I read this report when I was preparing for a day on resilience and change for leaders at a Housing Association that had expanded rapidly over the past two years. The figure shocked me. What’s going on? Why so high? Digging a little deeper, the research shows that, in part, this was due to change not being part of a strategic change plan. It was also down to poor programme, project management and training. Interestingly, however, two main reasons were connected with vital people skills – communication and leadership. Personal feelings about loss of control, shock of the new, uncertainty, inconvenience, threat to status and fears about competency were all mentioned too. People owned up to resisting not just the content of change, but also the process of change.
The research concludes that 3 things contributed to that 40% that did meet their objectives. These successful change initiatives had leaders who gave a clear vision and rationale for the change and then were flexible enough to use a variety of leadership styles and could step into a collaborative style when needed. The companies involved invested in training, not just the process skills needed for managing programmes, projects and change but also the “softer” interpersonal skills of communications, facilitation and leadership coaching. The thing that stands out is that leaders in these companies encouraged dialogue – a continual conversation, open communication and information flow with everyone involved in the change.
It’s interesting to read research on employee engagement. There’s a clear message here too that reinforces the need for dialogue. Having opportunities to feed upwards and feeling well informed about what is happening in the organisation are critical if you want employees to feel engaged. Yet only 1 in 10 people feel fully informed about what is happening in their workplace. What people crave is clear and on-going communication with their leaders so that they trust them and have a shared sense of purpose.
The message is clear. This is not just a “nice thing to do”. It is business critical. Do this and you will promote better performance, employee retention and positive emotions towards work. And in the current climate, can we afford for our change initiatives to fail?