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The 7 Secrets of a Successful Change Management Strategy

Changing people's habits is always tricky. You think you're a flexible person, open minded, ready to change to get the best results, right? Then try a little experiment. When you go home tonight to your wife or husband, try to change the side of the bed on which you sleep. It's almost impossible to sleep as usual.*

Now think about change in business. How can organizations manage change in order to improve and reach specific business targets? How can the HR department deliver the new model to employees and ensure a smooth transition? Let's summarize the best practices for change management.

1. Explain why change is happening. Whatever the reason for business change, formalize it for your employees. You are asking them to modify their behavior, but people resist change because it means effort and personal investment in moving from a safe, secure, tested position to uncertainty. Why should they do it? What's in it for them? Prepare some clear points with the benefits for the company and employees. The reasons must be concrete and understandable, so make sure the message has been properly communicated and accepted.

2. Create a sense of urgency for the change. After explaining the reasons behind the change, create a sense of urgency that leads people to take action and start modifying behaviors. What are the consequences if I continue working like I've always done before? Why not start next Monday (together with my diet) instead of now? Creating a sense of urgency means that people understand they can't postpone—they have to change, now or at a planned point. All employees must realize the decision is final.

3. Let recognized leaders be change agents.

In every organization, there are leaders, whether they are formally recognized as bosses or are informal leaders or opinion leaders. If you want to be successful in changing the mind-sets of people in your organization, work with those who have influence to find the best way to get to the target.

4. Start with a quick win. The best way to show the benefit of change is to find a way to get the earliest result. The first positive achieved objective can be the way to engage more people and to let them be more confident about the overall picture. Use your leaders to create the quick win, announce the outcome to create sense of commitment, and then go on to finalize your plan.

5. Involve people and manage resistance with engagement.

Collect feedback and share the benefits of the change even if there is some resistance—that's normal. Keep on engaging your employees, ask them for feedback, understand their needs, and organize informal discussion groups with formal and informal leaders, giving them the opportunity to be an active part of the change. If people feel they are not victims but actors in the new scenario, they will react in a more positive and open-minded way.

6. Utilize user-friendly tools. Social networks, mobile devices, and touch-screen apps are seen as easy ways to communicate and share. So why not use this technology to support and sponsor internal changes? If you want to engage more, think of adopting gamification as part of the plan: create contests, make your employees play around with the changes, give an award to the most creative person, and give visibility to those who best represent the change strategy. A bottom-up approach can make the transition smoother and more welcome.

7. Do everything with passion or don't do it at all!

As an HR leader, you have the opportunity to implement change together with your top executives. Do it with a passionate and deeply committed approach. Your passion will be noticed by others and influence them, creating a sense of belonging. It will make the difference!

*Taken from a story that a customer shared during a meeting with us.

A version of this post originally appeared on Dec 14, 2014

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