Creating the right environment for change

For real change to take root, it needs to be actively enabled and promoted. But where should you start?

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By Adam Etzion, HR Analyst @ Gloat

Integration of new technologies – especially those that have the potential to introduce deep changes to people’s jobs and routines – can often be met with resistance. It’s not enough to simply make them available and to then assume they’ll be used; for real change to take root, it needs to be actively enabled and promoted. But where should you start?

Nobody likes to change.

Humans are creatures of habit, and once we’ve gotten used to doing things a certain way, it takes a lot to get us to do them differently, even if it’s guaranteed to be a marked improvement. We’ve all felt this in our personal lives at some point, whether it’s when we try to change our fitness and dietary habits, or when we try to change our relationships for the better – but it’s just as true in business environments as well. In fact, this very human tendency is often a huge hurdle in the process of integrating new workflows and technologies – especially those that promise to revolutionize things like organizational culture – so much so that it can sometimes impede organizational advancement and evolution, even when they are mission-critical to the business at large.

As both markets and technologies shift and evolve at an ever-increasing pace, the volume of routine changes workforces and individuals will have to deal with will continue to expand and grow. So how can organizations address this?

The key lies with understanding the sources of resistance to the specific changes that are being made, acknowledging their legitimacy, and dismantling them in a way that keeps the individual at the heart of the process. And the payoff?

More than just making adoption and integration easier, the decision to embark on a change enablement journey has the potential to increase the flexibility, agility and overall capabilities of individuals and workforces, and to future-proof the organization in a way that’s just as meaningful – if not more so – than the new technologies being adopted.

But where do we start?

Treating Trepidation

The first step in addressing any problem is taking a long, honest look at it, and identifying it for what it is. In the case of adoption and integration of new platforms and technologies, this means acknowledging questions like “The way we’ve done things so far is working for us – why change it now?” and “We’re already dealing with so much – why is this suddenly a priority?”

While it’s easy to dismiss these questions as simply fearful, or even as procrastination, it’s important to understand that they stem from a perceived conflict of interest that resonates on a much deeper level: individual employees, be they junior-grade technicians or C-level executives, may perceive this change as the organization getting in the way of their doing what they do best and uprooting their routines and habits, which they’ve worked hard to perfect, for the sake of some nebulous concept of “progress.” They often fear that by introducing these changes, the company may be rendering them less effective – and therefore, less valuable to the organization as a whole.

And – they’ve got a point. Changes to their routine and to the tools they use can make them less competent. At least, in the short-term.

As long as this perceived conflict of interests remains valid, resistance to change will continue to be a major stumbling block.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Real Change Means Change for Everyone

As long as a company’s organizational culture continues to see humans as “resources” to be exploited, any change made to people’s routines, be it technological, organizational or cultural, will be rightfully perceived as threatening.

Therefore, a key part of the change enablement process is aligning the interests of employees and the organization – and then demonstrating how the changes being made bolster that alignment.

This is a two-way street, though; if this isn’t how an organization sees its relationship with its employee base to begin with, then resistance to change can actually be very justified – and if the organization isn’t willing to undergo change for its employees, why should employees be willing to extend that same courtesy?

It’s therefore important that before organizations ask their employees to change their routines, that key stakeholders and executives be ready and willing to change the way they work as well – for the sake of a common, shared goal which benefits everyone.

Once that’s been established, you’ll find that adopting a new platform or implementing new procedures becomes much easier. It stops being a question of “why?” and the only questions left to address become the “how?” ones.

the change enablement journey

Long Term Benefits

Undergoing this initial process of alignment with the workforce is a valuable asset in general, for any future-facing organization. The trigger for it may be the deployment of a new technological platform (like the Talent Marketplace, for instance) but its usefulness will continue to be relevant long after the platform’s been deployed and fully adopted.

Setting a precedent for change – and having it be a positive, empowering experience – sets the stage for further changes in the future, and ensure the transitions they entail will be easier and more readily accepted.

As we continue to march into un unknown and unforeseeable future, one thing remains clear: change and upheaval will be increasingly bigger parts of our routines. The sooner organizations outfit their workforces with change enablement tools and mechanisms, the sooner they’ll be ready to meet their next challenge head-on.

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