By Diana Glance – Manager of Education
They say that the only constant in life is change. That’s certainly the case for member-based organizations, where member engagement strategies are always evolving as members’ habits change, technology is routinely updated to improve business processes and annual meetings are adapted with each lesson learned from the previous year.
While strategically planned change is always aimed at improving processes and, hopefully, making life easier for your team, it’s common to encounter a few bumps in the road and a handful of resistant staff members along the way. In fact, one of the most regularly cited change management statistics out there shows that 70 percent of change programs fail to meet their goals.
I’ve seen many sides of new technology implementation. As an employee of associations, both large and small, I was one of those people that felt that change was imposed upon me by people that “just didn’t get it.” I was perfectly content with MY systems and asked, “Why fix it if it isn’t broken?” And as I moved into management, I felt pressured to make my employees do what I wanted them to do and would think to myself, “Why aren’t they getting that this change will not only help the organization – but it will help them as well?”
I discovered that we need to keep in mind that people aren’t as resistant to change if they have had the opportunity to feel they have an impact on the direction of the change. Change at your association doesn’t have to feel impossible. Something as simple as acknowledging and planning for opposition at the outset will set you on a path toward successful organizational change.
To help member-based associations with their next change initiatives, I’ve put together some strategies for dealing with resistant staff. But first, let’s take a look at what makes association staff resistant to change in the first place.
Why is Your Staff Resisting Change?
Think back to a time in your career when your organization embarked on a major change initiative. Maybe you were one of the project champions, or perhaps you just went along for the ride. Or maybe you were one of the resisters.
If you’ve yet to resist the change management strategies used at your association, try thinking of someone who did. We all know those people — and many of us have been in their shoes. Remember your struggle to embrace a new system? To unlearn everything you knew?
If you’re leading the change this time around, it may help to understand what your team is thinking upon implementation of new software or processes.
What Might Employees be Thinking?
- “It’s too complicated.”
- “Been there, done that.”
- “Does this mean more work for me?”
These feelings are common. I’ve even said a few myself. But with the following change management strategies, your employees will feel less like change has been imposed upon them, and more optimistic about their future following the initiative.
Change Management Strategies to Help Deal with Resistant Staff
Provide “Safe” Avenues for Expression
When your association staff feels like change is being imposed on them, they may start voicing that displeasure with coworkers. Soon enough, a cloud of negativity hangs over the project, lessening its chances at success as the days go by.
How can you combat this form of resistance? For larger associations, try using anonymous surveys throughout the project to see what’s working and what isn’t. For smaller organizations, use one-on-one meetings to improve communication during the project.
Encourage Those Who Are Worried
The result of change is unknown, and that makes a lot of us uncomfortable.
To relieve some of that emotional discomfort and potential instability, repeatedly not just remind, but show your team that they will have your support. Demonstrate that this change is a group endeavor and that they’ll have all of the help they need along the way.
Engage With Those That Have Seen Initiatives Fail
Every organization has one or two long-time employees who have seen a change initiative crash and burn. Not only do they know why it failed, they know which change management strategies were used and why they were unsuccessful. These are knowledge experts! Ask them why the initiative failed, and better yet, what they’d do differently this time. And here’s an added bonus: you’re more likely to win over some possible serial resisters from the outset and build consensus.
Now that you understand the resistance to change and some change management strategies for success, watch the free webinar, “Change Management: Why Your Employees Aren’t ‘Buying’ It,” to hear my suggestions for training during and after change.
About the Author: Diana Glance is the Manager of Education at Protech. As a former college instructor, she understands the value of education. Her background as an employee and volunteer of several associations gives her a personal perspective as to the inner workings and needs of member-based organizations.