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Managing Change in the Workplace

No organisation should view itself as a finished product. In order to stay competitive, relevant and pushing ahead, you need to ensure that your organisation has an ability to manage change effectively. Change management itself is a function of a leader’s capability to interpret the need for change and bring out those changes in their organisations. 

Let’s take a look at the component stages in effective change management. We will unpack how it is that you can ensure that you’re working effectively toward managing the changes you want to see in your organisation in a positive and productive way.

 

Why do we need change management?

Change management is not just about implementing the change itself, it’s about managing the human side of it. No two employees are the same. This may seem obvious but it’s important to remember that when faced with new ways of working, individuals may display different behaviours, hold different mindsets and need different levels or methods of support before diving headfirst into a new process or organisational structure. 

Certain behaviours and resistance to adopting change can be hugely detrimental to your overall program. This is why you need to be prepared and deliberate in the way you manage change and uncertainty. If your people aren’t on board or aren’t open to the changes you are trying to make, then your new technologies, processes or structures will be rendered useless. 

The process of effectively managing change in the workplace will give your organisation the best chance at success and improve performance well into the future.

 

Planning for change

Before you think about how to manage the emotions and behaviours of your workforce, it’s important that you’ve thoroughly planned out the change itself. By having all of the information and a thorough implementation plan, you will be able to prepare for managing change more effectively.

 

Consider what you’re seeking to achieve

Change can be spurred on by almost anything – but it will always be built around a goal of some description. This brings us to the first of four component parts in effective change management – developing your understanding of what it is that you’re seeking to achieve.

Ask yourself:

Taking the time to develop your understanding of what you’re seeking to achieve here is key. It will help you eliminate the grey areas in your understanding of what it is needed and set the foundation for what you’ll be doing to formalise your next steps.

 

Formalise your change management plan

Change can take place organically, and there are often situations in which that change is spurred on by a sudden need to address a specific concern. But in cases where you have the time and space to develop a more cogent response, any time spent formalising your plan will be time well spent.

When developing a formalised plan, you’ll need to draw on the work you’ve done to understand the problem you’re seeking to address. This work will now need to be purposed around these four key points:

Formalising your plan is an essential step – and it will ask you to engage in a combination of high and low detail planning that best matches the understanding you developed in the initial stages of your change management journey. This ensures that your plan remains fluid enough to address the issues at hand and that you’re working effectively as your understanding of the challenge develops.

 

Address what’s holding you back

Any significant transformation will require you to address the tension that exists between what your organisation is and what you want it to become. New leaders will be asked to step up, jobs will be changed, new skills and capabilities must be developed, and employees will be uncertain and resistant. This third phase is all about how you manage these tensions through the process of implementing a given change.

The core takeaway here originates in the ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. But this doesn’t mean becoming overly reactive and foregoing the work you did early on to develop a change management plan. Culture is built on respect and agreed on values – if you can’t demonstrate a respect for your workers through this process of change, you’re running the risk of derailing the teams that you’ll be relying on to execute the changes you’re asking for.

 

Leading change management efforts from the front

Change of any kind can be a big task – in order for an effort to be successful, you need to ensure that your plan is actively incorporating the efforts of those you’re asking to carry out that change. To this end, you need to become something of an advocate not only for the changes you want implemented, but also for the ownership over those changes that you wish to inspire in your followers.

Change requires more than a passive agreement on the part of your workers: it demands an active buy-in. It demands of your leaders that they become more than merely adept at communicating requirements, but also inspiring the people they are leading to become advocates in their own right. 

Leaders of this calibre will be highly capable at:

 

Managing change and supporting your workforce

Once you have your change management plan in place, it’s time to start thinking about how to galvanise the organisation around the change and manage uncertainty amongst your team. Here are some things you should consider.

 

Communicate the need for change and process

For a change management program to be successful, the leaders within the organisation have to take an active part in communicating the need for change, the company’s vision and what can be expected in the near future. Communication needs to be upfront, transparent and provide guidance throughout every stage. Team members will be able to develop a thorough understanding of the overall goals and then align their actions to help facilitate the transition.

If employees understand why the change must occur and what the business consequences will be if the transition doesn’t go ahead, they will be far more likely to jump on board. 

 

Communicate the benefits

Along with communicating the change process, leaders should also make an effort to highlight the individual benefits that the change will bring. If employees can see how the transition will help them in their day to day lives, whilst also benefiting the organisation as a whole, they will be far more likely to buy-in. Employees can often need a little personal motivation to change their deep seeded behaviours and workflows.

 

Provide clear instructions

Once you’ve communicated the ‘whys’ involved with the change, you will need to communicate the ‘hows’. But this has to be done carefully and in a way that doesn’t leave any grey areas or evoke confusion. If instructions are murky or convoluted, employees may either not execute them properly or simply put it in the too hard basket and continue on with their old ways. 

Devise a series of comms that communicate your expectations and methods clearly. These comms can include emails, announcements, instructional videos, 1-1 conversations or a mix of all of the above.

 

Encourage conversation and open dialogue

When managing change, it’s important to understand that a simple presentation or one off announcement is not going to cut it. For employees to establish trust and buy into the change, you must ensure that leaders and change advocates are available to engage in two-way conversations about what is coming. There will be many questions and concerns, but it is imperative that leaders take the time to address them to help put employees minds at ease. 

These conversations can happen organically, or as part of a more structured and deliberate part of the change management plan. Regardless of how they happen though, they should happen early on in the program. This is so that any uncertainty is managed early on in the piece, resulting in more productive outcomes.

 

Provide appropriate support resources

Change can be difficult for a number of reasons, but one in particular is that people often don’t know how to enact it. It’s not that they don’t want to, their old habits are just ingrained in their workflow. When managing change, ensure that you have allocated appropriate resources and training supports to help your workforce get up to speed and feeling comfortable. 

 

Walk the talk

As mentioned earlier, leading from the front is pivotal to a change management program’s success. If leaders are walking the talk and actively participating in actions to support and enact the change, the organisation as a whole will follow suit. Executive leadership teams should be visibly positive about the change to inspire others to do the same. 

 

Positive reinforcement

The best way to ensure that change will stick is through positive reinforcement. Express gratitude when employees alter their actions to align with the transformation or celebrate your important transformation milestones. This will not only encourage team members to continue on this path, but it will also inspire others and help to manage uncertainty. 

 

Work with Performance by Design

At Performance by Design, we help businesses of all shapes and sizes develop the leaders they need to help take their business forward. When it comes to change management, we can provide your organisation with support in the form of:

From our bases of operations in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto, Canada we work with teams across the globe. Wherever you are, you can look to us for help in fostering the sorts of workplace culture and mode of operation that will see you working at your best.

If you have a question about Performance by Design, please drop us a line. You can get in touch by emailing us at info@performancebydesign.co