How to Incorporate Empathy in Leading Organizational Change | If your organization is rethinking its current business strategy, the process will require a lot of organizational changes. To make this happen, you have to ensure the whole workforce is supportive of these new measures because without their cooperation, the change efforts won’t be successful.
In Singapore, the SMRT Corporation conducted a low-key reshuffle of its senior management last 2018. The transition was a smooth one, thanks to the full cooperation of its entire workforce. The change management involves Seah Moon Ming, who assumes a full-time role as SMRT Chairman. Since he took over, many saw how he played an important role in changing the company’s organizational culture.
Undergoing a change management effort can be a tricky one without putting empathy first. The workforce involves various personas, so it’s important to consider everyone’s feelings before undergoing a major organizational transformation. In this article, we’ll talk about how leaders can incorporate empathy in leading organizational change.
Use an employee-centric approach
Employees get so involved with their process or anything they have created gradually or contributed to the organization, whether on an individual level or a team. That’s why it’s considered a big deal if you tell an employee to change their process in a different way. They may interpret this as a criticism of their work. Although it’s a small change, adapting to new processes involves a lot of cognitive and mental work.
The traditional form of change management begins from a service perspective. It is based on a universal, transactional approach of implementing a new framework without considering the employee’s feelings or sentiments. This method prevents leaders from adapting an employee-centric mindset, which loses their ability to think using multiple perspectives or considering user sentiment.
When leading organizational change, leaders should strive for approaching situations with an emotional component. This way, employees can easily accept and deal with change in their own way. Through empathy, you fuel connection in the workplace, which promotes a sense of belongingness and community. Since community encourages change, this inspires everyone to develop new, positive habits.
Create an audience persona
Change consultants often advise leaders to profile the personas of their audiences when planning to drive organizational change. Since people’s needs and wants evolve from time to time, it’s important to revisit these personas at every step of the process.
The first step to creating audience personas is to map out the key segments of the workforce by function and level. Then, interview each employee by segment to determine their perspective on typical mindsets. When conducting the interview, make sure the questions are designed to unravel their feelings, concerns, questions, and beliefs about the organization’s current strategy. You may ask if they have recommendations they hope the management would make.
Once you have gathered the insights from the interviews, this will determine the perspective of every employee segment towards the change initiative and what they feel about it, whether they’re frustrated, frightened, or excited. From there, you can draft a communications plan on how you will discuss the change effort with reluctant groups.
As the organizational change unfolds, you will enter different phases of transformation. This requires you to repeat the interview and the listening process. That way, you monitor how employees feel about it and modify your communication strategy according to their opinions.
Keep everyone up to date
Poor communication affects change management efforts. This is why managers should ensure a clear, frequent communication strategy when leading the workforce through change.
Nothing can stop office rumors, but your HR team can do something to ensure everyone receives the same information simultaneously, leaving no room for rumors and fake news. Change can be hard for everyone, so when they suspect something, misinformation will start flying.
Once the management has decided on its change initiative, set the right timing to discuss the new developments, even if there’s no plan in place yet. Emphasize that the management welcomes questions and suggestions. Encourage people to coordinate with the HR team for any clarification. Keeping everyone involved and updated will give you an idea of how your workforce is responding to your change efforts.
The more informed employees are about the upcoming changes, the more prepared they will be to deal with them. Acknowledging and understanding their fears and doubts openly makes people feel valued and heard and helps build trust and credibility.
When leading an organizational change, it’s important to get everyone involved as early as possible to prepare themselves and be comfortable with unexpected changes. As you move forward, make sure to lead with empathy and maintain continuous communication.