Managing Resistance to Change
In this blog post, I would like to underline how to go about managing resistance to change. As a trainer and therefore, the person on the ground during a change initiative, I am usually a prime target for directing resistance. Having experienced this in the past, I aim to highlight the methods and approaches Netpremacy use when dealing with resistance in a project.
It is important to have a plan of action for managing resistance. This will help to mitigate the impact of resistance on a business change and ensure a smooth transition between the old and new processes. Resistance is a natural human reaction that stems from the fear of moving into an unknown future state. It is, therefore, the role of a change manager to identify and address resistance, as well as get the right people involved in managing this on a personal and individual level. Poor change management can directly influence resistance, so in order to avoid these change management activities need to be at the heart of a project.
Resistance management and change management come hand-in-hand
Proactive change management is key to dealing with resistance. Training and communications activities are essential for many reasons:
To communicate the need for change, the effect it may have on people and the benefits it will bring in the future.
To expect certain obstacles and tackle them head-on in advance of the switch (for example, by creating MythBusters, FAQ’s, custom use cases, and many more).
To ensure people have all the knowledge they need to feel comfortable and confident with the new way of working.
Motivating and engaging employees through visible executive sponsorship and general support from management serves to create a burning platform and encourage positive emotion towards the change (see blog post on the importance of executive sponsorship). This can then be captured and leveraged to further spread the excitement and purpose.
Another aspect of change management is to expect resistance and empathise with the difficulty to adapt to new ways of working. There will always be a strong tendency to revert back to old ways, especially with deadlines and time constraints. It is normal for people to “quickly do something the old way” because it’s easier and they don’t have to think about it. Making yourself do something alien or unnatural and sticking to it is very hard so it is up to the change manager to facilitate the new processes and communicate the short and long-term advantages.
There are 3 steps to formally addressing resistance:
1. Identifying the resistors
2. Give them a part to play
3. Understand why they resist
The types of resistors that you frequently encounter are people who either have a strict routine for certain processes, are the ones who put the old processes in place, or already have heavy workloads and anticipate even more work as a result of the change. For example, in a typical G Suite deployment, those who are usually resistant to the transition are typically heavy spreadsheet users such as the finance department and PA’s because they have a unique way of working (with mail and calendar delegation).
Initial communications, such as a scoping survey that gauges how people currently work and what attitudes they have towards the project, are normally the first means of targeting resistance. In the first instance, you should pick out the people who are in favour of the change as these will help to spread excitement and positive energy around the organisation. Then, identify those who raise concerns about the change and get them involved in the project. Doing this will make them feel more in-control of the change and therefore, it will seem less scary because they are driving it. Taking this proactive (rather than reactive) approach to resistance management will help to reduce risks to the project rollout.
There is also a trend in the root causes of resistance that should be taken into consideration when understanding certain user groups objections.
Firstly, a common reason for resistance would be the lack of awareness. This is where clear and concise communications are vital to ensure complete transparency of why the change is happening, how it will be rolled out and when each stage is going to take place (see blog post on impactful communications).
Secondly, people are often afraid of the effects to their current and future job role. Employees sometimes feel that they may become less efficient at their work after the change, leading to the fear of job loss. Effective and engaging training gives these people the knowledge and ability to continue with daily operations, and floor walking allows trainers to provide one-on-one support to those still struggling (see blog post on effective and engaging training).
Lastly, another reason for resistance could be bad experiences in the past. As mentioned above, implementing change into an organisation requires visible support and commitment from managers. Without this, there are no apparent advocates of the change and so no-one pushing the project on the inside.
Assign resistance managers
Getting the right people involved from the start to combat resistance will facilitate the change management process. These people will be well respected to help push positivity and influence innovation.
Senior leaders are in the perfect position to enforce the need for change. If they devote time to the project to demonstrate their commitment, employees will value their input and opinion.
Middle managers represent leadership within the organisation already and are the closest figures of authority to employees. Being openly supportive and advocating for the change will motivate employees to follow suit.
Appointing these resistance manager roles can not only reduce negativity towards the project but also minimise ongoing resistance once the project has come to an end.
Having a plan for managing resistance is an important aspect of the change management process. From the early stages of a project, there are many factors to consider for managing resistant user groups in a proactive manner.
First of all, standard change management activities should be as strong as ever, especially if there are already high signs of resistance.
Then, an understanding of who is resisting and why is required to address resistance upfront by making them a part of the change.
Lastly, resistance managers from inside the organisation drive the positive need for change during the project and the increasing desire for innovation in the future.
Click here, for more information on how Netpremacy can help with change management for your business.
Training and Change Coordinator
The key to delivering effective and engaging training
A brief introduction to myself: my name is Fraja Hodges and I am one of the Netpremacy Training and Change Coordinators. After nearly two years of being a trainer, I thought it about time I put our training practices down on ‘paper’ to give you an insight as to how we at Netpremacy engage our audiences in training so as to provide them with the best possible support during any form of change initiative.
Training is a critical part of the change management process so it is important that it be delivered to a high standard. If learners leave the session feeling frustrated or confused, this can encourage a negative look on the product and the project as a whole. Inadequate training can lead to “bad-mouthing” of the product from trained users to other employees causing resistance and complaints. For big projects like a G Suite deployment, we are often completely uprooting daily procedures and making a huge difference to their whole working life that relies on these IT systems and technologies. A trainer’s role, particularly for, in this case, is to be not only motivating to build up enthusiasm and project energy into the session, but also inspiring in order to boost credibility and encourage innovation. With all the above in mind, I aim to explain the methodologies and approaches we apply to training here at Netpremacy and reveal our best practices from basic etiquette to the structured rules we embed into any form of training session.
Our Training Methodologies and Approaches
At Netpremacy, we make use of a range of training methodologies and approaches to ensure our audiences are fully engaged throughout the whole training session. Firstly, we apply the “Intro” model to kickstart our training, which is an acronym for Introduction, Need, Test, Range and Objective. Each of these components help to set the scene for training and can be delivered in any ordered. An Introduction to yourself as the trainer as well as the company you work for and their role in the project is a given, providing transparency from the offset. It is also vital that you allow your audience to introduce themselves, not only so that you can gauge who you have in the room (for both levels of seniority and departments) and what their concerns may be, but also so that you give them chance to talk, making the communication two-way. The Need for change is the most essential component of the “Intro” structure as it emphasises why they are there and why the change is happening, providing them with both a clear purpose for the change and burning platform for the product. Test their knowledge of the products to help you further understand your audience and tailor the training to best suit them. It might be that you have someone in the room who has previous experience or is already an advocate, which you can use to your advantage during the session to facilitate learning. The Range serves to inform your audience of how long the session will take and roughly how it is split up. In this section, it is good to set expectations of what the session is (ie. in-depth/focused training on a specific topic, a certain level (advanced, intermediate or beginner), a practical or demonstration-based session) and what the training covers (ordered agenda). Lastly, telling your audience the Objective of the training gives them something to work towards in the session and ensure they are fully confident when they leave that they achieved this.
Secondly, we like to follow the “Pose, Pause, Pounce” approach when delivering training. This relates to testing your audience: pose the question, pause for while, and if no-one voluntarily answers, pounce (it’s a good idea to remember at least three names from introductions). The attention span of a typical audience lasts about 7 minutes before you run the risk of losing them, therefore, it is important to make your session as interactive as possible. By asking questions, you are giving them a reason to listen and absorb the knowledge you are providing them, so that they can apply this when responding. Instead of making statements such as “This is what it does”, we try to convert these into questions: “Does anyone know what it does or can anyone guess?”. Don’t be afraid to pause long enough for someone to pluck up the courage to answer; people have a tendency to relate silence to awkwardness and will usually try to fill it, but if that fails, you can always follow by pouncing.
A trainer’s best practices
There are two stages to our best practices: the first is trainer etiquette and the second is a set of high-level rules to remember. Starting with etiquette, although not part of the training, this can directly impact your audience’s mindset and mood from the offset. If you give off a bad impression before you’ve even started your session, they will have that at the forefront of their minds throughout the training. This stems from looking unprepared or unprofessional, contributing to your credibility (or lack of). To get the audience on your side, from when they step in the room to when they leave, we have adopted this simple routine: (1) arrive early. This gives you time to properly meet your hosts, get ready for training (ie. log onto the WiFi and distribute handouts) and greet people as they walk in. (2) bring all the necessary equipment. You will most likely need to charge your laptop at some point during the day and you may even need to bring adaptors to connect to their resources. Making sure you are prepared for the day, gives your audience a sense of relief knowing that they are in safe and capable hands. (3) dress smartly. The key is familiarity, so understanding the organisation’s culture helps with finding that happy medium between professional and approachable – we have found that ‘smart, but not overly imposing or formal’ tends to tick all boxes. (4) leave the room the way you found it. The audience will be pleased to see you respecting their working environment, so if you’ve moved any furniture for training purposes, be sure to reposition these and take any rubbish away with you. These points may seem obvious, but I think they are greatly underestimated considering just how much of an impact they can have on your audience. They are an important aspect of a trainer’s best practices and are the epitome of the saying “minimum effort, maximum effect”.
In terms of the actual training, there are few rules of thumb that we deem essential to delivering a successful and engaging session. One of the most important to remember is that there are no “stupid” questions. A lot of people won’t speak up and ask for help through fear of looking a fool in front of their colleagues. It is, therefore, our job as a trainer to create a comfortable environment (or safe zone) where the audience feels confident enough to participate and ask questions. With this in mind, trainers should liberally praise those brave enough to speak up. So, you want to ensure your audience feels at ease, but you don’t want them to relax too much; otherwise, you may end up losing them to the classic early-morning tiredness or post-lunch coma. To combat this, you should utilise your space; if you’re stood up and moving around, you keep their eyes and therefore, their attention on you at all times. Rather than use your mouse, get up and point to the screen, or better yet, get them to.
To round up a training session, referring back to the objectives you outlined in the introduction helps provide your audience with a sense of satisfaction. They can clearly see that they have achieved what you wanted them to know by the end of the session, and if they haven’t, this gives them the chance to say so. Using a competency scale is a great way of ensuring that your audience feels confident enough to start applying their new-found knowledge as soon as they get back to their desks. On the flip side, it also allows you to identify anyone who is still struggling and may need one-to-one assistance. The closing of the session should then always be a recap of the next steps and the direction of immediate and long-term support.
There are lots of elements that can contribute to effective and engaging training from proven methodologies and preferred approaches to our best practices (built up and carried out by the Netpremacy Change Management team). In summary, a trainer needs to remove barriers to create a comfortable and informal environment for training, as well as leave space for interactivity to make the session as exciting and digestible as possible. These two main training streams, supported by the “Intro” model, the “Pose, pause, pounce” strategy, and various rules of thumb and etiquette as discussed in this blog post, are the key to an engaged audience and a successful training session.
If you would like to find out more about the training we offer here at Netpremacy, please check out our training page.
Communicate change, celebrate success: How communication can impact attitudes towards change.
A little about me
Firstly, I will introduce myself. My name is Francesca Clarke, I am a Training and Change Co-ordinator for Netpremacy Ltd, a Premier Partner of Google. I started this role after leaving the corporate banking world where I witnessed first hand the blunders that are often made during a change in a business.
In my previous role, I was heavily involved with training new starters and managing change projects. I found keeping the attitudes of others positive was an uphill struggle as systems were constantly changing with inadequate change management. This encouraged my passion for helping companies and individuals to understand the importance of managing change.
During my time at Netpremacy Ltd I have led numerous change initiatives and been part of too many to list all by name. Last year I had the pleasure of working with a particular customer whose goal was to implement Google Drive across the organisation within the space of two weeks. This was a challenging piece as time was of the essence, but by not sacrificing communication we had an undeniable success. We had great support from the customer as they understood the importance of communication in overcoming negative attitudes towards change. With great executive sponsorship and a willingness to be open, honest and empathetic to different skill levels the project was a triumph.
Understanding human reaction
Change management can and should be acknowledged and implemented through all aspects of life. ‘The change curve’ is a useful tool in understanding the human reaction to change of any kind; showing the different stages that people go through when faced with a change in any aspect of their life, it can also be used to understand why we act the way we do in both personal and business change scenarios.
The important thing to remember is that this is not a linear process. Whilst going through the curve, setbacks can happen and you may find that individuals or even entire companies can move back and forth through the different stages.
The following scenario is one that can easily be avoided when a company ‘Goes Google’: John works in a finance department that has always used Microsoft Excel, they have just been told that from now on they are to use Google Sheets. John has never used Google Sheets before and has not received comprehensive training or floor walking to help him through this change. John still has to meet his deadlines and has been left to struggle to meet these deadlines whilst using an unfamiliar product. John will probably have very strong negative feelings towards the new tools as a result of a lack of change management, therefore heavily impacting his productivity.
If John had been kept informed through communications, training sessions and post training support, this could have been avoided.
Taking these small steps could help someone feel confident and comfortable with change and eventually lead to this new product being integral into how the company works to achieve the goals of the project.
Working in change management, it is my role to orchestrate a plan that will guide people through these stages, prevent these setbacks and most importantly provide the correct guidance and support.
Keeping the change curve at the front of our mind, communication should be a present and persistent concern throughout every stage of a project or change. However, if you are thinking about executing a project without proper communication… This is a dangerous game to play.
How communications can make a difference
Communications are the lifeline of any project, they have the power to maintain the levels of positivity needed, stop incorrect information making the rounds and encourage individuals to be proactive in their own learning. It has been well documented that 70% of change initiatives fail. To measure how successful a change initiative is we examine the goals of the project and see if the change has achieved these goals. These goals should be explained and emphasised through communications to raise awareness of the desire for this change and how to achieve them to ensure success.
Ensure to choose the correct Executive Sponsor to deliver these communications. For example, if you are running an IT project the communications should not be coming from someone in IT, instead they should be coming from a well known face of the company. C-level management work best to stop the all involved from believing ‘it’s just another IT project… nothing to do with me’. (To find out more on the importance of Executive Sponsorship click here).
Another big faux pas is underestimating who needs to know about a change in the business or organisation, a change in the company. Everyone needs to know about any change – even if it will have a seemingly insignificant effect on their role, as even the smallest effect on someone can lead to negativity and this may have a domino effect throughout the company, leading to a failed change initiative.
Getting the word out
We are fortunate that in this day and age we have more available channels of communications than any generation that has come before. We should not limit our information distribution to merely emails and monthly newsletters, as you will find most people within a company can ignore these or at most skim read them not absorbing the important information often contained within them.
Today businesses have multiple internal communication channels at their disposal…emails, texts, letters, leaflets, posters, table stands, banners, internal communication platforms, public websites, videos and animations are just a few of the methods for little cost or none at all. So long as what you’re putting forward is eye catching and transparent in it’s content you can use any and every channel available. As part of Netpremacy our change team have delivered weekly broadcasts direct to users to brush up on useful hints, we have created corporate and fun animated videos to spread the goals of projects, used products at the customers disposal to create an open forum for sharing useful information, celebrating success and congratulating colleagues on achievements… but we can’t give away all our secrets!
As a customer facing trainer I have seen first hand the issues that arise from a lack of communication, for this reason when we take on a project the Change Management team and I will always ask which communication channels the company uses. If I am given more than two channels to use from the customer I am about ready to jump for joy, and let’s not even get onto how happy I become when I am told by a customer…“We have a great in house communications team.” This is the dream of anyone who specialises in change management, as from the start the customer already understands the importance of change management in any project and communications in general.
The need for a customer-driven focus on communication is essential in tackling opposition to change in the workplace. You will find that the strongest resistance can come from the most unsuspecting places, for the smallest of reasons. So facing this early in a change project is an absolute must!
One last thing…Empathy
Try to put yourself in the users shoes and explain in simple language. Never assume that anyone has any previous experience with what will be introducing. If you use jargon you run the risk of excluding people and this will cause a lot of issues that communications are designed to prevent. The idea is to remove boundaries and hierarchies and instead give those who would usually shy away from change a reason to embrace it and become an evangelist.
If you have any questions on the topic of this blog post or a general question contact us.
Blog post written by Francesca Clarke, Training and Change Co-ordinator, Netpremacy
The Secret Ingredient in Change: Executive Sponsorship
My name is Fraja Hodges and I work in the Training and Change Team at Netpremacy, a Google Cloud Premier Partner. Having seen first-hand how important the role of an Executive Sponsor is during a time of change, I was inspired to write a post on this specific topic:
We recently worked with a company who were looking to implement a social collaboration platform in order to “connect the unconnected”. Their extremely proactive CEO, who acted as Executive Sponsor in the G Suite deployment, strongly contributed to the overall success of the project. His general enthusiasm and eagerness for the transition motivated his employees, especially upon seeing that he ‘practiced what he preached’, communicating via Hangouts and Google+, rather than email. Working with us as a partner meant they had all the advice they needed on-hand. We were able to identify exactly what needed to happen and how, namely analysing key use cases and broadcasting a unified, focused message.
When a company decides to make a change – whether this is a deployment of G Suite, Zendesk, LumApps, RingCentral, etc. – the ‘why, what, when, how and who’s must be relayed to the end-user so that the project is completely pellucid for everyone to understand and trust in. These include why this is happening, what exactly it will entail when it will take place, how it will be rolled-out, and lastly who they can contact for further information and support. This should help to prevent resistance, anxiety, and confusion from the offset. As per the Netpremacy Change Management Methodology, at the start of any project, we ensure that an Executive Sponsor is nominated to act as the face of change. This blog post explores the part played by an Executive Sponsor in a change initiative and their significance to the project.
So, what does being an Executive Sponsor actually mean?
The role of an Executive Sponsor is best untaken by a senior member of the project board, often the CEO of the company. The reason for this is that they are a respected, authoritative person who can aid in promoting change management and supporting the project from the perspective of the organisation’s strategic goals. They are a key decision-maker in the deployment, with the control over people and resource needed to finalise the best approaches and practices for their company; as well as a catalyst for change to get the ball rolling. It’s important for them to have a vision of what the change will bring to be able to identify objectives, outcomes, and measures. This, in turn, will create and emphasise a ”burning platform” – or absolute need – for the transition.
Executive Sponsorship usually involves a number of responsibilities when it comes to organisation-wide announcements and communications (see more about the importance of communications here). The elected sponsor is the one from whom end-users should receive any information and updates to do with the project, and is the internal presence that provides a sense of familiarity during such times of change. They are usually a big (if not sole) focus in the elevator pitch – this is the initial announcement and a direct message to all employees from the Executive Sponsor on the reasons and benefits of going Google. It typically includes the end goal and vision for the future, as well as the project roll-out plan and impacts on users that the move may entail. Their named sign-off on communications and senior position build the initial sense of urgency for this transition on an individual, personal level, as well as an organisational one.
What else makes for good sponsorship?
One of the top contributors to success for change management initiatives is active and visible Executive Sponsorship. All organisations look to their leaders in times of difficulty or uncertainty to be strong supporters and lead the way – this is no different when it comes to times of change. Senior leadership provides the credibility to maintain and articulate a clear and attractive vision for why the change is necessary and therefore, increase the impact of the messages received by the end-user. Likewise, their overall line authority gives them the ability to directly confront resistance in order to clear a path to success.
The Executive Sponsor will align the organisation’s infrastructure, environment and reward systems with the change, allowing for performance to be measured and managed accordingly. Having somebody well-known and influential celebrate project successes is meaningful to the end-user and encourages innovation long after the deployment has come to an end. This also emphasises that this is not just an IT project, but a complete cultural transformation (see here for a great blog post on how G Suite deployments underpin the journey of cultural transformation within businesses).
What are the risks of poor sponsorship?
Using an influential, senior person in the company for communications, means end-users are more likely to open (and actually read) the information they include around the project. Let’s face it, you’d pay more attention to an email from your CEO, than you would from someone in IT that you may not know! Additionally, when you see an email from your CEO, you immediately assume it’s content is important – otherwise, why would they spend their valuable time writing it?
As established beforehand, an Executive Sponsor should have authority and credibility. Without this, there is less of an incentive for people to co-operate and little sense of urgency for the transition. Visible senior involvement helps to avoid push-backs and delays of the project, as well as portray the change as a “burning platform” because their internal position brings value, urgency, and priority to the project.
I hope that this post has highlighted the roles and reasons for an active and visible Executive Sponsor in any form of change initiative. Not only do they boost employee engagement and promote the importance of change management, but they also have a direct effect on the success of the deployment as a whole. Having the right people involved and providing transparency throughout the project creates a purpose and a visual plan for the transition.
If you have any questions on this topic or for Netpremacy in general, please feel free to contact us here.
Blog post written by Fraja Hodges, Training and Change Co-ordinator, Netpremacy