Managers, supervisors, and superintendents are very close to the front lines, and their support is instrumental during all phases of the change project in overcoming employee resistance to change.
These groups need special attention and early engagement to avoid resistance. In many cases, the end-users are made aware early, and the middle management group is brought later in the project. This is the perfect recipe for creating change resistance.
There are several strategies to engage middle management earlier in the process
Involve these groups in the initial planning stages of the project. While the stakeholder assessment process starts, interview managers and supervisors or conduct focus groups—to seek their input and feedback at this stage. You can also assess which teams are impacted more and plan managers’ and supervisors’ engagement activities accordingly.
Sometimes organizations go through restructuring at the same time. Middle management may be affected, and it is crucial to understand the changes in their role and the impact of change in the new organization.
They are close to their teams and play an essential part in communicating the right message. These groups need to be armed with the key messages and coached and trained on change management and resistance management.
When these groups clearly understand the benefits of change and the business case for it, they become an advocate of change and support it from the middle, impacting the frontlines. Ideally, managers need to be invited to regular meetings and receive ongoing communications packages to cascade to their teams.
Managers’ and supervisors’ buy-in is directly linked to executive support and involvement. In successful change management best practices, executives in their department meetings mentioned the change and its business importance on a recurrent basis. They also allowed time in managers’ routines to be dedicated to the change initiative. Wherever needed, the competing workloads were reduced to let middle management take over change-related responsibilities.
Some of the selected managers were part of the change network as business function leads, where they played a vital role in keeping up change momentum and supporting teams through transition.
In the case of technology transformation, middle management actively participates in testing and early training. They provide feedback to the system providers and ensure functionality testing before going live.
Engaging managers and supervisors early on and coaching on change management helps them support their team through grief, which is a typical curve that people go through. ‘Manager as a coach’ or similar capability development programs builds coaching and listening skills, which helps teams to find someone how they can trust in transition.
Managers, supervisors, and superintendents are vital in creating a vision for change, aligning their teams around it, and inspiring people to achieve the vision. They are pivotal in managing employee resistance to change—their involvement is critical in managing resistance to change.