“New year, new me!” We hear that phrase countless times at the start of the year. And many of us are already enthusiastically embracing our new year resolutions.

Companies are no different. Every year they ignite new initiatives, set ambitious goals and targets; they plan for change. But what is often forgotten is employee expectations of any change. But why is that important?

Statistics show 70 per cent of organisational change fails when business leaders – even those with the experience and skills to oversee change – do not possess enough emotional intelligence to factor in employees’ engagement.

Engaged employees are loyal, trustworthy, they give their all. Without their support, any organisational change will be on the road to failure: employees will feel left out of the process, experience lower morale, resulting in reduced productivity, increased staff turnover, and a loss in profits.

This is because change triggers doubt and fear, even for the most engaged employee. Remember, resistance to change is a natural reaction, not just for a naturally negative employee, but for all employees who fear a rise in their workload and responsibility without a rise in pay.

Those leading the process need to persuade employees that change is essential for both the company and for them. They need to replace fear with team motivation, which only happens when the whole team is on board, convinced and committed to the plan. So a persuasion process should always be factored into any change plan.

Employees will engage if they feel they own the process too. New initiatives need to be transparent, so it is clear what the business transformation process will lead to. And not just from a financial perspective. Employees need to know what is in it for them. What the impact will be to their day-to-day work. Transparency instils trust.

As does building a culture of clear communication and open feedback, which is fundamental to foster engagement. Employees want certainty, they want to be sure that what they are going through is for their, as well as the company’s best interests long term.

Regular team meetings are essential to show employees the whole company is ‘in this together’. This can increase enthusiasm and reassure employees most resistance to change. As will informal meetings set up to deal with any problems employees have during the process. Leaders need to show they care.

One-to-one meetings also help. Discuss with each employee individually what they do well, what they enjoy doing, factoring this into post-change duties. And explain face to face why the process is happening and why it is good for the organisation. Be prepared to listen, show support and appreciate feedback.

This may also be the ideal fora to reinforce positivity. Positive attitudes also contribute towards convincing people that the transformation is for the best.

Leaders ultimately need to be patient when implementing a change management plan because it is a shift in culture. This is not a process that can be rushed. It is one that needs key metrics to be set from the start to measure performance in relation to the objectives, goals and targets. All your employees should be made aware of what these metrics are, and regularly updated.

And remember: when successes come, even if initially small, celebrate them with your team. Every step of the way.

Maria Zahra is managing director of SurgeAdvisory and has over 14 years of    human resources and business advisory – including change management – experience.

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