Helping Businesses Manage Change and Employee Mental Wellbeing
As leaders and managers thoughtful planning, effective communication and employee engagement can help your people to explore and deal with changes in a psychologically safe way.
If we look at change through a safety lens, we’ll see that implementing any form of change can be difficult and stressful to negotiate and the impact can be even more unsettling for employees managing mental health issues.
So, what can you do to support effective change in your business?
- Set the expectations
- Recognise and celebrate previous practice
- Create a compelling vision
- Be specific
- Listen and engage
- Connect with past successes
- Create milestones
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
- Be supportive
The Impact of Change:
Any change, whether to an employee's role, the working environment or the company’s processes and procedures, has the potential to cause stress. This pressure can be overwhelming, especially when an individual is also dealing with mental health issues.
Let’s start by looking at the impact of change through a safety lens. It’s important to identify the challenges, barriers and pitfalls and consider an approach that best supports employee performance, loyalty and buy-in.
Adopting the right approach can benefit any employee, but for those with mental health issues, it can be the difference between a manageable level of adjustment and an extremely difficult transition.
Supporting Employees During Change:
Set the expectations - Let your team know that continual improvement to the work environment, technology, equipment, processes, or their own skills and abilities will be expected and clearly outline their role and responsibility in helping achieve this. This starts at induction or orientation and continues as part of ongoing training and during regular conversations between you and your team.
Recognise and celebrate previous practice - Remember to recognise the good work that was done under the old system. In an effort to "sell" the change, employers will sometimes dismiss or minimise any successes of the past. Failure to celebrate these may leave long-standing employees feeling unappreciated or demoralised. Acknowledging their accomplishments under the previous system is likely to leave them open to new possibilities.
Create a compelling vision - Presenting an honest, positive, accessible and compelling vision of the intended outcome will help your team see a picture of what the workplace will look like when the change is completed. Use words and images to tap into the logical and creative parts of the brain. This will help create a compelling vision, increase understanding and acceptance and minimise the apprehension that comes from uncertainty.
Be specific - Give content and context to inform them about why and how the change will be implemented. Share as much detail as possible about the intended timeline and steps of the change. State known challenges and concerns up front to show you understand their reality and acknowledge any added issues, queries or objections they raise.
Listen and engage - Openly discuss potential pros and cons of the proposed changes so your team feel part of the change process. Once you understand the fears or concerns expressed by your team, you can make resources available and take the necessary steps to address them. If possible, work with the people who will be affected to jointly look for solutions.
Connect with past successes - Link the change to previous, similar, positive changes. Reminding employees with words like “You have done this before and you have been successful,” can help reduce anxiety in times of change.
Create milestones - Break the change up into small, incremental steps. If possible, give time for each step to be completed and adjust as necessary. Be supportive and appreciate that people will travel along the change curve at their own pace.
Repeat, repeat, repeat - For changes such as new processes, technology, work functions, etc., it can be helpful to give people the opportunity to try out the change several times so that it becomes part of the day-to-day routine. Patience is inevitable as it can take some time to embed a new habit.
Take a look through your safety lens and make a difference between a manageable level of adjustment and an extremely difficult transition by helping your people to explore and deal with changes in a psychologically safe way!