How to Help Employees Cope With Workplace Change

Person changing blocks from saying 'chance' to 'change'

Workplace change can be really hard for employees to cope with.

In fact, in a recent survey, the American Psychological Association showed that workers undergoing current or recent workplace change were far more likely to experience chronic stress and suffer health issues. In turn, they were also more inclined to distrust their managers and resist change. 

So what can companies do to support their employees through difficult transitions? 

In a recent HR HotSpot webinar, “Surviving the Emotional Rollercoaster of Change,” Jennifer Bouman Steagall, founder of Red Kite Employment Law and HR expert, shared three constructive strategies managers can use to help their teams handle workplace change.

How to support employees through times of change:

  1. Communicate openly.
  2. Help your employees see the bigger picture.
  3. Be empathetic.

Watch her full webinar here:

No time to watch? No problem. We’ll provide some insight and share a few strategies to support your staff through change in the workplace. 

3 tips to help your employees cope with change

1. Communicate openly.

The more informed your employees are about the change you are implementing, the smoother it is likely to go.

That’s because information diffuses fear and prepares people for change. Lack of knowledge makes it worse. Jennifer astutely observes, “In the absence of information, we make up our own story, and it’s not always a great one.” 

If you want your employees to handle transition well, communicate early, and often. As soon as you’re able to, tell your workers about the change you are implementing. Let them know not only what’s going to happen, but when and how. 

Share even the hard truths with your team. By showing transparency, you will build trust, ease your employees’ worries and help them prepare for what’s coming. 

If your staff is well-informed and well-prepared, they are far less likely to resist change. They might actually be excited about what’s coming. Or at the very least, they won’t feel blindsided by it. 

2. Help employees see the bigger picture.

Your employees will be more inclined to accept change if they don’t just understand how but WHY it’s happening. 

Take some time to walk them through the reasons this change is necessary. Then, explain how it will be helpful in the long run. If possible, try to highlight the new opportunities coming out of it. 

If you are implementing a company-wide restructuring, is it creating new avenues for growth? New positions and/or job opportunities? Are some employees going to get chances to move departments or get trained in a new area? 

Even if the change is as simple as replacing an old machine with a new, unfamiliar model, don’t discount your team’s need to understand why you are introducing it. Is it going to help streamline their process and make things faster? Is it going to make them safer? 

Make sure your staff sees why they should put up with the initial effort and discomfort of adjusting to a new situation. Not only will your workers be more inclined to accept the change, they might even become advocates for it. 

3. Be empathetic.

Once you’ve explained how the change will work, and why you are implementing it, it’s also important that you provide your employees with a space to react to it.

Give them a chance to express themselves, ask questions and voice their concerns. You might be able to supply answers that reassure them. If anything, you will show them that you are listening and that you care.

In addition to increasing your employees’ trust in your ability to implement change, you might also get valuable insight and hear concerns you hadn’t thought about. They might help you think about your plan from a different angle, or see possible issues down the line. 

Opening up the conversation will go a long way to ensuring a smoother, more painless transition. 

All in all, helping your employees manage change in the workplace comes down to establishing an open channel of communication and giving them reasons to accept the change you are implementing rather than resist it. 

If you prepare your employees, help them understand the benefits of change, and listen to their concerns, it will take far less time for them to adapt.

When possible, allow for a short-term drop in productivity and employee engagement. Keep in mind that it can take a while for things to properly shift into place.

Want more tips to handle workplace change? Watch Jennifer’s full webinar!

And if you’re looking for more tips on how to interact with your employees, here are two helpful articles to help you create the best possible workplace environment: 

How TERRA Can Be a Resource 

TERRA Staffing Group is a leading staffing agency, headquartered in the Pacific Northwest. We work with many companies across a variety of industries in the Seattle-Puget Sound, Portland, Phoenix, and Denver metro areas.

Our monthly HR HotSpot webinars provide guidance, solutions, and best practices for HR professionals, managers and business leaders.

These free webinars feature insight from industry experts on a wide variety of timely workplace topics. Subjects include: handling workplace change, talent engagement, communication, diversity and inclusion, HR advice, and more. 

If you find yourself needing staffing support, don’t hesitate to reach out to TERRA. Our expert team is eager to be a resource to you.

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