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People may not like change, but we are supremely good at it

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“I’ll think about all this when the transformation is finished…”. I hear this a lot at the moment when I’m speaking to clients and their employees. There is so much change. Phenomenal tech-driven change, political maps are being re-drawn, work itself is changing with the gig-economy and automation quickly taking over many roles and changing how others are done. The relationship between employee and employer is just another change we are in. Organisations are now in endless transformation – to make efficiencies, to perform better, to overhaul legacy IT systems, to capitalise on the new opportunities afforded by tech. Change is no longer a discrete change programme – it is the new normal.

So how do you bring employees along with you during unending change? When people just want the change to ‘be finished’ so they know where they stand? They know what job they have, and what is expected of them? How do you keep people interested, and inspired, during times of great change? Which is – pretty much – all the time, now.

Many employees are playing catch up with reality. And many industries – including my own – are going through fundamental shifts to the business model and so how they operate. But, people are eminently adaptable. We may not like change, but we are supremely good at it. We have all sorts of brain trickery which helps us accept change, adapt to it, and make the most of it. It’s why we’re in charge.

The challenge is to be very clear exactly what you are asking people to change. Are you asking them to change what they achieve – without worrying too much about how they do it? Are you asking them to think of different ways of doing things they already do – changing processes and ways of working? Or, are you asking people to change how they behave at work, to change the culture?

Identifying this is the first step in being clear on what you are asking of your employees.  And being clear that the change won’t ever be finished. Change is a constant. Long gone are the days of a restructure, and a calm period of 18 months or so. Some organisations are way beyond this point – the realisation hit years ago. Others are just starting this process of scales falling from change-weary eyes.

Be clear, be transparent, and above all – be adult about it. People may not like change, but the one thing they hate more is being kept in the dark. Talk to us about cutting through the jargon, seeing the simplicity in your complexity and bringing your people along on the ride – it’s going to get bumpy, but then, all the best rides are.

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