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Changes in companies are essential these days. Digital transformation, stronger markets and law amendments compel company owners to carry out change processes in the company as well.
According to Richard K. Streich, change processes go through 7 phases, all of which involve different reactions from the employees and, therefore, pose different (communication-related) challenges to managers.
Phase 1: Shock
The challenge: The employees are surprised by the sudden change. Their reactions are diverse, ranging between a lack of understanding and fear.
Communication tip: Managers are advised to communicate clearly and in a comprehensive way. Avoid contradictory messages.
Phase 2: Rejection
The challenge: Change requires the adaptation of established processes and the existing work culture. What is familiar is lost – everything new creates uncertainty.
Communication tip: Managers need to create willingness to change among employees. Explain the background to the changes and the positive impact.
Phase 3: Rational Insight
The challenge: The employees understand that changes cannot be avoided. However, they still lack acceptance of the changes.
Communication tip: Stay in touch with the employees! Inform them regularly about the progress of the changes and also announce first accomplishments.
Phase 4: Emotional Acceptance
The challenge: The employees begin to reorient themselves. The process of saying good-bye to the “old” starts as does reorientation.
Communication tip: Appreciate the past. If you “talk down” the past in this phase, you will create new resistance. Trust in the further development of the company.
Phase 5: Learning
The challenge: New processes are established, and mistakes are made. A temporary loss in performance is inevitable.
Communication tip: The employees need their settling-in period. Encourage the trial & error process and facilitate development.
Phase 6: Realisation
The challenge: The learning process has its first visible effects and positive insights support the change process.
Communication tip: The level of performance must now be raised again and the settling-in period the employees were granted must be completed. If the pressure increases, the employees will be at risk to revert to old working methods. Make it clear that this is not an option.
Phase 7: Integration
The challenge: The new structures are established.
Communication tip: Observe the daily work process. Offer support and celebrate achievements through commendations and/or company events.
If you follow the phases of Richard K. Streich, you will have a good roadmap for how change process can be accompanied. The biggest challenge still remains, however: You need to be aware that not all employees will be in the same phase at the same time!
If for no other reason, this is the result of the company hierarchy and the fact that communication from company owner to the executive board, the managers and the employees takes place at different times. For example, while one group is already in phase 3 (rational insight), the other group is just being informed about the changes and is going through phase 1 (shock).
A change process should therefore also be accompanied individually, considering the single stages of the various groups. I will be happy to support you!