Managing change means working closely with everyone and setting clear goals about how the change will be managed.
Managing employees through a period of change takes art, intuition, skill, strong listening, and effective communication. When done well, change management can help a leader gain respect and loyalty. Done poorly, it can have adverse effects on the organisation and its people.
Change management requires skilful leadership both of the change and the people affected directly or indirectly by it. Now more than ever businesses have been thrust into change like it or not. The good companies will embrace this and learn new ways of working. For employees, some may never have worked from home or flexibly before, and may be struggling to adjust, whilst others may be appreciating the benefits it can bring and will want the opportunity to continue post the current crisis.
Everyone reacts to change slightly differently. Our personality has a strong role to play in this, so great leaders will need to understand one size won’t fit all and adapt.
Here are eight ways to help manage change in the workplace effectively, whilst supporting your teams.
1. Have a Plan
Change is essential for businesses to grow, expand, and thrive. However, change for change’s sake can be disruptive and inefficient. Planning for change is a key step. A business plan needs to spell out objectives, markets, and a mission, and how these things are about to change. A change management plan needs to clearly articulate the areas of the business that are to be affected and the impact on customers, suppliers, stakeholders, and employees.
In times of crisis this is even more important. A clear plan can allay fears within your teams, and quickly get everyone moving in the right direction.
2. Set the Goal
Employees will work better with clear goals that are achievable and aspirational. People need to be able to see the roles they play in achieving the new goals and what it will mean for them, their coworkers, their business unit, and the organisation once the goals are achieved. They become the Sat Nav for the plan.
It is important to be able to show to employees where the company is now and where leadership sees it in the future. Leaders should evidence why the company needs to change – be it due to shifting market conditions, new opportunities, financial issues, or a new strategic approach.
3. Defining the Change
Change is often not fully explained at the beginning of a change management process. Due to the iterative nature of change, you may need to redefine the change at various steps along the way. Updates should be provided frequently to mitigate rumours, answer questions, and provide reassurance. The faster change is happening, or if it begins to accelerate, the more frequent updates should be.
4. Celebrate the established methods
All too often, old policies, processes, strategies, and work are dismissed out of hand as a new direction unfolds. For employees who worked hard on those items, this can be a major slap in the face, erode morale, and lead to more concern. During a period of change, leaders should recognise that such work happened, was important, and had meaning. Underappreciated employees will have a harder time embracing new initiatives.
5. Be honest and up front about the challenges
All changes come with risk of the unknown, uncertainty, and other potential challenges. It is important that companies are upfront about the challenges that may be faced. Even if those challenges have not been fully identified and planned for, it is a good move to try and discuss the potential challenges, the range of those challenges, and what the company is doing or will do to address them.
6. Listen Carefully
Employees are going to have a lot of questions, ideas, feelings, and emotions. It is important for managers, from front-line supervisors to c-suite leaders, to openly and actively listen to these concerns, validate them, and address them as clearly and frankly as possible. Even if you are unable to address their concerns, it is important to express that the employee concerns have been heard and will be addressed at a later date.
7. Find Key Influencers
Every company has key players who have earned the respect of their coworkers, have longevity (and therefore perspective), and are influential. Getting key players on board and letting them act as a sounding board can help senior leaders better understand how change is being perceived, refer recurring issues, and become advocates for the change. Walking these influence-leaders through the change process and getting them on board can help with communication and confidence during the change period.
8. Adjust or Set New Performance Objectives
Companies need to translate changes into performance appraisal, assessment, compensation, and promotion cycles quickly. Employees in a time of uncertainty will want to know how the changes will affect the way they are evaluated. These changes need to be explained well before the performance period begins whenever possible.
How companies respond and treat their employees in times of change and crisis, is when we really start to see the companies true culture. It will be at times like these that teams will start to love or dislike who they work for. So be the one they love.