In the modern workplace, there isn’t much that doesn’t fall under the heading of “change.” When organizations have to respond quickly to shifting market conditions, changing regulations and rapid advances in technology, employees can feel like they’re in a constant state of flux. Organizations need to continually adapt and adjust in order to succeed.
For Generation X, whose coming of age was laced with uncertainty, change isn’t necessarily a negative. If an organizational change will solve a known problem or lead to an improved future state, pragmatic GenXers are likely to get on board. Perhaps even more importantly, they’re able to share the vision, get buy-in and support fellow employees through the change. Many GenX managers find themselves initiating change or implementing change, depending on the type of change and where they might fall on the org chart.
When the vision is yours: initiating change
Whether you’re a CEO developing a new strategic plan for your organization, a department head looking to improve productivity or a team leader who wants to modify a process, the steps are similar.
- Build a compelling case: Resistance to change often comes from two places: 1) uncertainty of the impact of the change, or the employee’s role in it, and 2) prior changes have failed to deliver the intended results. This means as a leader and an initiator of change, you’ll have to do a fair amount of convincing. It’s worth the effort. Tap into that GenX pragmatism and help your people understand why the change is needed and highlight the benefits of the change. Get them to envision a future state where the problem is solved.
- Seek feedback and input: Good leaders are self-aware enough to know “they don’t know what they don’t know.” Bringing stakeholders to the table to weigh in can uncover potential blind spots and improve upon existing ideas. Additionally, seeing their input considered and even implemented will help stakeholders buy into the vision and become your champions of change.
- Develop your communication strategy: Organizational communication is a tough issue on its own. Tying it to a change initiative raises the stakes even higher. Err on the side of overcommunication, using specific examples on how this change will allow the organization, department or team to better deliver on its mission. GenX managers—resist the urge to use email as your primary communication channel. Talking to people in person allows them to ask questions and feel heard, and may be an efficient way to work through some issues before they arise.
Being a change agent: implementing change
Okay, so it’s not your vision, but you are expected to provide leadership on implementing a change. This is a very common role in change management and is not without some potential complications. Some things to remember:
- Visibly support the change: That natural GenX skepticism is good for anticipating future problems, but can be a barrier to getting the necessary buy-in from others. Visibly supporting a change doesn’t mean ignoring potential pitfalls. Those can be acknowledged—perhaps even solved–while still getting people to focus on the goal of an improved future state.
- Realize the importance of your role as a leader. Strong leadership at all levels is one of the most important factors in change management. According to a recent survey by Eagle Hill Consulting, 94% of employees who were happier after a change said that their manager was a role model during the change. What you say and what you do matters.
Leading people through change can be a daunting task. Even seemingly small changes can have an impact on how people perform their day-to-day work. But done carefully and thoughtfully, change management can ease people through the necessary transitions that will allow an organization to improve.