Change before you have to, said Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric.
Organizations that strive to grow and evolve must embrace change, not as a sporadic, one-shot thing but as a process. Long gone are the days when switching to a more effective and efficient operational system, implementing the latest technology, or making a structural shift was a clunky and slow mechanism.
Nowadays, it’s all about being change-ready and developing an agile mindset.
But jumping on every bandwagon and not strategically approaching change can have the opposite effect, so change management (CM) is a must.
- What Is Change Management?
- To Change or Not to Change: The Risks
- Change Management in a Remote Workplace
- How to Prepare for Change?
- Closing Words
What Is Change Management?
Change management refers to a framework consisting of a set of tools, manners, and methods devised to help individuals, teams, and organizations deal with transformations of their goals, processes, core values, and technology.
Put simply, change management facilitates and streamlines change while preparing people to accept, implement, and adjust to it.
Regardless of what kind of change you’re trying to implement, CM is what will ensure a smooth transition as well as enable everyone to manage and stay the course.
To Change or Not to Change: The Risks
Even though change is the only way to drive success and prevent stalling, it wouldn’t be fair to completely dismiss the risks associated with it.
Let’s be honest, making changes has its risks, but staying within your comfort zone and not challenging the status quo also comes with its fair share of risks.
Top Change Risks
According to research, 70% of change initiatives fail.
That’s a lot and no wonder that many organizations are reluctant to embark on this journey. The stakes are high, so one thing out of this situation is pinpointing the reasons for this failure and preventing such a scenario.
People fear change.
Many employees and managers are so set in their ways that the idea of updating processes or implementing new technologies makes them feel uncomfortable. Change might result in an additional workload for some of them, while others dread losing their jobs due to process automation.
Finally, failed change attempts can also get in the way of new initiatives.
When rolling out a large-scale software update or switching to completely new technology, disruptions are inevitable.
This can bring about expensive downtime, necessary employee training, and numerous bottlenecks that could harm the organization.
No matter how much an organization is prepared for change, occasional schedule slippages and unexpected roadblocks are bound to happen.
That’s why change requires experienced leadership, capable of handling such events and buffering their impacts.
Top Risks of Avoiding Change
Back in 1975, Eastman Kodak’s engineer Steven Sasson built the first digital still camera. One would think that the company would jump at the opportunity to capitalize on this advanced breakthrough technology.
Instead, this new tecnological invention was dropped out of fear that it would cannibalize its original revenue-driving film technology. Fast forward 37 years, and Kodak Eastman filed for bankruptcy, while the digital camera technology managed to reinvent the entire photography industry.
This is one of the most striking examples of failure to adapt to change.
Resisting change will result in losing your footing and falling behind your competitors through some of the following.
As technology keeps evolving, customers’ preferences change, which means that unless your company isn’t plugged in and willing to change, you risk losing your audience.
Staying relevant is of utmost importance in today’s fast-paced world.
You’ve probably heard of a little company called Netflix. Did you know they were initially a DVD rental company? They recognized the power of new technology and became the vanguard of the streaming market.
Loss of Influence
Organizations that don’t change risk losing their influence among their competitors and their customers. Such a trend can gradually turn a once-great company into an industry dinosaur.
Waning influence and decaying reputation soon start eating into revenue and prevent the has-been from attracting fresh talent and funding.
Poor Employee Performance
Employee performance will suffer due to such a stagnant approach.
Not equipping your workforce with the right tools and training will make them significantly less efficient.
For example, a sales team that has to handle tasks manually will waste hours finding the right prospects, identifying hot leads, getting in touch with them, and closing. A widely circulated stat says that salespeople spend only about 30% of their time talking to prospects. The other two-thirds are spent scheduling meetings, entering data, writing emails, and other low-level tasks that could be automated.
And let’s not forget the challenges between marketing and sales during handoffs. Almost 80% of marketing leads never convert to sales.
The answer to all these inefficiencies is implementing a comprehensive sales engagement platform that could streamline all these tasks and allow sales reps to have all the data they need in one place.
It’s clear how much time and opportunities are lost by not adopting new tech and staying in the slow lane.
Low Employee Morale
Employees are one of the most valuable assets every organization has, and not helping them reach their full potential is everybody’s loss.
When employees don’t have an opportunity to grow, learn new skills, and advance, they become disillusioned, demoralized, and actively disengaged. As a consequence, they may start looking for a new job.
Change Management in a Remote Workplace
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the business world was faced with the biggest change that shook it to its foundations – switching to a remote workplace.
This change came with a new set of challenges and obstacles that had to be overcome.
Different Team Dynamics
Working from home might seem like a blessing to many people who feel less stressed without commuting to the office or spending long hours in unproductive meetings in person.
But, sooner or later, the lack of physical office space will affect collaboration and communication, while the physical distance will translate to social barriers.
And this can be detrimental to team cohesion.
Tips to help you navigate and improve changed team dynamics include:
- Effective communication. Being transparent and addressing your employees’ fears will contribute to establishing trust. Don’t forget that a great portion of communication is based on non-verbal cues and body language. Although email might seem like an efficient way of communicating, don’t overdo it, especially when sharing initial details of an upcoming change initiative. Use video conferencing and video chats to allow people to read the room more easily.
- Check-in with your employees regularly and frequently – more than you’d normally do. To improve team dynamics and set the stage for change management, reach out to your employees one on one and encourage them to communicate.
- Promote casual interaction among employees and prompt them to engage in virtual water cooler chats.
Fear of Uncertainty
When fear of change is paired with the fear of uncertainty in a new environment, you and your team will find yourselves in a situation where different barriers will obstruct change.
Some of them will fret over how the change will affect their position, while others will be confused over how they will manage to adapt. The unknown is the biggest enemy of change, so it’s crucial to get to the root of what every individual employee thinks and help them adjust to this new reality as smoothly as possible.
One of the best ways to fight uncertainty is by establishing a routine. When employees know they have something they can hold on to, it will help them understand their place in the process, and eliminate potential distractions.
Hiring the Right People
Finding the best people for the job is difficult even in normal circumstances, and the remote workplace takes it to a whole new level.
And yet, for your change management to be successful, it’s more important than ever to find those who are the right fit for your organization and its culture.
Start by leveraging referrals and recommendations from your existing and past employees. They’re the ones who know what it takes to work for your organization and will be able to recommend their connections that fit your requirements.
The next step is to create a detailed and targeted job description that will attract top talent.
Come up with a list of questions that will offer you an insight into candidates’ skills, personalities, and work ethic.
How to Prepare for Change?
Change management is the solution for all these challenges organizations encounter.
Here are some tried and true tips you can use to help your company and employees prepare for upcoming changes despite the telecommuting environment that adds another layer of complexity to the process.
Implement Incremental Changes
Introducing smaller, incremental changes gradually works much better than opting for a big bang approach.
Everybody will have more time to adjust to and adopt new processes or tools and learn how to implement them. A sudden major change can be overwhelming and leave your employees scrambling to transition to their new roles or responsibilities.
Help Your Employees Upskill and Reskill
Instead of looking for new talent, try helping your existing employees upgrade their existing and learn new skills. This is a win-win situation for both parties as you won’t have to invest as much time and resources in hiring new employees and tier onboarding, while your existing employees will get an opportunity to expand their skillsets and grow.
Educate Upper Management
Change is a complex process, and all levels of management should be involved in implementing it.
This also applies to upper management, which means that they should have continuous educational workshops on improving their leadership skills and team engagement methods. That’s how organizations can make sure change management is effective and successful.
Include Your Employees in Decision-Making
By including your employees in the decision-making process, you’ll nip their fears and suspicions in the bud.
Asking them for their feedback about the current system and its deficiencies will help them understand why change is necessary.
This is particularly useful when it comes to adopting new technologies that your employees see as a potential threat to their job security.
Since you won’t simply inform them that change is about to occur, they will be in the loop from the very beginning, so they will know that the new solution will only help them be more effective and efficient at work.
So, the point isn’t in explaining your vision but focusing on explaining the reason for change – that’s how you’ll have your employees on board.
Promote a Culture of Change
Organizing a coaching session when you implement a new tech solution is necessary. This session will allow you to educate your employees on why change management is non-negotiable and how the entire organization will benefit.
The trick is to abandon the traditional approach of forced change and take the other way round by coaching your employees on why change is good and beneficial.
This less invasive tactic will foster a culture of change as employees will be well-informed about what they can expect and why the impact will be mostly positive.
No matter how good things are, there will always be room for improvement. So, resisting change is like going against the grain, as it’s the main driver of growth. But, change can be difficult, and it has to be carefully planned and executed. The key to successful change is having your employees on your side, keeping the lines of communication open, providing training, and emphasizing the benefits that the entire organization will enjoy if everything is carried out properly.