In any organization in any industry, employees can be your greatest asset or your most formidable challenge when it comes to organizational change.

That is particularly true for health care organizations, where employees regularly experience major changes such as mergers & acquisitions, new leadership and operational changes, along with less dramatic adjustments to lab orders or payment processing. These days, change is the one constant for health care employees.

Consider the employee 20-60-20 Rule, which illustrates how employees are likely to respond to organizational change. If you leave that undecided 60 percent of your employees to their own devices during times of change, you’re truly rolling the dice.

As I shared previously, change ambassadors can play a significant role in helping employees adjust to organizational change. But first, your system needs to operate from a platform of ongoing, open, transparent communication. Here are a few tips to set up your organization for success during times of major and minor change.

Be open about organizational changes
It’s no secret that the health care industry is experiencing an unprecedented period of rapid change. Your employees know that. So talk to them about industry trends and how they impact your organization. Discuss how you’re adapting to industry changes and share your plans for keeping your system strong. Open communication builds trust and helps prepare employees for the changes ahead.

Answer employee questions before they’re asked
When plans for change are shared, employees first want to know one thing: what does this mean for me? You’ll certainly want to answer that question, but take it a step further. Think about the questions you might have if you were hearing the news for the first time and address them proactively, even if the answer is we don’t know the answer to that yet. Make company leaders available to provide updates and answer employee questions at meetings, online or using other established communication channels. And, make sure your managers and team leaders have the tools they need to answer questions from employees as well.

Map the journey
Change can make people uneasy. Often, they feel out of control. Sometimes they wonder if the organization really knows what it’s doing. Share the due diligence that went into decision-making and provide a roadmap for how change will be implemented and what support will be provided for employees. When they can visualize the process, employees feel better equipped for the journey.

Encourage them to own it
Employees do their best work — and provide the best care — when they feel excited and empowered. Work with employees to help them define their individual roles in implementing change. Encourage suggestions. Ask them to identify the positive changes they can help enact. As a general principle, employees are more likely to activate what they’ve helped to create.

Moving employees through change is a team effort. The more you can generate a “we got this” attitude to change, the bigger the dividends for your employees, your patients and your organization.

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