Have you ever been in a business meeting and heard a co-worker unenthusiastically explain the reasoning behind a specific policy, process, or procedure with “we have always done it this way”? These seven infamous words that, when wielded in a professional conversation, have been viewed as an acceptable answer that allows the path of least resistance: doing nothing. Instead of the amygdala triggering the hormones for fight or flight when the threat of change is identified, it unfortunately relies on the 3rd f: freeze.
Today’s business climate is dynamic and continually morphing, and if your organization and team members are not following suit, it won’t take long to fall behind or worse. 2020 has been a year overflowing with strong resistance to forced flexibility (one of my favorite COVID Era terms), so you can understand the frustration many business leaders face when entertaining the idea of evolving their organization on a voluntary basis.
With the talent market as tight as it is, and the knowledge that your workforce would rather get a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it than transition to online timecards, the struggle for employers to avoid upsetting the apple cart is real, but is it necessary? With proper planning and guidance, we’d argue that it is not, and we’ll attempt to unpack that.
What Causes Resistance to Change?
Humans are creatures of habit, so it is in our nature to fear change. The uncertainty that change brings registers almost like an error in the brain and the ensuing involuntary threat to neurobiological needs like personal security, autonomy and control set the alarm bells ringing like the robot in Lost In Space (Danger, Will Robinson!!).
To add to that, people consciously feel that the ways they have been thinking and going about their tasks for quite some time are actually the best way to operate, and the time invested in honing these skills has led to strides in quality, time, and economical efficiencies (or has it?).
Overcoming Resistance to Change: The 3 F’s.
Now that we have addressed some of the factors that cause resistance to change, and we have conversely identified that evolution is imperative for a business to sustain, what do we do now?
Through researching this topic, I came across an equation called Gleicher’s Formula, which simply explains how to overcome (R)esistance to change by identifying (D)issatisfaction, creating a (V)ision for the future, and implementing (F)irst concrete steps to turn vision into reality or D x V x F > R. To simplify things, I’ve modified this a bit into:
(F)rustration x (F)uture Vision x (F)irst Steps > (R)esistance or F x F x F > R
Here is a common example of what we see in our business. Considering the yearly increased costs of healthcare and the complexity of our industry, it is always beneficial for business leaders to keep a pulse on market trends and test the waters for opportunities they may be missing. Yet, many companies continue to operate their health benefits program the same year after year and expect different results. They claim there is nothing they can do to change the annual cycle, but I would argue the real hesitation stems from their own aversion to change that is deep rooted in their fear of disruption in their workforce. Let’s look at an example of how to navigate considering this change.
Frustration: Why change?
If your team members feel they are completely satisfied with their current benefits situation, there will be zero chance of participation in change. A few of the pain points you will have to drive home are:
· Inflated healthcare and pharmacy costs
· Lack of understanding of benefits
· Confusion in navigating the system (along with limited providers)
· Price transparency
· And complex, paper-driven processes
Many employees have become so numb to this being normal, that they don’t even realize they should be frustrated. Therefore, it is imperative for leadership teams to circumvent learned behavior and build awareness that there is a problem to create a catalyst for obtaining a brighter future and a picture of what that looks like.
Future Vision: What are you changing for?
In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey’s 2nd habit of “beginning with the end in mind” is a great starting point for successfully navigating change. Your team members will need a clear picture of how a transition will benefit them to get their attention and engagement.
In this case, you can help your employees see themselves as educated consumers with easy access to appropriate paths of preferred healthcare in a streamlined method to obtain and utilize their benefits.
All of this is well and good, but money talks. When you let them know that all these things will put more money back in their pockets and allow their employer to grow and offer them more opportunity, they will be on their way to ignoring their involuntary responses and yearning to learn how to get there.
First Concrete Steps: How do we change?
It is said that the easiest way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. For your changes to take place, your employees will need guidance on what bite to take first, then second and so on.
1. Start with something easy, such as communicating low-cost options for care, procedures, and prescriptions.
2. Second, move onto more education-intensive topics including levels of care, and simple technology-driven access to benefit information and online enrollment.
The key is to have a sequential process of realistic steps to take on a daily and weekly basis resulting in an employee population who envisions their future state as realistic and sees a leadership driven path to turn that vision into their new reality.
We understand that contemplating change can be daunting, actually changing can be unthinkable, and leading a change can be downright horrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. What we have found (and research supports) is that it is not the actual change that people are afraid of. It is a misunderstanding and skewed perception between the thought of modifying an engrained mindset (or activity), the reality of reward (incentive) delivered when modifications are implemented, and a path of digestible steps on making your vision come to fruition.
Most companies are frustrated with their current healthcare landscape, but sometimes long-standing relationships with traditional benefits brokers and a perceived aversion to change still outweigh strategic business decisions. If you are interested in making the future of your benefits program look different but are held back by the thought of where to start, our team at Forsite would love to chat.
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