Whenever I hear about significant change, whether in a social or a corporate context, the opening lines of Lord of the Rings (the movie) come to mind:
The world has changed
I see it in the water.
I feel it in the Earth.
I smell it in the air.
Much that once was is lost.
I’m sure most of today’s employees are not Tolkien nerds like me. However, I believe that the vast majority of people agree that the global crisis has brought about inevitable transformations.
Read more: How the pandemic transformed L&D
The image of “the new normal” is still somewhat blurry, but it's still there. Even though people are aware of it, they still need their leaders to either soothe the transition or help accommodate them in the new circumstances.
4 Tips for leaders to successfully manage change
Change is rarely easy. It takes a lot to break habits and adopt new points of view. However, change is necessary in an ever-changing business ecosystem. Consequently, leaders need to manage it. Here are a few tips on how to do that:
Involve the people
In times of economic upheaval, it's common practice for leaders to take charge without too much external input because “something had to be done.”
However, there are very few situations in which that is actually the case. For the most part, change can only be beneficial if it leads to innovation. As it turns out, that is a team endeavor, not an individual ambition.
For instance, organizations have better employee engagement and revenue growth when more people feel that their ideas are taken into consideration. Companies that scored in the top quartile on those metrics generated, on average, more than five times the revenue growth of companies in the bottom quartile. Now that’s a number to aim for!
Employee metrics are essential
The most important thing about transformation is knowing where you want to end up and how much help (or resistance) you’ll encounter. Gathering and analyzing data related to employee attitudes and expectations is relatively easy with technology.
Read more: Things to know about employee surveys
If the change process is not geared towards getting people (at least partially) onboard, it will either take a whole lot longer or fail. HR specialists must map out the most critical issues about employee engagement, performance, and willingness to make an effort.
Additionally, don't expect the workforce to demonstrate loyalty and grit. Instead, actively supporting themso they can support the change, in turn.
Determined sponsors are a must
Change strategy is decided at the C-suite level and mapped out by the HR (and often the Financial) department. However, implementation is on others – whether we are talking about the floor of an office building, an assembly line, or a virtual global team made up of individuals working from various corners of the world.
Whatever the setup might be, it’s the job of the team leaders to ensure that change actually happens in everyday activities. If they are charismatic and convincing enough, the whole process will go a lot smoother. It’s therefore paramount to get them on board and turn them into enthusiastic sponsors of the transformational process.
Whether it comes from the organization’s aim to innovate to get superior results or from a burning need to navigate turbulent times with a modicum of success, change should be actively advocated by these front-line drivers.
Constant communication helps
Change is highly uncomfortable for people. It’s stressful! Even when people understand why it’s happening and accept that it is necessary, change is still a significant worry factor.
There’s nothing anyone can do to completely annul that unseemly characteristic. Nonetheless, constant communication is the best way to diminish the tension. Even when it's not necessarily new information or groundbreaking milestones, employees need to hear from top management and stakeholders.
Radio silence is generally regarded as a bad omen, and it’s during those times when the wildest theories start spreading like wildfire. It’s best to keep people in the loop, even when things are not going well.
Read more: On designing a great L&D communication plan
If before the spring of 2020, the general discussion about change was mainly about activating it, now we are talking about changes that are already here and how we should all roll with them. For organizations, this is a tremendous effort to maintain engagement and employee satisfaction. It’s essential to keep in mind that while any change process needs a good plan, it can only happen with the help of the people.