There’s been a lot of change to face in the working world since the pandemic created a situation of rapid changes, up to more recent ones with the cost of living crisis. However, research shows that change can be highly stressful for our employees and many change initiatives actually end up failing. Potentially limiting the organisation and its people. So it’s really rather important to manage change effectively in the workplace, keep reading to find out how you can better manage change in the workplace to support your employees.
There are a number of drivers for organisational change, from economic circumstances and markets, growth opportunities and strategy shifts, to competitive pressures, performance pressure, and the need to adapt to technological developments, and the ever-changing world we live in.
Since Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, financial pressures, and greater public scrutiny of working cultures and policies have also accelerated the pace at which change is occurring in the workplace.
But the effects of not managing change effectively can be devastating and long-lasting, so it’s important that management roles understand the issues and equip themselves with techniques to support change management initiatives.
Why is managing change so important?
The need to better manage organisational change is not only due to the rapid changes we’re sort of forced to make, but also because research shows evidence for high employee stress levels and a 70% rate of initiative failure - when the proposed changes don’t work out as hoped.
This can impact the organisation’s market position, credibility and performance outcomes, as well as affect employee engagement and motivation, wellbeing, and continuation within their roles - from senior management to key employees.
The big issues most companies face with managing organisational change are organisational issues themselves and employee resistance to change.
Organisational issues might include; a lack of effective management and leadership, poor communication, over-management or micro-management of changes being made.
Employee resistance to change might be down to the content (a specific change in technology or software used for example) or process of the proposed change (concerns with the way change is being introduced).
So as a manager, leadership or HR department member, or any peoples professional in the workplace, it is important to effectively manage change in the workplace to support your employees and their outcomes.
7 ways to effectively manage change to help your employees adapt:
Evaluate the transformation design (proposed plan for change) - evaluating the proposed design for implementing a change identifies aspects that might hinder change. It’s important to rethink or rewrite the transformation design to overcome these obstacles identified. This way we can best ensure the change is more likely successful, and less likely to be resisted.
Aligning strategy and culture - for change to be successful at work, the strategic and cultural goals must be aligned in the initiative. Using new strategic goals proposed by the change must have a goal-orientated culture that benefits employee beliefs and behaviours. For example, changing to a flexible schedule for remote working to support employees' preferences and a productive working culture.
Build understanding - poorly communicated or outlined change initiatives are quick to fail and see resistance so building understanding for your employees is vital. Use narratives and conversations, physical representations, visuals, or metaphors to help employees understand and make sense of their situation. Encourage open discussions and questions to support employees in their understanding further.
Relational leadership - this kind of leadership helps employees feel supported in change, where they're able to negotiate and interact with organisational members, rather than just being told what to change and how to change it, with authority and control. That doesn’t mean employees can just do what they want, but it encourages their level of autonomy and can help them manage their stress levels around change - ensuring a smoother transition.
Building trust - when change is implemented fairly, it encourages trust. As leaders, competence, trustworthiness, commitment and integrity can be demonstrated when delivering initiatives, to encourage employee engagement.
Communicate & rethink resistance - it’s important not to label or exclude employees who are resistant to workplace change. Instead, encourage them to voice their concerns, and show your ability to listen and help them problem-solve for solutions - it might not be the one they really want, however willingness to find another solution will discourage the resistance to change.
Emotional awareness & momentum - change is often an emotional process so awareness from leaders and management is important for recognising and managing reactions. It’s also important to maintain energy and momentum when change is being implemented to help encourage employees to see it through, stick to it when it feels difficult and reach the desired outcomes.
While our employees can work on their adaptability to change, it’s so important that organisational change is tackled by leadership and management roles, so failure can be prevented and our employees can feel better able and supported in tackling the change (especially where change is necessary but not exactly popular).
As a peoples professional, your role is significant in facilitating change, and to be successful you might consider:
Your willingness to be a ‘hidden hand’ - doing a lot of work behind the scenes to support those in front.
Facilitate communication and understanding of the overall vision company-wide.
Create change advocates, remove obstacles and act on measurements of success.
It’s not always an easy job, so it’s important to take care of yourself inside and outside of work and ask for support when you need it yourself too. Encouraging a working culture that is productive and empathetic can benefit both yourself and your employees, in our performance outcomes, stress levels inside and outside the workplace, and general wellbeing.