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How To Encourage Your Employees To Let Go Of The Past And Embrace Change

Breaking resistance to change by motivating employees in the workplace

Motivating employees in the workplace through a period of change can be an extreme challenge. This is especially so if those employees are 20 or more years into their career, and have remained with the same firm, doing the same thing throughout their working life. “Why change what isn’t broken?” is a mantra repeated often, and there will always by disgruntled employees who are resistant to change.

In this article, we look at how to encourage even the most resistant employees to let go of their past and embrace change, by making change personal.

Understand that what you are asking is a personal issue for employees

For many employees, the need for change is something that management has thought up to make lives more difficult. Employees come in, do their job, and go home day after day. Their last review praised them for the work they do, their dedication, and their experience and knowledge. Telling an employee that you need them to ‘trash 20 years’ and start again isn’t going to win you friends. It’s not the way to motivate a change program.

Your employees’ beliefs and values have been embedded through many years. They may have been building widgets, or fixing them, or selling them the same way since their first day on the job.

Getting people to realize that things aren’t the same way today is your challenge. It isn’t the same for the business, and it isn’t the same for the employee.

Challenge your employees’ existing beliefs, and help them let go of the past

It is essential to challenge existing beliefs, and motivate people to shift from their comfort zone. Take an interest in what they are doing and why, and persuade them to see the need for change:

  • Ask them what they are doing. Understand their job, and how it impacts the business.
  • Ask them to explain why they do what they do. Does it impact customers? If so, how? Is it an exercise to help smooth the organization’s operations?
  • Ask them when they started doing what it is they do. Ask how it was explained, and what was the importance of their job then.
  • Ask if they believe the environment has changed, and in what way. Help them to understand that the environment has changed, and ask if their work routine may have been different had the environment been different when they first started.

It is this realization of a changed environment that helps an employee discover the need for change. 

Help your employees embrace change and the future vision

You have made the case for change, altered an employee’s view of their world and motivated them to let go of the past. Now it is time to encourage them to embrace change and the future vision:

  • Bring them on board with the future vision

Take a candid approach. Explain what is happening in your industry, and why it is important for your organization to stay one step ahead of the competition.

  • Ask your employees for help

Who knows their jobs better than the people doing them? Let your people know that you value their experience, and will be seeking their help to define their future.

  • Ensure change leadership is visible

Change must be managed and led. Ensure that your change sponsors and leaders are visible. Change managed by email is change bound to fail. Have leaders share the vision in person, and encourage employees to ask tough questions.

  • Encourage ideas

Encourage employees to come forward with ideas for improvement. This could be in team meetings, during one-to-ones, or via internalized surveys and feedback. Collate all your findings and release them in a simple-to-read-and-understand format. Consider showing that you are listening to concerns by using a “We asked”/ “You told us” / ”We’re doing” structure.

  • Iterate the change plan and continue to move forward

Monitor progress, evolve the plan, and keep everyone involved. Make sure everyone understands the future vision, and be ready to adapt as fresh challenges arise. Be flexible with your change planning, but robust with your change strategy.

  • Thank your people for a job well done

“Thank you” – two words that go a long way. They convey your gratitude for a job well done, and let people know that you appreciate their efforts and personal sacrifices. When people feel valued, they become more engaged with change.

To discover how a Change Agent Bootcamp and coaching in consulting and facilitating will help your organization and leaders produce lasting change, contact Forward Focus today. 

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