance of being role models for the change. Also, employees who are recognized as early adopters can be enlisted as “go to” subject matter experts to help equip and positively influence their peers. Providing employees with opportunities to ask questions and soliciting their input on how best to implement the change helps foster a sense of involvement, participation, and buy-in. Like a dance, both partners have to work together to successfully achieve change.