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How to create willingness when your enterprise change has minimal employee benefit 

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It’s a new change initiative and you’re searching for nuggets of gold. Sifting through the details, you’re on the hunt for big or small benefits to adopting the change for customers, employees or any others impacted by change. Benefits that could make the difference between their acceptance, indifference and flat out resistance.

It’s human nature to more readily get on board with a change when there’s a WIIFM. With many change management initiatives, the benefits for users gleam bright. Some familiar examples include saving time, simplifying tasks or gaining access to better data.

But what happens when there doesn’t seem to a benefit at all? What if the change actually adds time, complexity or undesirable tasks?

Sometimes, the all-important “What’s in it for me” or WIIFM seems hard or even impossible to unearth. Over hundreds of change management projects, HR Transformations has identified practical techniques to dig out buried benefits and help the weakest WIIFM shine.

Client example: Marie Kondo-like approach to email management

In one recent client project, employees would soon be required to categorize every single email that came into their email box using a mandatory app. As you may imagine, not every employee was onboard with this Marie Kondo-like approach to email management.

Here are the strategies we successfully used on this project, and with other organizations, to build employee willingness even when there’s a weak WIIFM.

  1. Frame the why in the context of organizational objectives

The bigger picture story for change becomes more crucial when there are limited benefits. Soften employee resistance by tying the change to what’s important to the organization. Does the change support your strategic objectives or values, like Safety? We linked the change in email management directly back to our client’s focus on compliance and regulations, ultimately in place to keep customers safe.

  1. Understand and harness company culture

Company culture can give you a helping hand. As part of our approach, we lean into the company culture and use interviews, existing surveys and our observations to tailor an effective change approach.

In this case, the company had a compliance-based culture. Employees were familiar with adhering to company rules and following a structured approach. This made them more receptive to understanding and accepting the need for stronger email management practices.

  1. Go straight to the source by asking employees

What do employees think about the change? Talking with employees through interviews, focus groups or surveys can reveal unexpected benefits. In this case, the new requirement to categorize emails reduced other irritants, like time consuming reporting requirements.

  1. Think of longer-term employee benefits

Sometimes the benefit to employees unfold over time, especially with an IT system change. With the email app, many employees saw a later benefit from decluttering their email inbox so we incorporated this into the messaging.

  1. Tell it like it is with “rinse and repeat” messaging

A weak WIIFM leads to a greater need for ongoing organizational and manager messaging that emphasizes the organizational “why” behind the change.

Sometimes this means being upfront with employees if there isn’t an immediate benefit to them. In most organizational cultures, employees recognize they’ll need to “take one for the team” and contribute to the overall benefit of the organization and other employees by complying with the new practices.

  1. Create more time for questions and dialogue

With a weak WIIFM, you’re likely going to hear a lot more “why” questions. Prepare managers and leaders to listen to feedback from their team members and address questions with clear messaging on the need for change and how it ties back to organizational objectives.

  1. Everyone is all in – no opt out options

Everyone, including senior leaders, needs to adopt the change with no exceptions. If there is an opt-out option, adoption will fall apart faster when there is a weak WIIFM than if there was a strong user benefit.

If it’s important to the organization, then now is the time for the leadership team to hold hands and jump right in. Employees watch leadership behaviours like hawks, and if a change has the full support of their senior leaders. It can be incredibly powerful for a senior leader to talk about their own personal experiences with the change – and to role model the desired behavior for others.

  1. Monitor for benefits – and compliance

Your change management plan should include tactics to measure compliance and drive user adoption. Keep monitoring user feedback throughout the project – you never know when you may find that nugget or two of gold.

Learn more about how to successfully manage IT implementations or HR Transformations’ approach to creating change that endures.

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