4 Recommendations for Managing Change at Your Association

Managing change isn’t easy, but these four steps will set you on the right path.

By Diana Glance – Manager of Education    

We’ve all been there: a new boss brings with them new procedures, best practices and new business software, and we’re expected to learn all three simultaneously. Your business processes flip, your daily routine changes and you’re starting to feel a little less secure in your job. 

It’s likely you’ll either find yourself in that position again soon, or you’ll be the new boss managing change on an organizational level. In either case, you’re bound to sense a swell of resistance building around you. As you attempt to overcome that resistance, here are four best practices that can make navigating change just a little bit easier. 

#1 — Involve As Many People As You Can 

Transparency leads to trust, and 46 percent of employees feel a “lack of transparent leadership communication” at their organization, according to Deloitte.  

When embarking on any change initiative, be open and honest. Don’t make your team guess what’s going on behind closed doors. That speculation leads to rumors, which then create a cloud of resentment toward your change initiative. 

So, what can you do to slow down the rumor mill and tamp down the break room speculation? If you’re managing change across the organization, include some key stakeholders early and often, even if their department isn’t directly impacted by the change. Each department is part of the organization, so they should be part of the process. 

Involving employees in the conversation early — before deciding to make your proposed change without any input — will go a long way in cultivating a culture of trust and generating excitement about the initiative. 

#2 — Lead By Example & Be Positive 

If this is your change initiative, you should have no problem staying upbeat, realizing the long-term benefits will heavily outweigh the short-term headaches. Or maybe you’re a de facto change agent at your association who’s more or less acting on behalf of recommendations from the board of directors. 

If you’re the latter, initiating change can become a chore. But in either case, the amount of positivity you channel into the project will directly correlate with its chances of success. 

Don’t forget that your job is to acquire staff buy-in. Show your team that the project is important to you, otherwise, it won’t be important to them. 

#3 — Maintain Open Communications & Encourage Feedback 

After reaching out to all of your key stakeholders and maintaining an air of positivity, it’s time to involve everyone. 

The trick here is to tailor communications accordingly. For a general, high-level introduction to your project, a staff meeting would be great. But for individual, 1-on-1 information that isn’t need-to-know for the entire organization, stick to email. 

It’s also important not to forget that communication is a two-way street. When you’re looking for an honest status report from your team, try sending anonymous surveys using tools like Microsoft Forms, Survey Monkey or ClickDimensions. 

Regardless of your internal communication strategy while managing change, there’s one final piece of the communications puzzle that cannot be overlooked. As painful as it may be in the short-term, be open and transparent with your staff when there are bumps in the road. This is especially true when delays arise in the project (i.e. failure to implement a new online community for members before a promised deadline or issues with your new learning management software) could trickle down and be felt by members. Your employees are the people on the front lines when it comes to member interactions, so you won’t want to leave them high and dry when a member comes knocking with a problem. 

#4 — Track Your Change Management Successes 

As important as it is to be transparent with the bad news, it’s even more critical to share successes as the project progresses. 

Sharing incremental successes, however small, can encourage you team over time and help them see the light at the end of the tunnel. Celebrating success is particularly beneficial during longer term projects like enterprise software implementations or a sweeping overhaul to your annual meeting strategy. 

Final Thoughts on Managing Change

The key to any change initiative is getting buy-in from your team. Once you’ve done that, it’s really all about meeting deadlines and keep a line of communication open. 

With that said, you’ll always have a few employees who are still resistant to change. To help you cope, please check out my previous blog post, “Successful Change Management Strategies for Associations,” or click the image below to watch my change management webinar. 

About the Author: As a former college instructor, Diana understands the value of education. Her background as an employee and volunteer at several associations gives her a personal perspective as to the inner workings and needs of member-based organizations.  

Looking to learn more about managing change? Click the image to watch a free webinar.