How to support employees through change

Humans are designed to resist change

How to support employees through change

Humans are designed to resist change. Whether it’s having to take a different route to work or being told to cut red meat out of your diet – we don’t enjoy having to alter our set patterns.

And when it comes to our working life, even the smallest of alterations can seem unnecessarily arduous. In fact, research from McKinsey & Company found that 70% of all changes in companies fail. This is where HR has to step up.

HRD Canada spoke to Gordana Terkalas, SVP of HR at Aecon and speaker at HR Leaders Summit Toronto, who revealed how HR can use change management to help employees through periods of upheaval.

“When there’s lots of change happening, the approach needs to start with an aspect which I believe HR practitioners often overlook – creating some context,” prefaced Gordana. “This includes making sure we invest a lot of time explaining to people why the change is necessary, where it’s coming from and what’s precipitating it.

Gordana explained that over the past year at Aecon they’ve gone through some changes themselves. As such, she wants to ensure that all employees are on the same page when it comes to organizational alterations.  

“People sometimes don’t have enough context. And so, within our group, any time an organizational change is happening, or an initiative is being introduced, we invest more time than ever in creative awareness and understanding of what’s driving the change. I find it’s been a useful technique to get people through the individual change process quicker – when you understand why something is happening, whether you like it or not, you can start to process it.”

It’s incumbent on HR to facilitate structured change. According to Human Capital Institute, 80% of HR practitioners believe their organizations to be a state of constant change. With all this upheaval – it’s essential that leaders remember to brief their people. Otherwise unease will grow, and turnover will escalate.

“Our rate of success in seeing new initiatives being adopted by the organization has improved in the last couple of years,” continued Gordana. “I think being outcome-focused and promoting the benefits of the change in a frame that’s through the employees’ lens is a key element.

“Generally, as we’re explaining and preparing for change, we’ll frame it in terms which are related to the organization’s need. Of course, the organization is the driver of its own change, but being able to express the outcomes of change from an employees’ perspective – i.e. what the positive outcomes will be for them – is an area which needs more investment. 

“When we spent more time focusing on the positive outcomes, we saw a stronger and more sustainable uptake of the changes we were trying to implement.”

To hear more from Gordana and other industry leaders, book your ticket to HR Leaders Summit Toronto here.

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