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Recognizing how cycles of change affect your people

Saturday, December 05, 2015

And what you can do about it

It’s no secret that the past years have been difficult for many in the workforce. From navigating the COVID-19 pandemic to changing the way work gets done, business has been anything but usual in the last few years. As a business owner, it’s important to know how change, both personal and professional, can affect your employees and how you can be there to support them. In this article, we’ll look at how to weather changes in your business and how you can best support your team members through the uncertainty. To start, let’s set the stage for what happens when there’s a change in an employee’s personal and professional life.

Setting the stage for change

The pandemic drastically altered how businesses operate, and turned business upside down almost overnight. It sent shockwaves through the healthcare, supply chain and startup industries, as many’s worlds changed in a snap. Frontline workers were thrust into action for long periods of work while many retailers had to shift to an ecommerce model.

Workers went from being in the office to working remotely, bringing its own challenges. Navigating the digital transformation of work was difficult, with employees needing to adapt to digital workspaces and collaborating on new technologies—from virtual messaging to webinars. This is one of the reasons why employee burnout is so high in a lot of businesses. Many who were used to going into the office to work alongside their peers struggled with the loss of human interaction that came from working from behind a computer screen.

For many business leaders, it was a stressful time to operate a company while ensuring the best for their employees. In addition to many businesses shifting their business models, other businesses had to make difficult organizational changes, including furloughing or laying off employees during such a time of uncertainty. Some businesses even closed their doors for good due to the uncertainty.

But business wasn’t the only source of stress for many. In their personal lives, many employees needed to navigate a new reality and uncertain health conditions. While trying to avoid the COVID-19 virus, they were expected by businesses to keep the same level of productivity. Couple these demands with the uncertainty of things like child care, parental care and more, and it’s easy to see how employees had many different sources of stress. So how do we manage change and stress in our businesses? Let’s take a look.

Change management in your organization

When it comes to reacting to or managing changes in your business, it’s important to take the pulse of your business and your people to understand what is happening. Change can be different for everyone and knowing your people and how they react to change is critical. When it comes to making a change (whether forced or unforced), there are some steps your business can take to approach change in a systematic way:

Initiate change

The first step is to see that a change from the status quo needs to be made. This awareness that a change should happen can come from one or more individuals in various roles at your business. From how a company operates to how they work with other organizations, this change can be small or large, short-term or long-term. When seeing a change, be sure to think about how the change may affect the business goals and any stakeholders.

Investigate change

Next, your organization will want to investigate your options to make a change. A big part of this decision-making step is checking in with the organization to understand its willingness to make a change. You’ll also try to come up with a mental picture of how the organization will function as a result of these changes. That can give you a clearer roadmap of how to progress and make the change.

Envision change

In this step, those leading the charge for change decide on the best course of action. Again, this involves seeing the future of the business with the change in mind. At this stage, the change agents of the organization are also defining and planning implementation strategies to optimize the impact of the change. While these strategies may alter the organizational culture, sticking to the planned change is key to success.

Introduce change

Now, it’s time to introduce the change to the broader organization. Setting goals for how the change will happen is key in this step. When introducing a transformational change, be aware of the personal reactions that can take place from employees. All changes will have resistance; some will just be less than others. No matter who they are, people bring with them their emotions and have a strong attachment to:

  • the quality and value of the work they do
  • their title and role they play in the organization
  • their ability to provide leadership on some level
  • a sense of purpose
  • their lifestyle and financial compensation

Take into account how these personal reactions happen and let them guide your pace of change. It’s okay to adjust the implementation phase of the change upon gaining new information and feedback from your employees.

Implement the change

Once you’ve taken the organization's temperature in terms of the change, you’ll next want to keep moving forward by starting to implement the changes you’ve discussed. Your company is working to establish a new norm at this phase, and you’ll still need to keep an eye out on your people to ensure they are doing their part to help with the changes. While there may still be dissent among some employees, you’re looking to maintain a steady improvement over time. A valuable tool for this stage is positive reinforcement of the new behavior. You can look to recognize or reward employees who embrace the change you want to see in your organization.

Integrate the change

This last phase fully integrates the change you wish to see in your organization. There’s no right timetable for a change to become fully adopted, so don’t worry. Many factors can prevent this from happening, but when a change is fully engrained, new employees will just assume it’s a part of your culture. That is a good barometer to ensure the changes have taken place.

Now that you know the steps to implement change, let’s talk about how you can help employees adjust to changes faster.

What can you do to help employees with change?

Now more than ever, it’s important that business leaders take stock of their people and do everything they can to help them—professionally and personally. To help employees navigate organizational changes, you’ll want to make sure you’re communicating clearly and effectively. Besides communicating your policy changes and objectives of the changes, you should also communicate with your employees on a personal level. . One way to do this is by providing your employees with access to support options. Companies like yours can help care for your employees in new ways, from well-being stipends to access to mental health resources.

You’ll also want to make sure that you continue to communicate with them when returning to the workplace. Transparent communication is important and can go a long way in building employee trust.

The bottom line is this: change is important and necessary to any organization. And while unforeseen changes happened thanks to the pandemic, your business can use these opportunities to ensure you have a plan to implement change effectively in the future. Moving forward, you can utilize some of these steps to create a lasting and meaningful change in your organizational culture.

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