10 Surprising Ways to Get People Comfortable with Change

Even when people realize change is inevitable, it doesn’t make it any easier for them to adopt new ways of working. Resistance is common simply because it’s a natural emotional reaction when being asked to do something completely different.

But that doesn’t mean ‘change’ has to remain a dirty word at your organization.

The following change management, design and communications ideas may come as a surprise, but I’ve personally seen them help increase adoption rates during large-scale transformation initiatives.

1. Create and share employee (or customer) change journeys

Understanding the process of when and how employees (or customers) deal with changes will enable you to identify the day-to-day frustrations that need to be directly addressed.

Mapping out a Day in the Life of someone, or just observing how they use a new platform or tool, reveals the environmental triggers that can be leveraged to help people learn new ways of working.

2. Let people ask questions — anonymously

Q&A sessions with senior leaders are a great idea— but some people don’t feel comfortable asking questions in front of groups or putting their name to a specific concern.

Giving people an option to submit anonymous questions using tools like SurveyMonkey before an online or in-person forum (or using the anonymous feature when brainstorming with online collaboration solutions like MURAL) will help bring real issues to the surface — and give people the confidence that it’s not just a ‘marketing exercise.’

3. Include features people will actually use (!) in skills training

I’ve seen people who didn’t want to use a new platform or tool — until they realized that they can instantly bring up files on their cell phone during an important client meeting.

Make sure your training aligns with people’s real-life pain points.

4. User test your content and resources

I’m always surprised that more internal communications specialists don’t do this, especially since it’s the norm now when creating external websites and marketing emails.

There’s no reason why you can’t ask people if the change program FAQs actually address their real concerns or if an internal online resource is easy to navigate.

5. Create peer-to-peer support forums

When undergoing change, people need ways to get advice and support from others in a similar situation.

Senior leaders are there to provide direction but when it comes to how people handle day-to-day issues, it’s always good to understand how colleagues are dealing with the change.

Online support groups or training sessions led by peer influencers can help people understand the real-life benefits of a new platform, tool or policy.

6. Develop a problem-solving mindset

This seems obvious, yet it’s still a novel idea for many organizations.

When teams encounter issues, ask them to use tools like Lean Canvas, or validate a hypothesis with real-time data so they can create their own prototype solutions for testing.

7. Integrate change metrics into HR initiatives

Make change something that people are accountable for in their one-on-ones — for both people leaders and employees.

In addition to quantitative change adoption scores, consider adding questions like ‘Can you tell me about a specific change that you needed to adopt and how you succeeded?’ in all of your interviews and reviews.

8. Encourage new daily habits

Asking people to make big changes overnight usually fails.

People are better equipped to implement small changes into their daily routine, helping to create new habits over time. This makes big changes seem less daunting — and much more achievable.

9. Reconsider your organizational design

People who identify with a title will be incentivized to ‘work their way up the corporate ladder.’ People who identify with a skill set are more inclined to ensure that how they work aligns with current trends.

If your company cares about staying relevant and competitive, I think it’s obvious which is the better choice.

Whether it’s a flat structure or just aligning role titles with the skills required to do a job, you’ll shift the focus to the type of training and up-skilling so badly needed right now as opposed to ‘getting promoted to the next job title.’

10. Create a proactive change culture

Constantly exposing people to new environments, tools and challenges will quickly reveal how individuals react to change — enabling you to create more proactive change strategies.

Have a different person lead meetings every other week, get people to spend a day in another colleague’s shoes or challenge teams to brainstorm about ways to implement a new policy or digital tool.

Or even better — adopt agile ways of working across the entire organization.

Rebecca is a change communications thought-leader and former Fulbright Scholar to Australia. She’s worked across digital, organizational and compliance transformation programs and advocates for integrating UX and human-centered design thinking into change communications strategies. At home this past year, she also learned how to make her favorite foods from scratch and logged more than 1,000 miles walking through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

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Rebecca Cressman

Rebecca Cressman

I help people and businesses transform how they work. Change communications consultant, former Fulbright Scholar to Australia and design-thinking advocate.