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Flipping the switch on change

By Ginger Nocom, Group Head of Change Management, Ruralco Holdings Limited

Ginger Nocom, Group Head of Change Management, Ruralco Holdings Limited

Do you want results? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but tech and tools are not the answer. In a world where digital disruption is everywhere, and technological advancements are growing at the speed of light, have we become too dependent on data and technology? Are data and insights dictating our decisions too much that we are losing the value of genuine human connection?

Don’t get me wrong I love data, insights, and technology! However, in leading and managing change, technology playa a small part on the path to success.

The change paradox

Quoting Heraclitus in 500 BC, “change is the only constant in life.” Fast-forwarding to the 21st century hasn’t changed that fact. To get ahead, to remain competitive, and to stay relevant, we need to evolve as individuals and as organizations continuously.

Being human, we are also conflicted. We hate change yet dread tomorrow will remain the same. However, the fear of the unknown overshadows the certainty of the status quo. People find comfort in the familiar. We is pre-programmed to resist change. Major advancements in neuroscience showed us that blood flows to our pre-frontal cortex, causing a physical response every time we experience change. Any change is considered a threat and our brains instinctively protect us from harm. On the flipside, it is also in our nature to evolve. Through neuroplasticity, our brains can adapt and change when we create new neural patterns and learn new things.

Over the years, I’ve learned that managing change is always a balancing act between where organizations are headed and what our people are ready for. Change is personal and requires us to THINK, FEEL and DO things differently. Change management provides the structure to prepare individuals, teams and organizations to be “READY, WILLING and ABLE” to manage change using our HEADS, HEARTS, and HANDS. And if we want a successful outcome, we need to put our people first.

Here’s how with eight change management Essentials

1. Empathy

Empathy is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing and placing oneself in their shoes. Change management with empathy, drives meaningful conversations, lessen the uncertainty, and builds trust. Trust increases commitment, making people more willing to embrace change.

2. Engagement

Kubler-Ross describes how we typically go through5 stages of grief when experiencing change. The aim is to shorten the process and lessen the pain. This typically happens through engagement. Engaging our people and supporting them through change can be as simple as listening, acknowledging their concerns, and getting their feedback.

3. Environment

When introducing change, we need to create a positive and safe environment for our people. Creating an environment for change begins with setting the stage. According to Rene Jules Dubois, we are as much a product of our environment as we are of our genetic make-up. Culture is a powerful lever, and it starts with our leaders who are committed to “walk the talk” and stick with it.

4. Expectations

Managing expectations allows everyone involved to have a clear understanding of what to expect and when to expect it. Open dialogue and promising only what’s realistically achievable are important so as not to create conflict, mistrust and disappointment.

5. Experiment

The idea of experimentation comes from the concept of iterative design. Iterative design and experimentation allow us to quickly introduce an idea and gather feedback, allowing us to test and learn, implement effective solutions, and scrap useless ones.

6. Equip

For change to be successful, we need to equip people with the right skills, set them up for success and build a culture of change agility and change resilience. Change agility is an individual’s or organization’s ability to anticipate and adapt to change. Change resilience is the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.

7. Empower

Research confirms that empowered employees result in better performance, productivity, and commitment. When we empower our employees to make decisions and get things done, we send this message: “we trust you, we believe in you, we support you.” Empowered employees are more likely to go the extra mile, have a “can-do” attitude, embrace change, and influence others to do the same.

8. Experience

Lastly, our people’s overall change experience will set the bar on how other changes will be received. At an individual level, poor change experience can cause disengagement, frustration, resistance, and cynicism. At an organizational level, it can result in higher turnover, the decline in productivity, increased absenteeism, and negative morale.

Time and time again, people become an afterthought and play second or third fiddle to shiny new toys or the bottom line. A research conducted by Bain & Company revealed that engaged employees are 40% more productive than disengaged employees while inspired employees are 125% more productive than engaged employees. The possibilities and opportunities are endless!

And closing with Howard Behar’s words, “when we stand for the value of putting people first, we find inspiration in the good times and a lifeline of support and talent when times are hard.”

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