Better Relationships for Effective Change Management

Better Relationships for Effective Change Management

By Staci Hegarty, M.Ed.

70% of organizational change initiatives are unsuccessful. The workforce itself is undergoing dramatic changes in age, education, gender, race/ethnicity, and disability. More than 50% of jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet, with some estimates as high as 85%.

We are in the midst of the fastest, most significant period of change the global workforce has ever experienced. We are seeing people resist change ranging from subtle to unhinged. Others have adopted a “we have the means, let’s just do it and deal with the consequences later” attitude. The rest of us are left confused, uncomfortable, and uncertain, knowing that we need to prepare ourselves and are unsure how to do it. Change has arrived and we have a track record of doing it poorly.

If you are unfamiliar with the term “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, you are already behind. Get caught up here. . This is driving the most impactful changes, such as robotics, AI and machine learning. For now, much of this technology is still in its infancy for the average person. For example, AI is constantly generating human images with six fingers on each hand and much of AI-generated text reads like an essay written by a high schooler studying for the SAT. But this period of learning will not last long. We must be ready to adapt.

The changes are more than technological. In the US, women account for more than 56% of the workforce. People of color accounted for 100% of the workforce growth in the past five years (601 million jobs), while non-Hispanic white workers shrank by 817,000 during the same time period. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will reach the traditional retirement age of 65 and nearly 30% of the workforce will be Gen Z. 12.5% of Americans speak Spanish as their first language, a number that is growing.

Simply put, if it seems like everything is changing, that is because everything IS changing. Yet we know humans do not “do change” very well. We like our comfort zones. Yet it is possible to build a workplace culture that embraces transformation. The first step is to teach people HOW to change. Fear of the unknown is a shared human experience, even when the unknown is a positive thing. For example, bringing a new baby into your family is exciting but terrifying. Even if you already have children, the addition of another will fundamentally change the family dynamic. You won’t know exactly how that will happen until it happens, being open and flexible will make the reality less jarring.

To effectively lead your organization through change you must focus on your relationships. It seems easier to adopt the stance that, “I’m the boss, they need to do what I tell them.” But if this has become your go-to management technique, your team will struggle with new undertakings. For change initiatives to be successful, people need to have a greater understanding of the reasons why the change is necessary. Trust and open communication will give your workforce the freedom to ask questions and give feedback. Both of these things are a two-way street and are built in small ways every day. From something as simple as sincerely asking how someone is doing or remembering the names of their children, every time you have a personal interaction with a colleague you can either build your relationship or tear it down.

Before embarking on a change initiative, provide training on, organizational change management, active listening and conflict resolution to your entire workforce. These skills will allow for open communication between all levels of the organization and offer solutions for when disagreements occur. Envision RISE offers courses virtually, in person, and online. For more information on training options, contact us at