The business world is quite dynamic, with the environment changing every so often. Therefore, as cliché as it sounds, change is inevitable, meaning businesses that can adapt and evolve to the changes quickly and effectively are more likely to survive and do better while remaining competitive in the market.
Change can be quite disruptive and end up affecting employees, the managers, and even the whole business organization. It may also affect the success of the organization, especially if you lack healthy change management strategies.
It could be fuelled by factors such as technology, internal factors, finances or even politics. It is important to note that while change may come with its benefits, the transition is never comfortable. In some instances, it may even instill fear by leaving some employees uncertain of their future in the said business organization. This is because it may negatively impact the employees by causing loss of jobs, layoffs, department restructuring, or even getting a new boss.
As a manager or even being in a top-tier executive, you may not have all the information concerning the changes that are to take place. This may leave you unsure of what the future holds for the organization and may even give you mixed feelings about the changes. However, being in a leadership position will require you to step up and lead your team through the transition.
Whether big or small, any changes and shifts bound to occur in an organization need to meet a certain level of preparedness. There are some essential techniques that an organization can use to help ease into any form of transition.
In this article, we will discuss some of the change management strategies used by top managers that you can employ. There are numerous ways that leaders in the business world can manage change. However, we shall focus on only eight, which we consider to be the most important. These strategies are based on the industry’s best practices, and you can bank on them.
1. Proper Planning
As mentioned before, change forces people out of their comfort zones and without a proper plan in place, there will be all sorts of excuses to avoid the changes. Therefore, as you bring the proposed changes to your organization, you need to have a solid plan in place. You will need to cover them when the changes are to occur, how and why the changes are necessary. This will help not only you but also your team to get ready for the transition mentally.
You need to have a document that outlines all the tasks that need to be taken to get you to where you want. If there will be any added or changing responsibilities, it also needs to be recorded and affected. Having a carefully drafted plan will also enable you to develop responses to potential concerns that are likely to be raised.
Properly planning ahead of time will also enable you to create a clear roadmap. This will help the employees understand where the organization is, its past and what the future holds for it. It will also help you demonstrate that you have thought out the change strategy and not rush at all.
2. Clear Communication
You mustn’t just communicate at the outset of the changes that are set to take place but continuously. The communication should never stop. You should always ask for feedback and use the feedback to make necessary adjustments to sustain the change.
You should also explain to the employees why the change is necessary, what it will look like in practice and how it is likely to affect them. Be willing and ready to discuss their concerns, thoughts or ideas in a neutral and conducive atmosphere so that the changes don’t appear forced.
You can organize team meetings and even conduct surveys to be taken by employees. This will help ensure that all employees and the whole team are on the same page. Keeping healthy and effective communication and developing a culture of feedback will help keep employee morale high. This will ensure that the changes set out to take place don’t fail even before the transition.
Change in an organization is never a one-off thing. In most instances, this is a crucial tip to take away. It always takes place in phases. Starting with stages enables you to have a control group in place. By introducing change to one section of the organization, the differences in productivity levels, morale as well as finances will guide you in knowing whether the change is necessary and successful or not.
With this in mind, some level of confidentiality will be required from the management team. This makes it a little challenging to be forthcoming about everything to the whole organization.
However, if the changes set out are significant and likely to affect the whole organization, it is essential to be as transparent as possible with all the employees. You may not necessarily give them all the details but be as transparent as possible with the bits you share with them. This will go a long way in making them comfortable and even receptive to the changes.
Being transparent ensures the employees that their input and opinions are valid. They will be more open and receptive to change as opposed to if they were left in the dark. All you need to do is strike a balance between sharing or oversharing, since certain information should never fall in the wrong hands.
4. Start The Changes At The Top
Change managers have a significant impact on how successfully implementing specific changes and transitions in an organization occurs. Starting from the top ensures that you have a competent team to see the growth successfully. Therefore, you should align the people at the top with exemplifying the changes and demonstrating strong leadership. They also need to be excellent communicators who can effectively spread the word to the rest of the team and employees.
The people at the top should be able to inspire the rest of the team. They should also be strategic thinkers, open-minded as well as flexible. The rest of the employees should trust them to act with their best interest at heart.
Starting at the top demonstrates to the rest of the employees that the shift is for the betterment of the whole organization and not just a means to create an uncomfortable and harsh work environment for them.
If the changes set out will positively impact the business organization, then being honest with the employees becomes an easy task. However, if the change is going to have any negative impacts on them, such as loss of a job, getting a new manager, reduced pay and benefits or company-wide layoffs, then it becomes tricky to be forthcoming.
However, I still advise that you are honest with your employees and instead find out the long-term plan from you rather than discovering on their own. This will help keep the whole team on the same page.
You should avoid sugarcoating things or presenting them in an overly optimistic way. Do not promise unrealistic outcomes. This will make your staff suspicious and create an uncertain environment, even if you had pure motives. This not to say that you should not be optimistic. It would be best to offer clear communication and plans while acknowledging that there will be a few challenges to be expected. This will ensure that the drawbacks do not take the staff by surprise.
Being honest also prepares the employees psychologically on what is to come. Tell them to prepare for a storm if there is one or expect something good if the change is positive. Everybody appreciates an honest employer.
6. Offer Training
As we mentioned above, one of the factors that can fuel change in a business organization is technology. With invention and innovation, technology is ever-evolving. In some instances, this is not always received well as machines are now taking people’s jobs. If this is the case, and there is a shift in the technology used or processed, then it is essential to provide adequate training to the employees. This will help them learn and master a new way of getting things done.
While communicating the change, it is essential to also announce the training at that time. This will prevent the employees from feeling like they are being left due to a lack of skill, knowledge, and new craft experience.
7. Seek and Invite Employee Participation
Where a certain level of confidentiality is required, especially on the onset, inviting employees to participate may not always be possible. However, where possible, ask for feedback before the organization is in shoulder-deep changes.
Seeking feedback is a very positive strategy, and those affected by the day-to-day changes will be grateful to have their voices heard. You will also gain different perspectives, and the impact the changes might have that you had not thought of yet. This will help you streamline the changes and set up the transition for success.
8. Take Your Time
Do not expect the implantation of the changes to happen overnight. Take your time for a more effective transition. I recommend you have a longer and more strategic rollout plan instead of making the changes hastily.
This will prepare your employees and offer them a chance to adjust to the changes. It would be best if you also kept in mind that it takes time for people to get accustomed to new habits. Therefore, a slow and steady process will allow the employees to familiarize themselves with the new ways of doing things in the organization and slowly ease out of the old practices.
Keeping it simple and not doing too much all at once will also help avoid confusion. It is essential to stick to one goal at a time while simplifying it. You should be able to define it as only as possible for every employee at every level to understand well and work towards achieving it.
What we have discussed above are but a few of the change management strategies. You should keep in mind that it is not enough to say that the company is going through changes. You should be able to define what exactly the changes are and set definable and achievable goals. By doing so, you will be able to create a concrete objective for the employees to achieve. You will also be able to measure the progress that you are making in the transition. It would also be best if you had a way of maintaining oversight over the implementation of the changes taking place. This way, you will always be able to ensure that you are working with the objective and end goal in mind.
While you are prepared for change as an organization, it is essential to be ready for resistance as a leader or change manager. How you manage the resistance will determine how successful the change initiative will be. It would help if you handled the opposition in a manner that does not prevent progress from being made.
You should also never make the mistake of ignoring any resistance. You should face it head-on, address all concerns before implementing the changes.
It is also crucial to note that while it is important to have real-world experience for change management strategies, you can only develop some skills by going back to school. Learning is a never-ending process. Many institutions offer degrees and diplomas in related subjects, such as a certificate in positive organization development. There is also a masters in leadership.
I hope this article is insightful and helps you get ready for any changes and transitions that your organization is set to go through. No one is ever prepared for change, but that does not mean you cannot prepare yourself to ease your way into the new way of doing things. Have a positive attitude towards the change and embrace it to remain relevant and competitive in the market.