Whether change enabler or manager, it is our job to address employees' questions regarding the upcoming changes. And no, it is not primarily about the answers. It's also about being approachable, listening and taking employees needs and fears seriously. In order for your team to let you lead them through the change, they need two things: self-confidence and trust.
You need the self-confidence to successfully support your staff through all kinds of changes. And you can strengthen this through competence development and good preparation. So that you can prepare yourself well, I will provide you with the most frequently asked questions in relation to upcoming changes. This way you can already have answers ready.
You earn other's trust in you by how you communicate and how well you deal with your team. And this also includes dealing with difficult questions. If you know how to deal with difficult questions confidently and skilfully, you give your team the necessary security and orientation to deal with uncertainties. And so that you can succeed, I will show you exactly what is important. So let's get started!
Let's take a look at what questions are actually always asked during a change process:
1. Why does the change have to happen right now?
Mostly, major changes are due to external impulses. The moment a transformation is announced, top management has already spent months sifting through analyses and weighing the pros and cons. The aim is to avoid losing money (loss of market share), to hold one's own against the competition or to realise new opportunities for expansion. All this serves to secure the future of the company! So it may be that at this very moment the external influences have come to a head in such a way that it is necessary to react. Therefore, as soon as a decision has been made, swift action is called for! If you take too much time here, you will probably not have the desired effect later with the same amount of effort.
2. Why can't things stay as they are?
Nothing stands still. A company that does not adapt to the dynamics of the market and the world of work risks losing jobs and turnover, even going bankrupt. Well-known examples here are Kodak, Nokia, Texaco/DEA, Schlecker or Zündapp.
Auch wir Mitarbeitenden müssen den Umbau von Arbeitsplätzen mitgehen, um unsere Arbeitsfähigkeit, unsere Aufstiegschancen und unsere Zukunftsperspektive zu erhalten.
3. Why the rush?
Most employees are not in a hurry to change. They often don't even see the need for change, because everything was fine until now. The company was probably not transparent about internal problems and inefficiencies before because of fears about the external perception. This makes it even more difficult to understand the urgency. Help your employees to see what was not obvious before! What specifically was not working optimally before? How was it compensated for before? Why is that no longer enough? Only those who understand why the change is necessary and what impact it will have on you and your work can make an informed decision to cooperate! If the company forces its employees to change without them understanding the business reasons, it is similar to squeezing a rubber ball. It is squished for a short time, but as soon as the pressure is released, it returns to its old state
4. Will the change take care of itself if I keep quiet and just wait it out?
In most cases, a company will implement a change even if employees are reluctant. Financial success must be ensured and many changes ultimately lead to positive results for employees. However, the likelihood of success is higher when the company and employees are all in one boat. So if change is to be implemented quickly and in the best possible way, it is advisable to get involved. We can also demonstrate our skills and be recommended for future tasks. However, if we remain passive, we knowingly make ourselves a victim of others' decisions, which rarely leads to the best outcome.
5. What will this adjustment mean for me personally?
Change in a company can mean new ways of working, new systems or tools, new reporting structures, new areas of responsibility, new products or services, new markets or geographical locations.
How the change will affect us depends on what we are doing now, the extent of the change and the decisions we make in response to the change. This is where it is very important that you as a leader relate directly to the task of your team and to the individuals! Make change relevant to your team!
Give a framework of what is already clear and process information on how and when the other details will be worked out. Explain what your team can influence and how!
When change is implemented, everyone will be affected differently. The way we react to the change and the decisions we make will play an important role.
6. What choice do I have?
As a rule, each of us has the choice between being active and passive, leaving or staying. The best option overall for us and the company is, of course, to stay and actively contribute to the success of the change. If that is perhaps not welcome in the environment (social pressure) or not possible in terms of workload, we will stay and passively follow what happens. This brings a certain amount of frustration and anger because things are overlooked and solutions are chosen that we have a different opinion about. If we are only informed to implement, it shortens our own adjustment time and causes stress! Therefore, many choose to "nag from the 2nd row", but this has little impact and causes even more stress for everyone involved. The next-worst choice is "going passive", inner resignation. This is because in the long run this has significant negative effects not only on the company's performance, but above all on our health. In this case, "active leaving" is better. If we cannot cope at all with the upcoming changes, there are better and healthier options outside the company. Certainly, there are various factors to consider here. The bottom line is that a conscious decision and active action is a good choice.
7. What's in it for me if I support the change?
Three advantages can be realised by anyone who actively participates in the change:
- You are closer to the action sooner than others and thus often better informed. This gives you a head start in terms of time to deal with the planned adjustments and to form an opinion.
- Through your involvement, you influence HOW and what exactly needs to be adjusted. While top management sets the overall goal, feasibility and details are examined at the working level. YOU influence where it can be better designed for you and at the same time understand why, after consideration, certain other proposals cannot be implemented. This creates additional acceptance for the implementation.
- How you engage in the change process can positively influence your reputation in the company and among colleagues. The ability to constructively represent your interests and those of others is valued. Innovative, solution-oriented ideas that add technical and professional value are sought after. In addition, you will grow through the experience and be able to face the next adjustment - perhaps in a new position - with confidence. It therefore promotes your development and strengthens your job security.
8. What if I do not agree with the changes?
If you feel they are solving the wrong problem, offer your support! Make sure you know the whole picture and fully understand the business need for certain adjustments. Then get specific and voice specific objections or concerns. You can help illuminate blind spots and correct misconceptions. If your objections are valid, chances are they will be resolved. If you object to a particular element of the change because it might create problems elsewhere, inform the right people. If the implementation later does not take your aspect into account, the decision was at least made consciously.
9. What if we have tried this before and failed?
Past failures in change projects weigh heavily. There are two things we should do when dealing with them: What were the lessons learned from the past? Why did the project fail back then and under what circumstances could it have been successful? You can help to avoid the mistakes of that time! And secondly, it may be that the framework conditions for the issue have changed. On the one hand, this may be pressure from outside, on the other hand, the technical possibilities may have become better. In any case, the need for change and the possibilities may be re-examined in an unbiased way. Is there a way in which the desired goal can be achieved?
10. Am I expected to work more for the same pay now?
As a rule, changes are associated with additional work. Processes have to be analysed and adapted, collaboration and behaviours have to be newly agreed upon and learned. "Unlearning" the old is at least as demanding as learning the new. Presumably, there will be time for information, exchange and learning in addition to the daily tasks. The company-initiated meetings and feeds to the transformation will usually take place during regular working hours and will therefore be compensated normally. Occasionally there may be additional work. This must be considered separately in each case. It is also clear that the issues that affect us personally and directly also occupy us after work. Of course, this time is not compensated, but it is part of our personal growth and adaptation process.
These frequently asked questions and their answers serve as a basis and inspiration to prepare you for the conversation with your team. If you supplement them with the specific information related to your change, you should already be able to satisfy most of the questioners.
Another good tip:
If you don't have an answer to a question "yet", I recommend that you answer with the process instead of the content: "Yes, that is an important point. At the moment it has not been decided yet, but it is being worked on by.... We expect the issue to be presented in...weeks. As soon as I know more, I will inform you immediately."
Here, the process leading up to the answer and the timetable provide a safe enough framework to continue working with it. Your employees' expectation of this answer is now focused on a later date and you have gained space for the joint work. Of course, it is important that you keep your promise to keep your staff informed, because that is how you earn their trust!