As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. With the rapidly unfolding reality of COVID-19 and the resulting economic challenges, managers and employees are facing an unprecedented amount of change. Businesses have had to quickly pivot how they work, where they work, and how they serve their customers. Now more than ever, managers must have an effective change management strategy to help their teams anticipate and adjust to change, as well as to hold everyone accountable for their role in executing those changes. In order to adjust strategies quickly in the ever-changing business landscape, leaders must first address what makes implementing changes at work difficult.
Why is Change so Hard?
What if it isn’t actually hard? Leadership expert and business consultant, Cy Wakeman has helped many organizations create change management strategies. She has learned there are some misconceptions about change management that can hinder the implementation of a new strategy. Wakeman explains that the most significant obstacle to change employees have is their own attitude. In her work, she has observed that the employees that embrace change are the people that are best prepared for it. Employees on the high-end of readiness in terms of tech-savviness, current knowledge of trends in their profession, and effective communication skills are less averse to change initiatives and have a much easier time adjusting to new circumstances. However, employees that are not prepared in terms of their skillset and knowledge will struggle and tend to believe that change will always be difficult.
How can We Prepare Employees for Change?
To improve change management throughout an organization, managers should stop focusing on how to ease people into change, and start focusing on preparing them to be ready for it. No one can control the pace or frequency of change, especially now. Cultivating readiness by developing employees is the key to successfully navigating the challenges that lie ahead. Identify any skills gaps in your team. As many offices have changed to a remote-work model, do you have staff that needs some additional training in technology? Do your managers need to sharpen their ability to lead virtual teams? Consider continuous development of skills like communication, emotional intelligence, and strategic thinking to build a resilient organization that can adapt quickly.
Communicate the Vision, the Plan and the Payoff
When implementing a change strategy, leaders must be able to effectively communicate why the change is needed, the vision for going forward, the plan for moving forward, and how the change will benefit the business, the customer, and the team.
Work with the Most Willing
Focus more time and attention on the employees that are the most willing to embrace change and consistently step up to challenges. Don’t waste valuable time and energy rewarding employees who are resistant to a new strategy or initiative. Work with the most willing, and enlist their help getting others on board as they implement the change.
Insist on Accountability
Cultivate a culture of accountability in your organization. Set expectations clearly and encourage employees to consistently be ready for whatever is coming next. Team members should use their expertise to move initiatives forward instead of wasting time lamenting how much things have changed. Clearly define each team member’s role in the change strategy, set specific objectives, and hold everyone accountable for their part. Missed deadlines and lack of accountability can slow down a change initiative and create more resistance.
Change How You Think About Change
Remember that change is inevitable, but suffering is optional. It’s time to stop believing that change is difficult, or that some people are “just not good with change.” Leaders that model a positive attitude towards change and equip their teams with the skills and knowledge they need to be ready to adapt will be best positioned for success in the future.