You can train for change in changing times

Change is rarely a one-off event. It's going on all of the time - and we all need to deal with it effectively.

Written by Suzanne White
Published 14 March 2014
You can train for change in changing times

Successful companies make it their mission to be large-scale "agents of change." They never stop innovating, because their markets never stand still. In this sense, change is good for these businesses - but is it good for their people? In this post, we'll look at some steps that you can take to help people cope with a period of change.

Get to the heart of fears

Resistance to change is the biggest challenge for any learning and development professional during a change situation. It frequently exists as a result of fear, which is often quite justified. After all, change can mean layoffs, budget cuts, loss of prestige or responsibility, altered reporting lines, new channels to market, or shifts towards other territories. Plus, change processes are often conducted by consultants who are considered to be "outsiders". You can't blame someone for asking, "What does this guy know about my job? Why should I listen to him?" Change can create discontent on a continuum from mild dissatisfaction to total resistance. But, negativity on any level can spell disaster for an organization: it can place a stranglehold on employee performance, and it has the potential to hit profits hard. Approach a change process with this in mind. Get to the bottom of people's fears as soon as possible, and alleviate them, manage them, or feed them back to senior decision makers, so that they can take appropriate action.

Listen first, then act

Training goes wrong when it tries to gloss over what's really happening, or when it's seen as a superficial box-ticking activity that has no lasting benefit. So, use what you hear from employees as a basis for your learning program. You need to listen, respond to people's fears with support, and develop training that's based on what you've heard.

Aim for transparency

The most successful change processes include - rather than exclude - employees. This means adopting a strategy of reciprocal communication, and tailoring training opportunities based on this. Aim to bring consultants, trainers, and content designers into the center of the change process. This way, learning is given dedicated space, time, and focus. Discussions can be freer, more transparent, and more relevant as a result. You'll find that training will resonate more strongly with your learners if it is tailored to their needs. They'll also feel supported and respected.

Think: engagement

As you'll know, the most successful training fully engages learners. So, you should resist any training plans that don't involve an employee engagement strategy. To engage people in learning, first remove the barriers to engagement, such as lack of time and resources. Then highlight how learning will have a positive effect on both people's short-term work, as well as on their long-term objectives, including their life goals. Importantly, highlight how training will help people deal with change. It's also useful to get buy-in from managers and other influential people, so that their enthusiasm can "rub off" on others. You'll want to engage the leaders in your organization too. Sometimes, this can be as simple as pointing out the consequences of an unhappy or untrained workforce. Initially, look for examples that you may have encountered at different levels of your organization. The beauty of real business examples is that they're directly linked to performance, which, in turn, is linked to revenue. During any change process, leaders will want to mitigate risk while maximizing profit. So, aim to demonstrate that a targeted training initiative will not only address fears -it will reduce risk as well. This way, you'll be addressing both the present and the future.

Change is continuous

The most effective organizations embrace change as a continuous process, and they reward employees who are creative enough to cope with ambiguity in the workplace. This can create a work culture that's adept at handling change. Even if you can't bring about a wide-scale cultural change, you can still reinforce the idea that change is part of everyday life at work. It's an inevitable aspect of business, and, as an L&D professional, you can do a lot to support the change process. In particular, you can represent people's realities - including their fears - to leaders, and design a learning process that genuinely focuses on people's needs. 

About the author

Suzanne White

Suzanne White

Performance and Development Manager
Suzanne has been working in the Client Success team since 2013 in a variety of roles, including managing client accounts and managing the team itself. Most recently, she has been focusing on ensuring the team delivers a top quality, consistent service to all clients in her role of Client Success Quality Manager. She has a real passion for L&D and also has two lively toddlers at home that keep her on her toes.

You may also be interested in…

Are your people too busy to learn?

Is “I’m too busy to learn,” a common phrase you hear in your organization?

May 2023

Read More

10 things managers should never say - and what to say instead

Do you think before you speak? See our roundup of the top ten things managers should never say to their team members. And tips for what you should've said.

March 2023

Read More

How to create a culture of feedback

When’s the last time someone praised your work? Or shared an idea that helped you crack a problem you’d been chewing over?

February 2023

Read More