Businesses have had to grapple with unprecedented changes over the last couple years. Think of all the steps you’ve had to take to safeguard your employees from COVID-19, comply with government mandates and adjust to the economic impact of the pandemic. Now look ahead to the future — what further changes lie in store in 2022 and beyond? One hopes the transformations your company undergoes in the months ahead are positive and proactive, rather than reactive. Regardless, the process probably won’t be easy. This is where change management comes in. It involves creating a customized plan for ensuring that you communicate effectively and provide employees with the leadership, training, and coaching needed to change successfully.
Prepare for resistance. Employees resist change in the workplace for many reasons. Some may see it as a disruption that will lead to loss of job security or status (whether real or perceived). Other staff members, particularly long-tenured ones, can have a hard time breaking out of the mindset that “the old way is better.” Still others, in perhaps the most dangerous of perspectives, distrust their employer’s motives for change. They may be listening to — or spreading — gossip or misinformation about the state or strategic direction of the company. It doesn’t help the situation when certain initial changes appear to make employees’ jobs more difficult. For example, moving to a new location might enhance the image of the business or provide more productive facilities. But a move also may increase some employees’ commuting times or put them in a drastically different working environment. When their daily lives are affected in such ways, employees tend to question the decision and experience high levels of anxiety.
Make your case. Often, when employees resist change, a company’s leadership can’t understand how ideas they’ve spent weeks, months or years carefully deliberating could be so quickly rejected. They overlook the fact that employees haven’t had this time to contemplate and get used to the new concepts and processes. Instead of helping to ease employee fears, leadership may double down on the change, more strictly enforcing new rules and showing little patience for disagreements or concerns. It’s here that the implementation effort can break down and start costing the business real dollars and cents. Employees resist change in many counterproductive ways, from intentionally lengthening learning curves to calling in sick when they aren’t to filing formal complaints or lawsuits. Some might even quit — an increasingly common occurrence as of late. By engaging in change management, you may be able to lessen the negative impact on productivity, morale, and employee retention.
Craft your future. The content of a change-management plan will, of course, depend on the nature of the change in question as well as the size and mission of your company. For major changes, you may want to invest in a business consultant who can help you craft and execute the plan. Getting the details right matters — the future of your business may depend on it. © 2021