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Article No.: 15-10, October 1, 2015

Article Title: Does Your Work Environment Foster Change Agility?

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, CEQC

Building and sustaining a work environment that fosters change agility requires dedication and commitment from Human Resources leaders.  This type of work environment is built one layer at a time and extends throughout every level of the organization.  Your commitment can take large or small forms, and here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Promote brainstorming of options for handling impending change – encourage generation of different choices for minimizing potential barriers.  This lets employees take responsibility rather than allowing them to be passive at the beginning and resistant later.

  • Create teachable moments.  These take place first when you explain your plan or vision for change.  What, exactly, will change in the employee’s world?  Even though a change may seem insignificant to you, it may result in a sense of loss for others in that they feel they’re giving up something.  That “something” may be their daily routine; their favorite chair; an office location; or even their current job.  The more you can walk people through these changes to their everyday life and give them time to process those changes, the easier change will become.

  • Invite questions that result in a quality dialogue about the impact of change.  When employees’ questions are addressed, the fear factor becomes less significant.  This also provides you with the opportunity to address feelings of victimhood that lie close to the surface of many, indicated by statements such as, “Well, I guess I can’t do anything about this.”  As a leader, you can nip this thinking in the bud by asking, “How can we surface potential barriers to this change effort and establish ways to deal with them?”

  • You create teachable moments when you tap into individuals’ connection to the organization’s core values.  For example, if the company wants to expand its capabilities to be customer focused and you know that an employee has this same personal value, be certain to make that point.  I’ve found that people want to work with companies that have core values that match their own.

  • Make certain that expectations of employees are clear throughout the change process.  What needs to happen, and when?  What’s the action plan and the employee’s accountability for the steps in the plan?

  • You can ensure change agility by removing artificial barriers to change within your culture.  One example of an artificial barrier is a multi-layer hierarchy, especially in companies of 200 or fewer employees.  As a leader, ask yourself whether people, regardless of position, can easily gain access to you to ask a question, provide suggestions, or discuss potential problems.  When access to leaders is repeatedly denied or delayed, employees give up, and great ideas may go by the wayside.

  • Once employees do gain access to leaders, they must not be punished for bringing bad news, such as an idea or product that’s not working as planned.  One company President I work with told her employees on her first day, “Bring me the truth – I can take it.  And I will always bring you the truth and we’ll work through the ramifications together.”


 
To encourage and sustain change agility, I’ve found that these leadership competencies are essential:
 
1)    Ability to create an inspiring vision
2)    Willingness to lead by example
3)    Confidence
4)    Capacity to involve and encourage others
5)    Coaching
 
As Human Resources professionals, we’ll always have opportunities to be a catalyst for change.  I hope you’ll embrace the role and lead others to success!

 

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