A significant change, whether it’s swift or gradual, planned or unplanned, can be disorienting for workers if it’s not managed effectively. Uncertainty can easily spawn rumours, frustration, resentment, stress and fear so effective communication is a key part of effecting change.
Navigating changes in your organisation is challenging, but there are many things you can do as a manager, starting now, to guide your team through change successfully. Here’s a quick look at six basic change management tips that can help you along the journey:
1. Communicate often
Share as much information with your employees as you think is appropriate. How much will depend on the situation. You don’t want to leave your team in the dark, even if you only have limited details about what the change will entail. If your team don’t have facts they will fill in the gaps themselves and the rumour mill can start.
However, you also want to avoid overwhelming your employees with unnecessary details. So ask yourself: Which details are essential for my team to understand?
Stick to the facts and don’t speculate about what might happen next, also, avoid downplaying the impact of the change. By not being upfront about the serious nature of a change event, even if you’re just trying to be optimistic, you risk eroding your employees’ trust and confidence in your leadership during a critical time.
2. Acknowledge employees’ feelings
Trust is essential between manager and team, so highlight any short or long-term negative effects or benefits employees might experience because of the change. Not all change is bad, of course, even if it upends the status quo in your business.
However, if it’s hard to find a silver lining in a change event, show that you’re all in this together. You can help your employees cope with change by reminding them that you are experiencing the change, too, and share many of the same concerns.
Don’t assume you know exactly what your workers are feeling, though. When rolling out changes or instituting new policies and processes in response to a disruptive change event, take your employees’ emotions into account. Fear and uncertainty can lead to low morale, which can undermine productivity and retention, as well as a willingness to adapt to the change.
As above, be sure to keep the lines of communication open with your staff throughout the change period. Make yourself available for questions and share any appropriate updates with employees as quickly as possible. Ensure that the team receive this information at the same time, so minutes of meetings are sent out promptly to ensure those who could not attend, or work remotely, are informed in a timely fashion. Also for those who are on leave, you may want to consider contacting them where the announcement/update is substantial.
3. Consult with your team
Once your employees are aware of the coming change, invite their input on how best to respond to it and ask them to communicate their needs. Their ideas and perspectives on how to adapt and even thrive in the face of change can be invaluable and as a leader, you will feel less alone in this challenge
For example, many organisations are finding that hybrid or fully remote working now serves the business, so consult with your employees and gather their ideas on how they can communicate and collaborate effectively, keep productivity and motivation high and ensure business needs are met.
By letting your employees share ownership and responsibility for change, they will feel more in control. More than that, including them in problem-solving makes them feel valued and critical to the company’s future success.
4. Be flexible
Remain firm in your goals and ensure changes are implemented properly. If parts of the plan you’ve outlined are ignored or left unfinished, it implies those elements aren’t necessary, and employees will be less inclined to take them seriously and help make them a reality. So however challenging: stick to the plan.
However, while working to follow through on plans, you also need to remain flexible.
Be ready to alter your strategies, if necessary, to get past bumps in the road. Change is a process. To manage change effectively, you need to be prepared to take detours at times so that ultimately, your team can stay on course and reach the intended destination. Use tried and tested problem-solving techniques and consult with your team where appropriate.
5. Make use of specialist advice
Depending on the type of change your organisation needs to implement, you may also need to engage consulting resources to help support your core team and propel certain projects forward.
For strategic change or other significant events that require specialised skills, you may want to lean on consulting services that you can customise to suit your specific needs. These teams can assist with a wide range of complex changes, from new technology implementations to post-merger integrations.
6. Celebrate successes and keep looking forward
Successful change hinges largely on teamwork. So, don’t wait until the end of the project to celebrate your team’s successes throughout the change process, and reward employees who go above and beyond to help their colleagues “keep calm and carry on” in times of disruption and uncertainty.
Once your business has implemented the change, don’t stop managing change! The post-change environment may mean opening a whole new chapter of communication with your employees. For instance, the change may have altered your organisational culture in some way, so you will need to communicate the new vision. You also might need to discuss training options, upskilling, team restructure and/or opportunities for promotions.
To summarise, communication and collaboration are critical first steps to giving your employees knowledge that can bring them comfort and instil trust and confidence.
Together, the six change management tips here can help you take a proactive, thoughtful and strategic approach to help your employees successfully navigate through challenging transitions.
Jayne Warwicker BSc