The COVID-19 pandemic has created unanticipated change. This change has been significant, largely unplanned, and rapid. Throughout the last 18 months, businesses and working patterns have pinballed through a series of lockdown measures that have forced organisations to pivot business models and working conditions to stay solvent.
The roadmap out of the pandemic is far from linear, and far from over. With a significant period of transition ahead of us, how can business leaders work to manage this change?
Businesses have been forced to adopt digital strategies as part of the wider digital revolution which has been evolving over the last decade. And there is more on the horizon. AI will take care of that!
Navigating these periods of change will be critical, especially from a human resources point of view. Any uncertainty will lead to whispering, frustration, resentment, stress, and even fear among the workforce.
However, there are many change management strategies leaders can put in place to guide a team through change successfully.
These are our change management tips to help steer you through this ever-changing commercial landscape.
Regular and strategic communication.
Don’t leave your team in the dark. You should aim to share as much information with your employees as you feel appropriate. Use your judgment. How much you share will depend upon the situation and the needs of your team. Even if you only have limited details, you should aim to share the information that may have implications for the organisation and their place within it.
On the flipside, don’t overwhelm them with unnecessary details they don’t need to know.
When devising a change management strategy it is also advisable to stick to the facts. Speculation on what might happen is unhelpful. Theories, suggested timelines and unrealistic goal setting will undermine your efforts to manage the change effectively.
It is also unhelpful to downplay the change, even if the details suggest that it may be significant. It is crucial that you maintain the trust and confidence of the team. Your workforce needs to believe in you at this critical time.
Acknowledge your team’s feelings when managing the change.
It is important to recognise that for some, the change will be positive. For some it will have serious negative implications. It will be hard to be optimistic and find the silver lining for everyone. You can help your employees cope with change by reminding them that you are experiencing the change too. Remind them that you also share many of the same concerns.
When managing change, you should never assume how your team is feeling and always consider how they are feeling and how this may be affecting their work. Feelings of insecurity may manifest in work rate changes. Productivity may drop, morale may fall, and you may even see a change in retention.
To try to manage this, we would revert you to point 1. Communication is key. Make sure the channels are open. Be available for questions and share any updates regularly and in a timely way. If all or some of your team are working remotely, make a point to touch base via phone or video so that they feel connected.
Ask employees to help solve problems.
Once you have informed your team about any impending change, throw open the floor. Invite their input on how best to respond to it and ask them to communicate their needs. Your employees are likely resilient, and their ideas and perspective will often be valuable in navigating a change.
Remote working is one great example of where employee input will be invaluable. The pandemic has forced remote working but going forward, many companies will now offer a hybrid model; one that pivots between office and at home working. Should this be a change you are navigating, you need to ask employees what they need to succeed. Which tools and processes should stay and what will they need to accommodate this duality? What do they need to aid communication and collaboration to ensure business needs are met?
Looking through a wider lens, as part of your change management strategy, you should aim to include your team members in initiatives designed to help the business transform or operate more effectively. One example of this may be a new business system. Although this may be gradual, it will be disruptive so include everyone to work toward a resolution together. Could you distribute tasks that, once completed, contribute to the change? Including your team will go a long way in easing any transitions. Feeling in control helps us to be more accepting of the change. We feel like we are facilitating it, not that change is happening to us.
Follow through on the plans but be flexible.
Any change management strategy requires tenacity. Without dedication and determination, your team won’t get far in shifting to the “new normal” you are asking them to embrace.
You should remain firm in your goals. Ensure that anything you have communicated will change does. If you or the decision-makers decide not to go ahead with something, then you need to communicate as such. If parts of the plan are left unfinished or ignored this implies that they aren’t necessary or important. It will be harder for employees to accept these changes later down the line.
Your change management roadmap needs to be flexible. You must be prepared to alter your plans when necessary. To manage change effectively you need to be prepared to take detours at times so that your team can stay on course and reach the intended destination.
Bring in resources to help manage change.
Depending upon the changes you are wishing to make, it may be necessary to introduce external consulting resources. These professionals will help to support your team through any change and propel your business forward.
A change management strategy that includes consultants gives your business the flexibility to staff up and down with expert teams when required. It also serves to meet needs as business priorities and conditions evolve after a major change. There are bound to be teething problems down the line, and consultancy staff will help to alleviate the pressure on your team as they learn and accept the new processes and structures.
Celebrate wins and look to the future.
Successful change depends largely on teamwork. Your change management plans must be quick to celebrate the team’s progress through the change.
Your change management strategy should also include the period post-change. This environment may invoke new opportunities for communication with your employees. The change may have altered the structure of the organisation for example. This may require re-training or upskilling the team in order to achieve the new vision.
The opportunities you give your team in this period will facilitate their professional development. You will empower them and give them the skills they need to succeed in the new environment.
- Communication, communication, communication. This is critical in your change management strategy.
- Communicate regularly with the team about the need to know. Be aware that overloading with unnecessary details will be counter-productive.
- Make sure you remember your remote workforce. They are at risk of feeling more out of control than your on-site team members.
- Be open to questions. If you don’t know the answer to a specific question, say so. Find out and respond at that point. Don’t bluff your way through.
- Be aware of how your employees are feeling. Appreciate that the change will mean different things to different people.
- Include the team. Assign tasks that help you to manage the change. Ask them for their input. What do they need to succeed within the new environment?
- Any plans you communicate, make sure you complete or follow up.
- Your change management strategy needs to be flexible. Be prepared to allow for road bumps along the way.
- Bring in external resources to help manage the change before, during, and after the plan.
- Recognise the success of the team along the way.
- Change is a new beginning. Use this as a fresh start to encourage behaviours you wish to stay.
- Train and upskill your team to ensure they win. Set them, and the business, up for success.