The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Change Doesn’t Have to Be So Scary!

Not too many people jump up and down with excitement when they hear change is coming down the pike. After all, it’s human nature to be comfortable with the things you’re familiar with and fear the unfamiliar. So how can we ease minds when undertaking change initiatives in our institutions? How can we bring our campus community on board? How can we turn fear and uncertainty into acceptance and engagement?

According to Gill Hemus of Manchester Metropolitan University and Ian Cheetham of University of Bath, it’s all about empowerment, education and inclusion – in other words, not only keeping employees in the loop, but also giving them an active role to play in the change process. In their CUPA-HR annual conference session “Turning the Tide: Innovative Approaches to Changing Negative Perceptions About Change,” Hemus and Cheetham provided an overview of their institutions’ approach to change.

Manchester Metropolitan University’s Change Academy
A few years ago, MMU found itself at a crossroads: continue on in the way it had been operating for decades and face stagnation, or make some real changes that would enable it to compete in the future. Not surprisingly, it chose change (around service efficiency and effectiveness, decentralization, budget devolution and more). Also not surprisingly, faculty and staff were concerned about what this meant for them and their jobs. To address these concerns, MMU created a multifaceted staff engagement strategy. And out of the staff engagement strategy came the Change Academy.

MMU’s Change Academy was created to provide employees who are interested in transforming and improving their area of responsibility with ideas, tools, techniques and the support of colleagues to help facilitate those improvements. The Change Academy is a true bottom-up initiative, developed and led entirely by staff. The Academy offers toolkits and resources, networking and learning events, mentoring opportunities, and a supportive, collaborative space for change agents to grow and develop ideas.

University of Bath’s Change Management Toolkit
University of Bath embarked upon a change management strategy after results of a staff engagement survey showed that employees had negative perceptions of the way change was communicated and managed on campus. Looking to move toward a more emergent, collaborative approach to change, human resources created a change management toolkit and embedded change management in management development and training.

The toolkit and training address five key steps of change:

#1: Determining the need for change (triggered by ongoing business analysis, changes to external conditions, identification of new opportunities, etc.).

#2: Developing a case for change, including options, risks and resource implications.

#3: Communicating the vision for change and presenting a compelling narrative that sets out how the new situation will be better.

#4: Developing a strategy and plan for change and having clear project management procedures, accountability, objectives and timelines.

#5: Managing the change process, seeking tangible benefits, and embedding new systems, processes and cultures into everyday activity.

As a result of their increased focus on change management, both institutions have realized increased employee engagement, less resistance to change, increased staff satisfaction around change initiatives, and many other tangible and intangible benefits.

Is your HR organization helping employees embrace change? What types of change management strategies have you employed? Have they been successful?