A simple sequence of clicks somewhere in the world can change the economic conditions of an entire industry. Companies have to be quick to adapt. This is the reality of our days, where businesses have to learn to master change management if they are to grow or even survive.
Every company goes through continuous, moderate changes. However, the tendency has shifted towards bold, significant business decisions such as restructuring or M&A, marked by challenging economic conditions.
In significant changes such as these, companies often lose track of how employees feel, in an effort to meet the stated objectives. In order to avoid uncertainty, role conflict and lack of productivity, leaders should focus on maintaining employees engaged and using this change as a positive event that can strengthen their culture.
Here’s what your change management plan should look like
The first and most important step is a realistic analysis of your business systems, processes, structures, strategies and leadership approaches to determine the actual need for change. Every change has its risks, that’s why it’s important to establish from the beginning why and what you want to change.
Next up, you need to devise the actual change management plan. Timeframes, actionable items, decision makers and contingency plans have to be included.
Senior managers, middle managers and employees should all be involved in this plan. Responsibilities will be established for each individual/team, in a clear and documented manner, to avoid role conflict and general confusion.
Once these responsibilities have been set, it’s important that everyone understands the reasons for change and what their role will be.
Engaging employees through change
“Most employees, when targets of change, experience these feelings and concerns. What most employees don’t know is that they play a key role in the success of change.
In fact, the more informed you are as an employee about the change process, the more likely you will not only survive the change, but thrive in a changing environment.”
Jeffrey M. Hiatt, Author of Employee’s Survival Guide to Change
There are 3 major types of changes: developmental, transitional and transformational. (Source)
In a developmental change, the aim is to improve current business processes. Keeping employees engaged during this procedure will require constant communication.
Explain to your team the reason for the changes that are occurring. Equip them with the necessary skills for the new processes or technology. Most importantly, find out how they feel and be there for them.
A transitional change is when you replace existing processes with new ones. This kind of alteration require a more dedicated approach towards employee management. For example, M&A are transitional transformations. In M&A, managing employees and cultural integration is the second most important success factor.
In the case of a transitional change, communication has to begin early on, addressing the impact and benefits foreseen. Assure employees that their work environment is safe and they won’t have to experience a sudden and overwhelming job pressure. Otherwise, you might be faced with a general lack of productivity or a high turnover rate due to stress, confusion and lack of support.
This communication has to be two-ways, allowing employees to freely communicate their concerns and expectations, as well as contribute to the changes that are happening.
Update your team on a regular basis and provide them with the informational and emotional support they need in order to complete this process.
Lastly, a transformational change has the biggest impact on a business, completely reshaping its strategy and its culture. It could be the adoption of a new technology, a significant change in strategy or reforming a product.
It’s very important that this change is very well planned and explained to employees. Their involvement is key. The same communication principles apply: tell them why, keep communications both ways and reassure them by constantly painting the big picture.
Demonstrate commitment and follow through
In most organizations, two out of three transformation initiatives fail, due to lack of focus on employees communications.
Managers have to understand the dangers of not communicating the changes that are happening and the reasons for them, if they want to retain their key employees and have their support in reaching business objectives.
Oftentimes, a change management plan is put in place and left at that. Managers disappear during implementation, leaving employees confused as to who makes the calls, what new policies are to be followed or why they should comply.
The pressure affects everyone, that’s why it’s best to prepare in advance, set expectations, communicate the new rules and provide employees with an open channel to express their views.
Any change that affects your business will have a considerable impact on your employee engagement levels. If you’re focusing on your team early on, you can leverage this change to boost involvement and productivity, without losing your key talent.
Always communicate what will change and why, and set clear responsibilities to avoid confusion. Ask people how they feel and assure them that their safety is your main concern.