This post was written by Hannah Morris, Director of Facilitation & Evaluation at The Latimer Group.
What is “organizational identification” and why does it help and hinder change efforts?
Put simply, organizational identification is feeling part of something. It is the way members feel a part of the collective mission, values, and priorities of an organization.
Employees with a high degree of organizational identification feel connected to their company and its community. That sounds good, right? It is. When employees feel connected to their company, they have higher levels of job satisfaction, lower rates of turnover, and they go “above and beyond” their roles.
However, research has shown that organizational identification can have both a positive and negative influence on change success – and here’s why.
When employees feel connected, they want their organization to succeed. They feel committed to its success. So, if the communication of a change clarifies the reason for, benefit of, and strategy for change and makes them feel a part of that effort, connected employees will be all in. They will often go beyond simply complying or cooperating with the change and will become champions of it, inspiring others to join in.
However, when connected employees feel that a change effort may threaten their organization’s ability to succeed or may fundamentally change the core identify of the organization, they will resist.
When we are communicating change, especially when it is not just a simple process shift, but a large-scale transformation that will have implications for both the organization’s (or even department’s or team’s) health and identity, we need to do two things:
1. Be rationally optimistic. How can we prove that a change will succeed? That is not always easy. Change efforts are often risky endeavors. If we can show how similar efforts have succeeded elsewhere, what a feasible path to success looks like, and a plan for managing setbacks, we are moving in the right direction.
Our communication needs to feel authentic and transparent and may need statements such as “I don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I’m sure of…” Trust between leaders and teams is essential for this to work and that cannot be built only in the moments of change, it has to be part of the culture.
2. Create a vision of change with continuity. Don’t just focus on what will change, focus on what will remain the same. What will endure? What is core and foundational to this organization and its identity and how will we preserve that? Those are the questions you must answer proactively.
When two bodies are coming together, whether it is organizations or departments or teams, look for common ground and alignment between the identities, missions, values, priorities and reinforce those. Talk about them. Build upon them. Highlight how this change enhances them.
Each of us has experienced a great deal of change in the last few years. And there’s a lot more to come. By learning more about how change works, how people respond to change, and most importantly, how to communicate change effectively, we give ourselves the chance of increasing the success rate.
We believe that great communication skills change the world. We transform people and organizations of all sizes with simple, repeatable techniques, through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and asynchronous learning.
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