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Understanding the Human Side of Organizational Change

25. July 2018 14:53

By Christine Corelli, IWF Atlanta Conference Speaker          

An abundance of manufacturers and woodworking businesses in this industry have gone through mergers, acquisitions, consolidation, restructuring, downsizing and other sure-fire methods to ensure business survival over the past few years. One thing is for sure. Even the economy is growing and many businesses are thriving new strategies and methods of doing business will continue to take place in the foreseeable future.

In today’s business climate, we are faced with new competitors who are emerging—many from non-traditional sources with new business models. Customers are more cost-conscious than ever and have even higher service expectations. Today, it’s all about the “customer experience.” Technology is changing so rapidly what we have is quickly outdated. We have been saying we are now a “global” economy since the early 90’s, but today we are truly global.

Overall, smart businesses are raising the bar for performance, implementing the latest technology, striving to deliver the highest level of customer service, and changing the way they do business.

These are just a few changes executives and business owners are making in their businesses today. But change implementation brings challenges.


  1. The implementation of new technology can cause chaos in an entire company. Many managers have told me their people struggled for two months with their new business system and didn’t have a single day without frustration when it was first implemented.
  2. In this industry, few people working in showrooms have had any type of formal sales training. They may be proficient in cabinetry and design but many lack critical sales communication, and relationship building skills. Some are even uncomfortable when striving to open a dialogue.
  3. When a merger or acquisition occurs, dealers tend to be more focused on the financial and marketing aspects of the merger and fail to conduct due diligence on their respective corporate cultures. Far too often, the “merging” of the cultures into a single entity gets put on the backburner. Employees will be concerned. Will their sales people be better than us? Whose systems or procedures will they use? Will there be “US vs “Them” mentality? Who will get what position? Will I have a new boss? What practices will be integrated into the new company? Will I still fit in? Will conflict occur?
  1. When there is a change in policy sales managers face the challenge of finding an approach that their sales people will accept if the policy change is something their customers will want to hear. Sales people tend to have two motivators – money and recognition. If they are concerned with a change that will affect either of those the result will be an unhappy sales force.
  2. When a decision is made to establish a branch in another state or country it was not done without careful thought. Yet, making it work is indeed a major challenge. What will the employees be like? Will they have a strong work ethic? Will it truly help us to increase revenue and profitability? Who can we relocate to manage the operation and make it work?

One of the most important facets of leadership excellence is the ability to implement changes necessary for business growth and profitability as smoothly and quickly as possible.  Understanding “the human side of change” is important. As you review the following stages that exist for most businesses, during organizational change, think of the people in your company. Do these sound familiar?

Five Stages Most Human Beings Experience During Change

  1. Resistance

Some people, especially those who are like doing things the same way they’ve always done them may resist change. You can recognize resistance easily as the individual will complain, withdraw, or suddenly become unsupportive. There may be loud or whispered vocal protests. Some may tell you they will “do what they have to do" to keep their job, but underneath it all, they are unhappy.

While this stage can be very frustrating, be aware that it's often part of the normal process people go through when confronted with major change. The reason is that human beings are basically creatures of habit. They like doing things the same way.

  1. Uncertainty

Many individuals will be uncertain about their ability to do what has been asked of them. They may be concerned with whether they will be able to produce and deliver and may be having difficulty with new skills they must learn for sales or new technology. Worse, they will worry about their jobs. Some will express uncertainty and negativity as to whether the changes that have been made will really benefit their department or company. They may feel unconnected to what is happening around them.  They may be experiencing stress symptoms - physical, emotional or mental that are attributed to change.  If the individual does not receive strong support and help from their immediate manager, it can take far longer to get from Stage 2 to Stage 5.

  1. Assimilation

If change is implemented effectively, you will begin to recognize that people are beginning to incorporate the changes that you have made, you will recognize less resistance and uncertainty, and application of new skills, or processes they are beginning to apply.

  1. Integration

When you see people beginning to work more productively integration is taking place. If you have the right people on your team, you will see your top performers come forward with ideas on more effective ways of doing things.

Many companies are guilty of underutilizing employees' suggestions and ideas and are not taking full advantage of them.  Great ideas are generally the collaboration of many ideas, generated by many people.  There are great ideas by people in the field and in every job-role, but you won't know unless you ask for their input and ideas. If you don’t your employees won't feel as if they are part of the change; they'll feel more like victims of change.

  1. Acceptance – Higher Performance

When your people have accepted the changes that have occurred and have implemented the changes you will see an increase in productivity. If you have done it right, you’ll also see an improvement in morale. The key is to move them to this stage as quickly as possible.

What You Can Count On:

The world has changed. Business has changed. It will continue to change. All businesses and individuals will have to adjust to what will occur.  And we will have to make changes in our companies as we move into the future.  But no change initiative can succeed without the complete support of your employees. 

How to Implement Change Successfully

Gather Your Troops to Communicate the Reason for Change, Your Direction and Goals.

Be sure everyone understands the vision of where you want your company to go and why. Make them a part of the change process so that they assume ownership. Explain that changes such as a reorganization, creating a High-Performance Culture, using a new HR software system, acquiring another business, or implementing new technology are necessary in order to remain competitive and to continue to grow. Communicate values, management goals, and direction to every level of the company: "With the new culture we will create, we will strive for excellence in all we do. Whatever it takes, we are committed to helping everyone adjust to the changes. It may take time to adjust, but I'm counting on each and every one of you to do your part you to make it happen."

Encourage Acceptance and Help Them See Positive Opportunities At The Onset.         

Speak in terms of positive outcomes. Encourage support, and make employees feel a sense of excitement about themselves and the company as you grow together: "We will be more productive, and our success will benefit everyone. If everyone does their part, together, we can accomplish our goals. And as we move forward, we'll be the best company in our industry.

Let Your Employees Know Their Involvement is Mandatory and That They Must Be Solution Focused, Not Problem-focused.

Employee involvement is the key to managing change and creating high performance Ask your team for their ideas on how you can support each other. Ask them how you can help each other to ease the transition process. Many dealers are guilty of underutilizing the ideas and suggestions of their people when going through change, and do not take full advantage of their knowledge and experience. If employees are not involved, they won't feel they are a part of the change; they'll feel more like victims of change.  

Be Solution-Focused

"For every problem there is a solution," should be a motto in your company. As problems occur during change, many people will likely wait for management to fix them. That's why at the onset of change let your people know they are expected to help identify problems and focus on offering solutions. Changes rarely occur without glitches, so ask them brainstorm ways to solve the problems, especially those that will prevent you from providing flawless service. "I want each of you to come forward with ideas on how to improve productivity and provide the highest level of service to our customers so that we develop a reputation for World Class Customer Service

Ask for Accountability.

Ask your people to be accountable to each other for demonstrating teamwork, maintaining high morale, and giving their full support to the sales and product support teams. Placing an equal value on leadership, teamwork, professional behavior, performance, and accountability, you and your team will be able to provide better service to both customers and to each other.

Maintain Open Communication and an Open-Door Policy.

Open communication is important in every organization at all times, but it becomes even more critical during times of change. As you implement the change, consider developing a concurrent communication strategy to remind people what the expectations are, and the progress you are making in your change efforts.

Be in Tune to Difficulties Some May Be Experiencing

Recognize that most people fear change but it affects each one differently. Some will be more adaptable than others will. Many high-performers may enjoy being stretched beyond their present comfort zone, but others may be completely overwhelmed. You need to let them know you understand the challenges they are facing and your job as a leader is to help them through it. Keep your door open so people can come in to discuss any apprehension. Provide a comfortable environment where people can air their concerns. It's normal for people to resist change, so the more patience you show the sooner they will adapt.

Ask how your people are doing. Listen, and encourage cooperation and honesty. Talk to that person who is coming to work with a chip on his shoulder. Ask what you can do to help. Encourage upward feedback from everyone on his or her attitudes, concerns, issues and frustrations that are related to the change.

Be a Role Model

It is up to you and your entire management team to maintain employee morale. Set the tone; be a role model and be an example for others to follow. Let your team know that you are there to help them through it. Be accountable for the attitude that YOU bring to your job each day and remind your management team to do the same. Remember this leadership rule:  Never let your guard down when it comes to your attitude.

Take the Time to Train

To thwart loss of productivity during change, you need to make sure your people have the necessary skills to succeed. Training must be seen as a top priority. The time you invest in training will eventually pay off in high levels of customer loyalty and increased profitability.

Stay Focused.

Remind yourself and your team to stay focused on the customer and on your competitive strategy. Here’s an acronym you might want to use.

Forward Thinking

Optimistic Attitude

Customer Directed

Urgency to Execute

Success as a Unified Team

Alleviate job pressure

Meeting the demands placed upon people during change requires managing job pressure for you and others. Laugh a little! Change may be serious, but people who have fun at work are more productive, provide higher levels of service, and are less anxious during change. Encourage an upbeat atmosphere and remind your employees to take it one day at a time.

You've heard the old adage “The only constant is change." Yes, change is inevitable, and necessary to create and sustain success in business today, but it doesn't have to be agonizing. If you make a conscious effort to help your people through change and implement strategies to ease the transition, you can build a build a better business.

© 2018, Christine Corelli & Associates, Inc.  Christine Corelli has had a distinguished 25 year career as an international keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and business columnist. She has authored business six books, including the best-selling, Wake Up and Smell the Competition. Her clients are characterized by Fortune 500 companies, major trade associations, and an abundance of mid-size and small companies. To learn more visit https://www.christinespeaks.com - To contact her for an upcoming meeting, conference or special event, call (847) 477-7376.














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