"Change is the only constant," as the old saying goes, and this has long been a pillar of the business world. However, the macro environment brought about by the global pandemic will arguably bring about some of the biggest societal and economic changes in a generation. In this climate, change management expertise will be ever more prized as organizations of all sizes grapple with what the fallout from the pandemic means for their long-term future.
Though many regions are still in the midst of this crisis and not ready to exist lockdown, a sensible change management plan will be essential to navigating the gradual easing of social distancing measures.
With this in mind, here we examine the 5 key considerations that are fundamental to any change management process.
When communicating large scale change, the most important tool is having a good communication strategy.
The basic elements of this should include:
- Understanding the purpose
- Communicating the why, how, and when
- Being clear about what is in it for the individual, the department, the program of work
- Regular communication to all stakeholders
Miscommunication can create a variety of problems. In comparison, clear communication should provide a transparent pathway to change and eradicate any initial fears. Good communication has a crucial part to play in the change management process, because it can deconstruct the complicated cycles of the overall process. Susan Black, Business Director, at Michael Page Projects, Strategy & Change, said, “It is easy for businesses to suffer from change fatigue as they get caught in a cycle of reorganization and transformation; people to lose interest and patience when faced with constant change. The barrier to change is also dependent on who is leading the change.”
Leadership plays a key role in spreading the message, whether that be by email, intranet, or video. Leaders of any organisation set the tone, and for effective communication to work, every employee has to play their part. From the leadership team, to senior managers, middle management, and junior members of staff.
Many employees struggle with a change in work culture because they like routine. They may sit in the same desk and arrange their desktop and folders in a certain way. They are part of a system that promotes a certain set of values and behaviors that makes up the working culture they are part of, but if that changes, then some can struggle with adjusting. Sue Waller, Business Development Director, PageGroup, said, “Culture is the biggest barrier to change in my experience, risk aversion and not seeing the value or wanting to work in new ways.”
Businesses need to be adept in persuading their employees of the need for change by explaining how it might benefit them and the company long term. For this reason, leaders generally tend to seek buy-in initially from their staff regarding the proposed changes before they are enforced.
Any proposed change strategy will have stakeholders to manage. All stakeholders need to be identified correctly to ensure that any impact or further considerations can be ascertained before key decisions are made. Which stakeholders will be impacted the most and who will impacted the least? What type of support will they need during the change process? Stakeholder buy-in is an essential part of the process; the right people must be involved for the sponsorship of the change, while addressing readiness and agreeing to accountability. The agreement should allow for rapid change and modification where required, alongside regular feedback and data collection on lessons learned to be used in a way to both inform current and future changes.
Within a changing landscape, we expect more companies to review their business continuity plans to allow them to maximize productivity through difficult times. Susan comments, “Cost reduction will be a priority – not necessarily through headcount reduction, but more from automation of processes and robotics which will enable people to do more.”
The tangible benefits of cost avoidance should be clearly demonstrated, and the ROI’s apparent. Change management requires critical thinking to overcome hurdles and it is difficult to tell how much the recent lockdown measures have affected the change management plans and strategies of business. It is still too early to get a real-time view of how much budgets will be affected. Susan said, “For the first four to six weeks most of my clients were just trying to ensure that their people were safe and able to work from home, and maintain some sort of operation. However, over the past couple of weeks the language has been more positive and the focus is on what comes next.”
The sense now is that people change is going to be key in the return to office life. People will influence the processes of change that affects them. Businesses are having discussions around how successful remote working has been for them and if so, how should they continue? It was recently reported that Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, allowed his employees to work from home “forever,” as it is unlikely that a majority of Twitter offices will reopen anytime soon. This is part of the company’s plan to work in a distributed way, but will other companies adopt such a policy?
Another aspect which will have a direct effect on people change decisions is the impact on mental health, compensation, and benefits. For each sector, the answers may well be different, but there will be general themes and obvious directions.
At Michael Page, we continue to help our customers through this difficult time. Change management requires skilled expertise to deal with the potential hurdles, and a full understanding of the key factors to ultimately map out a sustainable change management strategy.
If you would like to explore how we can support you during change and transformation projects, and source the right people to best meet the needs of your evolving organisation, get in touch with our team today.