Jill Shuman
May 27, 2021 --

Mitigating The ‘Cost’ of Internal Change

Cost of change blog image

Change is crucial for all organizations. It’s also inevitable. Change requires adjustment—not just from the organization in the forms of money or time, but from the employees who will adapt to the changing workplace. Whether it’s a move to a new office location or the adoption of new software, the onus is on employees to tap into their personal resource reservoirs and invest cognitive or physical energy to learn new information and change their behaviors. 

While plenty of senior executives thrive on change and get bored without it, most people struggle with it. They may resist it or even fear it. If you try to introduce a change without effective change management, you’re much less likely to implement the change and see the results and outcomes you want. The fallout could be lost investments, decreased employee engagement, and increased turnover.

It’s crucial to involve employees at every stage

It’s important for managers to map out the steps necessary to prepare employees for planned changes and to involve them as much as possible in every step of the process. Because mindset affects behavior, helping employees feel involved in and prepared for the change is key to creating a culture that succeeds in implementing a strong strategy and the necessary tactics for execution.  

3 roadblocks affecting employee reaction to change

  1. All change requires investment. Every change, no matter how seemingly insignificant, requires employees to tap into their resource banks and drains corporate change capital. Try and implement changes that will ultimately improve the organization or employees’ jobs.
  2. Recognize the cumulative cost of change. Employees must adapt to many changes beyond those identified as planned change initiatives. Prioritize, sequence, and coordinate changes throughout the organization to reduce or offset the cumulative change cost to employees.
  3. Ensure change is perceived as positive. Employees need to feel that the changes they are asked to implement are worth the resource investment. Show employees how the change will positively affect their current resource pool to ensure a positive change perception.

Communicate honestly and strategically. And do it often.

Industry data suggest that organizations with effective change and communication practices are three and half times more likely to significantly outperform their peers. Communication isn’t new to organizations, and many have departments dedicated to this crucial task. 

That said, when communication occurs in the context of a change, simply stating facts isn’t effective. To help individual employees successfully navigate a transition, communication must be focused and structured in specific ways. 

Use sequential messaging 

Consider intentionally and sequentially releasing messages into the organization. These communications should be designed and deliberate and delivered over a defined time frame.

Answer questions upfront 

An effective communication plan first answers questions related to why the change is occurring, what it means to individuals, and allows time for employees to respond. When employees know a change is coming but don’t know the answers to their questions, they tend to assume the worst. Lack of communication early in a project can result in misinformation and rumors, which can be devastating to the project. This misinformation can breed resistance and can build large barriers to overcome later in the project lifecycle.

Unfortunately, only 50% of change projects are initially successful and only 25% are likely to be successful long term. Industry data suggests that the companies that focus on communication, training, and employee involvement in change planning are the ones most likely to sustain successful change.

Learn how the Scientific Information Center at Boehringer Ingelheim successfully engaged their employees in implementing a major change to their legacy literature management solution—in collaboration with Papers.  

 1 Change and Communication ROI Study Report.  Towers Watson, 2014.

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