In good times, organizations often need to change to seize opportunities and keep up with demand. In bad times, they must change because, well, something has clearly gone awry. Whatever its cause may be, change can put great strain on an employer’s ability to accomplish its mission.
To minimize the negative fallout from such shifts in direction, an organization should take a formalized approach called change management. This involves creating a customized plan for ensuring that affected employees receive the notification, leadership, training and coaching needed to change successfully. Here are three essential steps to such a process:
1. Nurture buy-in. Employees must accept that change will make things better — even if it doesn’t immediately seem so. Supervisors need to clearly and convincingly explain why the current situation is unsatisfactory and why it must change. When employees see a problem as their own, it becomes possible to change their behavior. So, if possible, involve employees ahead of time in determining what the revisions should be and have a realistic timetable in mind when introducing change.
2. Attend to the most affected. Often, a change affects some employees more than others. Take special care with those most impacted. Remember, everyone doesn’t embrace new situations in the same way or on the same timeline. Every employee will react to change differently.
For example, a business owner determined that her company had outgrown its present office space. She found new offices — 20 miles from their existing location. This meant that some employees would have a shorter commute, but others would have to travel farther. She announced the change as soon as possible, openly and honestly. Then she dedicated extra time to meeting with adversely affected employees to find ways to ease their transitions to longer commuting times.
3. Stay the course. Foster an environment that reinforces a change well after it’s implemented. Remind employees regularly why the change is good. Let them know that you understand some missteps or reversions back to the old way may occur during the transition. This doesn’t mean letting things slide. Rather, show employees that a learning curve is built into the change.
Meanwhile, your managers must champion the cause by:
- Leading by example rather than merely “talking up” the change,
- Tracking key metrics and reporting progress (or lack thereof),
- Recognizing those who quickly adapt and achieve positive results, and
- Working closely with those struggling to adjust.
Although well-chosen and implemented changes will facilitate growth, shifts in strategy or procedures will usually take a toll on employee morale and productivity. This is precisely why change management is so important. Contact us for further information.