How to Prepare Employees for a Management Transition
For smooth sailing, keep your team educated, informed, and included
Humans don’t tend to like change unless they can clearly see a benefit from it. It’s hard-wired into everyone to trust things, people, and methods that have been around for some time, and to be wary of any element which disrupts the status quo—and business is no exception. New faces in management will have to earn the trust of their team, build new relationships, and probably make and weather the consequences of a few unpopular decisions.
There are four major maneuvers in orchestrating a professional power shift. When they’re used in the management transition process, they demonstrate personal care for your employees and help smooth any bumps in the road.
1. Understand how organizational change affects employees
The first step is to see things from your team’s perspective by understanding the deeply rooted effects of change. The American Psychological Association (APA) 2017 Work and Well-Being study showed that half of all employees were negatively impacted by recent, current, or anticipated change.
Impacted how? Distrust, cynicism, decreased confidence, and skepticism took hold of many individuals who didn’t believe management was telling them the whole story.
Worse still, fewer than half of employees had any trust that changes made by management would be beneficial to staff. The APA study also highlights how to change negatively affected employee health and the quality of personal lives, plus created a feeling of job insecurity. This mix leads to resentment and disengagement, the latter of which can kill companies.
The good news is the killer can be killed by empathizing with employees during change and engaging in positive communication with your team.
2. Timing the announcement well is crucial
Discretion is the better part of successful communication during a transition. Letting employees know from the very outset (when many details have yet to be finalized) may seem like the right thing to do, but it can only add to unease in the absence of facts.
Hold off on letting employees know until the shift is set in stone. This provides the ability to solidly answer any question and avoid the dreaded “We don’t know.” Communication after finalization may not hold good news for every employee, but at least they’ll know where they stand and can make grounded decisions from there.
3. Include your whole team in the new vision
It’s clear that being transparent and receptive during an organizational change fosters trust among employees, and that’s a major deciding factor in not just the success of the shift but the business itself.
Last year’s APA report (page 7) highlights how nine out of 10 employees who feel they can trust their employer are motivated to do their very best at work. Compare this to the data that shows a lack of trust greatly increases employee stress and tension as well as causing a high proportion of staff to leave that company within a year.
A transition is a great time to elicit feedback from employees and to emphasize the pros while acknowledging the cons. As a manager, be prepared to explain why change is necessary and give everyone a safe platform to air the legitimate views, ideas, and concerns which can be productively addressed.
Keep employees in the loop regularly as the new normal is implemented, even if things stumble along the way. Silence creates a sense of exclusion and quickly becomes another form of stress.
4. Provide education, training, and tangible benefits
Two common employee fears during a management transition are coping with a change in their assigned role/responsibilities and the potential for an increased workload.
Again, humans resist change unless it’s demonstrably in their best interests. Provide educational resources and training in new processes. These may seem like they have the potential to cause new stress but managers should reassure employees that this information translates directly into increased value and new skills.
Ideally, an increased skill set makes a business more competitive and makes its employees a more desirable commodity, now and in the future. It shouldn’t be a hard sell, either—94% of employees say they’re willing to stay with an employer if they help them to learn new things. Change presents the opportunity to offer workers fresh challenges and new ways to progress.
Beyond those benefits, a company may see change as the right time to introduce well-implemented employee incentives and rewards. This approach works in two ways: It shows that a company values their team during a difficult time and reinforces loyalty in a period where many employees may be heading for the door.
These four steps are the bedrock of effective employee preparation for a management transition. For in-depth guidance on planning a successful transition and additional strategic business advice, reach out to Provident below.
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