Tips and Tricks for Successful Change Management
2020 has brought with it an onslaught of change. Between January and now, the standard day-to-day has been turned upside down. But as uncomfortable and challenging as change can be, it is an inevitable and important piece of any organization.
This year has also been a key reminder of how critical it is for organizations to understand how to quickly adapt to change. The switch to remote work, for example, happened almost overnight. If companies failed to swiftly respond and provide employees with the resources they needed to succeed at home, they risked stalling operations or placing individuals in an unsafe work environment. Similarly, the economic downturn has caused many organizations to make drastic changes, including layoffs, reduced executive pay, or benefit reductions to keep their doors open.
But despite all the upheaval, this year has also been a good reminder of how wonderful change can be for innovation and growth. On the positive side of the new remote work environment, the change has caused some organizations to rethink office life for good. The ability to continue business completely online may allow for more flexible work arrangements in the future, a decreased need for office space, and the ability to hire talent from different areas of the world.
Change, though critical, is never easy. The most important part of any change initiative is to focus on the people; employee adoption is critical for long–term success. A good change management strategy is tailored to the unique needs and culture of a specific organization – it is not a one size fits all approach.
Following are a few tips and tricks that can help you and your organization prepare for any change the world throws your way.
1. Start with the “Why”
Effective change management is all about gaining employee buy in and motivating an organization to move from Point A to Point B. When kicking off a change initiative, lead with a compelling “Why.” Ask yourself, “Why are we changing and why are we changing now?”
Often times, organizations are great at explaining what the change will entail and how to go about making the change, but fail to explain why a change is taking place. In the context of remote work, for example, the “What” is simple – employees will be working from home offices. However, the Why – working from home will keep employees safe and healthy – elicits an emotional response that is much easier to buy into. The concept of safety creates a strong purpose that helps motivate employees to quickly and effectively make the change to remote work.
In Simon Sinek’s popular TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” he explains that the Why helps create a response that connects people to the purpose of an organization or initiative. If everyone in an organization has a clear understanding of the purpose of the change, it is easier to inspire action.
2. Communicate Early and Often
In order to create meaningful and lasting change, it is critical that employees are never left in the dark. In any organizational change, clear and consistent communication ensures that employees understand what the change will entail, how to prepare for the change, and when the change will take place. Infrequent or incomplete communication can lead to a lack of clarity, feelings of distrust, and an opportunity for information to be misinterpreted or speculation to occur.
In an ideal world, communication would begin with enough advance notice before the kickoff to provide employees adequate time to prepare for the initiative. However, in some cases, advance communication is not an available luxury. In scenarios that require a quick response time, communicate as early as you possibly can, even if it entails letting employees know more information will be coming shortly.
Additionally, a good communication plan disperses messaging through multiple channels (i.e., email, meetings, through managers, etc.). This ensures that the message has been heard by all employees and is reinforced through frequent reminders. If the change is top of mind for employees, you increase the likelihood that people will avoid old habits.
Lastly, while it is important to communicate with high frequency, understand when enough is enough. Change can be confusing and overwhelming, and not every minute detail needs to be shared. Take time to understand what information will dilute the key message and then leave it out – overcommunicating can be a downfall in change management.
3. Set Expectations – Change is Hard!
When introducing a new change initiative, it is important to be honest about what the process will entail. Set the stage for what employees should now expect on a day–to–day basis. If the change will be difficult, it’s okay to communicate that the process will be long. Highlight the resources, procedures and training collateral that can be leveraged to make the change attainable. Spend time focusing on the benefits of the change once it is successfully completed.
In order for an initiative to work, it is important to set expectations and provide the path for success. Change is more likely to succeed if you can create a mentality that, no matter what, “We’re all in it together.”
4. Acknowledge Employee Efforts
Even a small–scale change requires effort from employees to alter a behavior or process. This is often an added burden on their day-to-day work and can be extremely taxing. It is critical to acknowledge the effort that employees are making – employees who feel valued for their efforts are more likely to be motivated to keep trying.
If an employee is succeeding, let them know. Thank them for their efforts and encourage them to keep going. This will help reinforce positive behavior and let the employee know they are on the right track. If an individual is failing to adopt the change, spend time to understand why before disciplining them. It is very likely there is an element of the change they do not understand or one with which they need more support. Paying close attention to all employee efforts – good or bad – can help drive forward the right behaviors and improve adoption.
Need help implementing large-scale change? Kenway has the tools and expertise to help you and your organization achieve your goals and drive employee adoption. Let’s chat! Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.