Successful Change Management: It’s All About The People
by David Millner
The pandemic has meant that every organisation, irrespective of their size, are going through a tremendous amount of both business and strategic change. These changes are being driven by factors such as digital transformation, mergers and acquisitions, reinventing the priorities of their organisation and the drive for a more diverse yet dispersed workforce than was seen at the beginning of 2020.
This is at a time when according to Accenture’s recent Future of Work 2021 study, there are a range of mindsets being seen across our workforces:
With an increasing pace of change that means that the importance of how organisations deal with change in the workplace has never been more critical, with cultural tensions, new patterns of working and competing priorities continuing to emerge. Without the proper approach and implementation of any change initiatives, organisations are at risk of losing not just money, but their talent, too.
The critical factor for any change management success revolves around its’ people and how leadership deals with the change, how the change is communicated (HR has a critical part to play in that) and how the employees subsequently embrace it.
When devising and implementing a communication strategy, there are four key elements ot remember:
- Articulate the “why”: Change initiatives generally align with current and future business objectives, so make sure those goals are clear to all employees. It’s important to be transparent and open about the reasons behind the change plans so employees can fully understand the future direction of the organisation and appreciate why the business changes are happening in the first place. Reinforcing the messaging through all your leaders and managers, at all levels, will show that all levels of management are united behind the change.
- Consider the employees’ perspective: Consider how your employees will be affected by the changes. How will the employees benefit from it? Framing and communicating the change in a more personal way will give employees a sense of empowerment, and that they will then be more likely to be invested in the change initiatives when they know how it will affect them personally. Remember that one size does not fit all, so to inspire change, communications should be customised to each employee and/or section of the workforce.
- Change is a journey, not a one off: Every employee has unique talents and needs. They might be at varying stages in their career, work in separate offices, or operate differently based on their department and job focus. During ongoing change, it’s essential for your organisation to meet employees where they are in their journeys, using the right communication channels (emails, text messages, portals, posters, town halls), tailored messaging and the right media (video, podcasts, infographics, documents) to both reach them but also reassure them about the change and their role moving forward.
- Measure, adjust and reinforce the change: Data has a key role to play during any change program. It’s vital to find out what employees are thinking and feeling about the change both during the process and after certain phases of the change. That will enable you to learn whether the workforce is engaging with the change. Measuring qualitatively for sentiment with your workforce is equally as important as measuring quantitatively for a program’s effectiveness. If employees are consuming the content but not understanding it, adjust your strategy, communication channels, and messaging based on this feedback — and continue to do so as needed throughout the process.
We’ve been talking for years about change being the ‘new norm’ and the pandemic has highlighted that point more than ever before. Those organisations that are agile in their approach and are able to shift and adapt quickly will be the ones that succeed in these challenging and uncertain times. A change-ready organisation is one with aligned leadership and an effective change communications strategy that can support your most important change agents, namely your people.