By: Liz Sheffield
To implement effective change, a business must have a work environment that is ready for such change. Without change readiness, the chances of a change being successful are slim to none. Several elements are essential to creating an environment where the right change can thrive.
First, start by considering the question: what is change management for our organization? Before you can determine if you’re ready, you’ll need to know what type of change you’re considering, as well as the extent of that change.
Then you can ask: what does readiness mean for us? That’s a difficult question to answer because readiness is a subjective state. However, generally speaking, readiness refers to the preparation levels of people, systems, and organizations. How ready are they to carry out the required actions? Change readiness requires assessment, thorough planning, adequate training, and assurance that the necessary people and systems are in place.
An executive or leader may think an organization has a high level of change readiness. Still, given the subjective nature of change, it’s wise to conduct a readiness assessment for change to confirm those assumptions about change are realistic. A readiness assessment allows you to get a pulse on the organization as well as collect data about where readiness gaps may exist. As such, it’s an integral part of how you approach employee satisfaction and how you implement meaningful employee engagement solutions.
Tips For Conducting A Change Readiness Assessment
Some organizations are small or nimble and can implement change without much effort. For these groups, change is the norm and, as such, it’s an organic part of how they approach business. For a variety of reasons—size, industry, organizational structure, past negative experiences—other organizations struggle with change. In these businesses, they reach a point when change is necessary for growth, but resistance makes it difficult to implement necessary changes.
The ability to assess the organization’s readiness for the change helps identify what change management methods should be used as well as any additional effort required. There are five key elements that change readiness areas to evaluate: leadership, cultural, organizational, system, and employee.
To start examining readiness levels of each of these elements, answer these questions:
- Leadership readiness: Are leaders invested in and supportive of making a change? Why or why not?
- Cultural readiness: Is there alignment between the organizational culture and the proposed change? Why or why not?
- Organizational readiness: Does this change meet and support the organization’s strategic agenda? Why or why not?
- System readiness: Can the organization’s existing systems and processes make for a successful transition? Why or why not?
- Employee readiness: Do your employees possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to adapt and build upon this change? Why or why not?
It goes without saying: any “no” answers to the questions above require further digging. But, the “yes” answers do, too. A “yes” answer provides you with a foundation upon which you can rely as you address the areas where readiness may be a struggle.
How to Use the Answers to Readiness Questions
Sure, answering these questions can be a one-person activity. An HR director can use their answers to these questions to take action. However, an even better approach is to ask multiple people to answer these questions–executives, managers, remote workers, and employees. Depending on the change proposed, you can send the questions to your entire workforce as a survey within your employee engagement platform.
If you have time and capacity, consider hosting focus groups in which you can ask these questions and follow-up in real-time to understand others’ perspectives. Casting a wide net helps you get a good representative of the various groups and interests in your organization and how they feel about upcoming organizational change.
Polling a more extensive group will enable you to understand if there are areas of the organization that are ready and others that aren’t. Assessing readiness for change and involving employees in change management is also a way to encourage employee empowerment. These methods help employees feel included in decisions rather than feeling imposed upon by upper management.
Honoring the Importance of Readiness
If nothing else, the concept of change readiness illustrates that change is not a simple process. As Machiavelli is quoted as saying:
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
It may be that your organization cannot continue unless you implement the desired changes. In that case, you still need to assess readiness. If you enter a change management process without some sense of the reaction, impact, and response it will create, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Even if you must march forward, pause long enough to evaluate and assess.
Change readiness is an essential form of risk assessment that adds long-term value. As part of the change process, it allows you to resource programs and projects properly, to implement change successfully, and perhaps most importantly, to build the necessary commitment to success and resolve resistance before it becomes a severe problem.