The World and Workplace Have Changed: How to Better Manage the People Side of Risk

Written by Michael Riall

September 28, 2020

No change can take place without people.

However, the world and workplace have changed, and continue to change unpredictably—so how are organizations supposed to successfully manage the risk associated with the people side of change? The first step is understanding it. 

About People and Change 

With every change, planned or unplanned, it’s people that both influence the outcome and respond to the impact. Human factors are at the core of and contribute heavily to, risks on change initiatives.  

  • These risks are related to how well people adopt and adapt to target environments.  
  • We are able to see a direct correlation between successful organizational change management (OCM) efforts and realization of desired benefits. 
  • The reverse is also true, where a lack of attention to people factors leads to falling short of objectives. 

It is therefore critical that we pay a great deal of attention to anticipating and mitigating risk related to people. If these risks are not managed well, they can make the difference between success and failure.  

Understanding the People Side of Risk in The Future of Work 

With change being everywhere this past year, particularly in the workplace, people associated risk has become an even bigger issue. When it comes to people, even though most organizations understand the importance of this effort, they fall short in executing sound risk management.  

In order to explore why that is, let’s examine some common risks: 

  • Unpredictability of human beings: we cannot anticipate how people are going to react, their resistance, or the support that will happen when we execute change. 
  • Cultural and technological shifts: that require significant mindset, priority, and approach changes from the population expected to make that changeoften against their fundamental beliefs or comfort levels; for example, the change to remote working. 
  • Inertia: underestimating the resistance from individuals or groups of people; neuroscience tells us people’s first reaction to change is to resist itand hoping, if ignored, that it might go away. 
  • Leadership: inexperienced change leaders who themselves have to adopt and adapt to the change, and then lead an organization through it, pose a risk. 
  • Complexity: the more transformational the change, the higher the impact to peopleincreasing the risk severity. 
  • Uncertainty: a great deal of uncertainty results from change, often leading to fear and high levels of attrition. 

 What to Address  

Armed with best intentions and knowledge, we are still not effective in managing these risks effectively. Why is that?Most impactful and unique challenges in managing people risk can be attributed to: 

  1. Uncertainty and unpredictability of human nature: if we are unable to ‘predict’ how individuals and groups are going to react not only to the change but also to OCM activitiesit’s difficult to create solutions that will hit the perfect chord.
  1. Each individual is different and reacts differently to change: it’s neither practical or possible to devise individual solutions to match individual risks; some will respond better to logic and some to emotion. 
  • Strategies for risk mitigation have to consider where best to focus efforts that will give the best results. 
  1. Discomfort with expressing vulnerability: individuals, particularly those at senior levels, could be uncomfortable expressing any vulnerabilitylack of knowledge, lack of buy-in, lack of ability. 
  • If they don’t disclose these risks it’s likely that they won’t be addressed. 
  1. Fear: namely fear of recrimination if someone points out a problem, or voices opposition, will lead to important risks being hidden and therefore not addressed.
  • Both communication and the approach of the leadership team need to be addressed to ensure any fears or concerns are met with the correct response. 

How is the People Side of Risk Impacting Your Organization? 

Addressing people risks effectively is critical for organizational success and sustainability. By their very nature, these risks are complex and mitigating them successfully is extremely difficult, particularly as change is happening so quickly both worldwide and in the workplace.  

  • Continuous care and attention to people associated risks are extremely important. 
  • In order to be effective, we need to stay away from broad brush approaches and be more targeted. 
  • By engaging the people impacted by changes in crafting risk mitigation strategies, we significantly increase the efficacy of our actions. 

Do you know how change has been impacting your organization, or need help getting started with better managing that change? contact us.