Exploring the reasons for this failure, other research suggests that change management programmes tend to focus on the technical, procedural and operational aspects of change, with the impact on employees often being underestimated and unmanaged.
As a result, many employees emerge from a change process feeling disillusioned, betrayed and demoralised.
This is not only detrimental to the individual, but inevitably impacts on the performance of the organisation. Change readiness is therefore recognised as a crucial factor in a change initiative and the first step in implementing a change initiative, should be creating a state of readiness for the change (Self and Schraeder, 2009: 171).
Change readiness is defined as ‘…organisational members’ beliefs, attitudes and intentions regarding the extent to which changes are needed and the organization’s capacity to successfully make those changes’ (Armenakis et al., 1993: 681).
There are five dimensions of readiness for change – discrepancy, appropriateness, principal support, efficacy and valence:
- In terms of discrepancy, employees need to understand the difference between the organisation’s current state and the organisation’s proposed change state and the reasons for the change and that the proposed change is necessary.
- Appropriateness follows on from discrepancy, with employees believing that the specific selected change strategy is the appropriate solution.
- Principal support reflects the employees need to know that both internal and external leaders fully support the proposed change. Support for the change should not only be seen from the formal leaders, but informal leaders as well.
- Efficacy refers to the confidence to successfully change. This applies to employees having confidence in the ability of the organisation, as well as the confidence that they are personally able to successfully change.
- Valence asks the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ Employees need to know that they will not be worse off as a result of the change, that they will be treated fairly, and that there will be personal benefits for them, in implementing the change.
Research focusing on employee readiness for change, was conducted within the Western Australia State Government’s local government reform programme, examining how this change was being communicated. The findings of the research provide practical insights for management practitioners.
- Management should consciously plan to ‘ready’ employees for change.
- A detailed motivation for the change should be provided, including detailing a compelling vision, and demonstrating why the proposed change is the right solution.
- Employees take cues from the organisational leadership, who therefore need to clearly show their support for the change through practical action steps that promoted active participation and communicate key details of the change, and clarify expectations and time-frames. They also needed to free up time and resources to give the change the priority it deserved, including providing appropriate training
- The potential personal benefits need to be highlighted, without making false promises. Simultaneously, employee fears and concerns should be acknowledged and addressed in a fair way, thereby providing employees with much needed reassurance.
Employees are central to the performance of the organisation. Giving attention to these softer aspects can translate into successful change and tangible improvements in results.
[This article is based on Vicky van Heerden’s mini-thesis entitled “Local government reform in Western Australia: A case study on change readiness”, and was supervised by Professor NJ Pearse).
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