What is Change Management?

Across every industry change is inevitable. And even though change is obvious in every business, how people respond to change varies greatly. While one person may see it as a new and exciting challenge, another may feel intimated or threatened by it. Change management is a very useful approach that when equipped with the right application of knowledge, tools, and resources, can be a very effective way to embrace and handle change in the workplace.

The main goal of any change management approach is to foster support that leads to good outcomes within an organization. An effective way to implement this is by engaging and inspiring employees to adopt new (and improved) ways of working.

Before nailing down a change management plan, it is crucial to remember that there are many emotional factors at play when considering an organization, its workflow and how it may affect the relationship among employees and their jobs.

7 Emotional Phases of Change Management

Explained below are the 7 emotional phases of change management, outlined by Moira Alexander.

  1. Immobilization – Make it a priority to have open discussions about why change is important. Allow for a neutral, two-way communication.
  2. Denial – Explain to employees why support and engagement are necessary. Hold open discussions around what may not be working and encourage employees to embrace change instead of resisting it. Introducing a reward system may be a useful tool to leverage in change management implementation.
  3. Anger – Employees are not robots completing tasks throughout the day. They are real people with real feelings. During this process it is imperative that you allow room for employees to let out their anger and frustrations that naturally accompany change. Engage in healthy “venting sessions” without downplaying feelings.
  4. Depression – Along with feelings of anger and frustration, depression is another factor that you’ll want to address with sincerity. This means reassuring employees that they are the backbone of your business, and each play a critical role in the growth and success of the company. To alleviate feelings of depression, invest in resources that will help employees adapt and thrive under change.
  5. Negotiation – This one is important. Set clear expectations with employees on what is negotiable and what is not within your change management plan. This will save a lot of time and frustration along the way while ensuring employees feel safe and comfortable in raising their negotiations.
  6. Exploration – Keep nurturing your employees and make sure they are guided and encouraged to continue to improve in their roles. Encouraged employees will want to strive every day for progress.
  7. Acceptance – Finally, after some time, be sure to share with employees how their performance contributed to a successful change management process. Here again a rewards system would be a useful tool in keeping employee moral high, recognizing employees, and letting them know they have made a difference.

How Can Change Management be Successfully Applied in Healthcare?

As mentioned before, every organization faces change, both from external and internal factors. The healthcare industry faces significant change every day, from government regulations to the COVID-19 pandemic, and due to a plethora of other reasons. These factors, in turn, mean healthcare companies must be ready to quickly change their strategies at any given moment.

The Pull vs. Pull Approach

Wilma Paxton Dohtery believes that to achieve a real, sustainable change in healthcare management requires a shift from “managing” change to creating the conditions for change, engaging those affected to take part in the change itself. She introduces the pull vs. push approach. People that work in healthcare are especially passionate about their jobs because the work that they do has a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of thousands of people. The “pull” is when these employees are given opportunities to participate in change, and this is when real change, and commitment, happens.

What does this mean exactly? This approach to effective change management relies on the belief that “people support what they help create;” it focuses on changing the social system and technical systems simultaneously. Like stated in the 7 emotional phases of change management, for employees to thrive, they need to feel supported and feel that there is transparent communication. By linking up the social system and technical systems, employees will not only be ready for change, but they will also clearly understand their roles and how those roles will make a positive difference. Perfectly stated by Dohtery, “it is the delta between Change Management and Change Readiness.”

“Pull” is commitment-based while “push” is compliance-based. So many businesses fall into the mistake of telling employees what to do and assigning tasks (compliance-based). Commitment-based will always result in better outcomes and happier employees because it’s centered on using employees’ knowledge and skills collectively to solve key business issues. Pulling again from the 7 emotional phases, if employees are supported and engaged with the right tools and resources they need, they will be willing and excited to put in the effort to improve business.

The “pull” strategy gives employees the lead to take charge of their efforts while getting to use their creativity and expertise. And since the healthcare industry is so large with so many moving – and changing – parts, this kind of change management strategy is a no-brainer when looking for effective change.