Resistance to change is nothing new. Humans are generally averse to it and, in the current world we find ourselves in we are constantly being forced to change because of the pandemic and unrest.

But how does this translate into the workplace?

Helene Vermaak, business director at corporate culture experts The Human Edge says that one of the key elements to creating a winning culture is for organisations and employees to be agile, adaptive and embrace change.

“Now, more than ever, organisations need to build employee competence and moral as they influence behavioural change to help them adjust to an ever-changing working environment.”

A key role of any leader is to be able to influence people. However, Vermaak says this is not an easy task. She says that no matter how good you are at strategy if you can’t influence the people around you to accept and fully commit to the strategy, you cannot succeed. Quoting New York Times best-selling author Joseph Grenny, “There is no strategy so brilliant that people can’t render it worthless.”

Research has shown us that 705 of employees who are aware their boss is unhappy with their performance, can’t tell you what they are doing wrong or how they can change.  “Leaders need to be engaging with employees on a regular basis so that they can assess their resistance to change,” says Vermaak.

She provides the below tips for management to help encourage change amongst resistant employees:

Have the right conversation. You need to talk. But, not about the most recent change you want them to implement. Instead, have the larger conversation, which is about the pattern you have noticed. “I’ve noticed a pattern that when I bring up a new idea or change, you either don’t say anything when invited to or you say it won’t work. But you don’t offer alternative suggestions. Can you help me understand how you see it?”

Diagnose before you prescribe. Don’t just assume that you know why the person is being resistant. Ask yourself, “Why would a reasonable, rational person act the way they are acting?” Then, when you talk with them, ask questions that uncover the real reasons for their attitude and behaviour. Is it a motivation issue (they aren’t interested, they don’t like the change, they feel incentivised to do something else) or an ability issue (they lack skills, social support, or tools and resources)? It’s rare that someone is resistant for the ‘fun of it.’ There’s likely some reason, they just haven’t told you.

Find the right reasons. Don’t ask this person to adopt the changes for reasons that motivate you. It is a leader’s role to connect the new behaviour with something the individual finds motivating. Help employees see how the change benefits them and how it can help them achieve what they care about. Motivation sticks when it’s our own.

Vermaak says that the above tips can be applied in the workplace as well as in our everyday lives to help encourage behavioural change in those we love and ourselves. Equipping ourselves and employees with the skills to change will help them  realise their full potential.

Vermaak’s last recommendation is that management needs to take the time to get to know their team members. “At a time when so many of us are communicating via screens, you need to develop and maintain a deep connection with team members.”