The current times are, of course, anything but normal, and we’re asking already-stressed employees to embrace and thrive amidst monumental amounts of change. But that doesn’t mean that our change management efforts are doomed to suffer large-scale employee resistance. In fact, if your employees have one important belief, they’re 49% more likely to support your change.
One of the key reasons underlying employees’ resistance is their confidence in their personal ability to successfully navigate your change management efforts.
The chart above plots two of the questions in the study:
- I believe that this organization needs to change in order to remain successful.
- I am confident that I will personally be successful with the changes currently underway at this organization.
Looking at the regression line, we can see a significant positive relationship between being confident in one’s ability succeed and one’s belief that the company needs to change in order to remain successful. More specifically, 23% of an employee’s belief that the company needs to change is driven by their confidence in their personal ability to succeed in your change management initiatives (R-Squared: 0.23, p-value: < 0.0001).
It’s not surprising that an employee who feels like they can’t be successful in a change would resist that change. It does point out, however, that if we truly want our employees to embrace the changes we’re making, we’ve got to spend far more effort increasing their confidence.
A key to boosting employees’ confidence is to develop their self-efficacy. People high in self-efficacy are confident in their ability to succeed and meet the challenges ahead of them. Although it seems similar to self-esteem, self-efficacy is quite a bit different. Self-esteem is the belief that we’re good as we are, whereas self-efficacy is the belief that we have the ability to successfully meet the challenges ahead (e.g. in our job, on the next project, in that big change effort, etc.).
Here’s an incredibly simple way to start increasing employees’ self-efficacy and it involves asking your employees to learn something new every week.
In the study If Your Employees Aren’t Learning, You’re Not Leading, we discovered that employees who are always learning new things are ten times more likely to be inspired than those who are not. Unfortunately, right now more than half of employees report that they’re not learning new things at work. And it’s not necessarily that they’re not learning new things; it’s often that they don’t recognize all the great things they’re learning.
Here’s how you can fix that. Every week you’ll have a brief meeting (or phone call) with each of your employees individually, and you’ll ask them two questions:
- Question #1: “What things would you like to learn or get better at next week?”
- Question #2: “What things are you better at now than you were last week?”
The first question, “What things would you like to learn or get better at next week?,” is really about setting an expectation that everyone on the team is going to be learning, growing and trying new things. This tells your employee that we’re all in this together, and it normalizes the massive amounts of learning and adapting that we’re all doing this year.
There are times when we’re learning so much so quickly that we actually start to wonder, “If I’m learning this much new stuff every day, was I incompetent before I started all this learning? Did I really not know what I was doing?” But by setting learning as an expectation, we make it normal to have those feelings.
The second question, “What things are you better at now than you were last week?,” nudges employees to recall all the learning they have experienced; for example, learning new virtual presentation skills, or doing a better job with time management while working from home, etc.
Far too many people go weeks or months without pausing to take stock of everything they’ve learned (when’s the last time you sat quietly without your computer and made an inventory of all the new skills you’ve gained during the pandemic?)
But when you force your employees to ponder how they’ve grown, even just within the past week, you’re building their self-efficacy. You’re demonstrating to them why they should have great confidence in their ability to successfully meet all the challenges coming their way, including the big change efforts.
Remember that if your employees have confidence that they’ll personally succeed with the changes underway, they’re 49% more likely to support your change. Building support for change, and overcoming resistance, isn’t just about making compelling pitches and visions. Oftentimes successful change is about giving your people the confidence that they can be successful.