Every day we are faced with changes. This week the county road department started construction for a traffic round-a-bout near my subdivision. Yikes! I’ve heard scary stories about the confusion that round-a-bouts can create. Ready or not, this is happening. As construction proceeds, I can keep apprised of progress and new changes through a neighborhood communication tool.
Organizations are faced with changes as they receive new feedback from customers, vendors, learn about competitors’ actions or new regulatory requirements, and strategize new responses to remain competitive. Whether sales are up, down, or flat, management often tweaks internal processes to ensure better customer experiences, better margins, and better employee engagement. We have all read about the poor results regarding change initiatives. Most change initiatives fail because one or more key aspects of change management are missing, such as awareness and buy in regarding the change, communication, consistent implementation, and follow up to ensure new habits are formed and reinforced.
How do you determine your organization’s readiness for change? You would most likely conduct one or more assessments such as surveys, interviews, or focus groups to understand employees’ attitudes, beliefs, abilities, and willingness to change, and with that data, develop plans to nurture a culture of learning for change. Online surveys are certainly an efficient method for conducting readiness assessments. This article discusses several key aspects of change readiness and offers possible solutions for increasing readiness and success with your change initiatives.
Key Aspects of Change – Assessment
One popular model for change management is Prosci’s ADKAR model (https://www.prosci.com/adkar/adkar-model). The acronym ADKAR stands for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. For each of these aspects of change, it is important to explore employees’ understanding of the need for change and their perceptions of being able to implement change. There are standard surveys to which you can benchmark your organization’s readiness, and then track your improvement over time. One way of measuring readiness for a change initiative is to ask survey participants to indicate their level of agreement with statements that pertain to each aspect of the change your organization is implementing. Popular agreement rating scales include 5-point scales such as “Completely Agree, Somewhat Agree, Neither Agree nor Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, and Completely Disagree” or 4-point scales such as “Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, and Strongly Agree.” Remember, if you want to benchmark your survey against existing data, you must use the same agreement statements and scale to make a valid comparison.
Awareness of the need for change, the type of change being implemented, and how the change will affect business processes is a critical element of any change initiative. To assess the level of awareness of the need for change, the research team will evaluate the employees’ agreement on certain statements about the current situation and the need to change to a new procedure. For example, we could ask survey participants to indicate their agreement or disagreement with the following statements:
- The current budgeting process produces a high level of re-work on departmental budgets.
- An objective of this change is a streamlined budgeting process, which will allow financial department personnel to provide more strategic input to marketing, engineering, and sales.
Desire is a gauge of employee engagement and willingness to participate in the new processes and procedures required by the plan for change. The assessment of desire focuses on the employees’ willingness to participate and encourage others to engage in one or more change initiatives. A high level of desire for change reduces resistance to the change. To continue with our example of budgetary process changes, by asking agreement with the following statements we can assess the level of desire for the change:
- This change will ultimately benefit my job.
- I look forward to increased collaboration and cooperation among all budgetary personnel within the organization resulting from this change.
Knowledge refers to employees having necessary information regarding the change initiative or knowing where to access information about the change initiatives. We can assess knowledge by asking survey participants about the information they have received and what resources are accessible when further assistance is needed. For example, regarding a budgetary process change we could ask for agreement with the following statements:
- I have been provided full documentation on how we will revise the budgetary process.
- I know where to access the frequently asked questions page on our change management website regarding budgetary process changes.
Ability pertains to applying knowledge about the change on the job. We assess ability by exploring employees’ perceptions about their readiness to apply new skills and behaviors and their confidence in getting the help they need while continuing to learn about the new process. Example agreement statements include:
- I feel confident I have the new skills and abilities needed to perform my job after implementing the budgetary process change.
- I can access online training whenever I have a question about the new procedures.
- My supervisor is a valuable coach on the change initiative and how it affects my work process.
Reinforcement encompasses all activities to help ensure the new process is implemented and employees don’t go back to old habits. Reinforcement activities include coaching, ongoing training and motivation, measurement, and celebrations. We can assess the level of reinforcement by asking for agreement to questions such as:
- The organization recognizes and awards successful change.
- Middle managers are advocates for change.
- We measure progress toward the desired change and make adjustments as necessary.
- Executives in our organization are visible, active leaders and champions for change.
Key Aspects of Change – Improvements
Once you have estimates of your employees’ perceptions of awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement for organizational change, you have the necessary foundation to develop a plan to increase readiness for change. Communication is key before, during, and after any change initiatives. A comprehensive communications campaign may include:
- written materials reviewing the need for change, how new procedures will be implemented, and how procedures affect individual work groups
- presentations during department meetings reviewing needs and plans for change and progress as the implementation of change proceeds
- formal training on the change initiatives
- videos with change initiative information that workers can access after regular business hours
- coaching and mentoring – both supervisory and peer-to-peer
- infographics and employee posters or signs
- guidelines for one-on-one meetings between workers and supervisor
- regular communication campaigns with a tool such as BAM Mail™ to nurture engagement and feedback
Whatever change management model and plan you choose, you will want to clearly identify and communicate:
- the need for change
- potential roadblocks of change
- the detailed change management plan
- evaluation plans for measuring key metrics
- recognition and celebration
- feedback loop for continuous improvement
What process do you follow when implementing change in your organization?
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).