Brexit, trade wars, cloud computing, GDPR, corporate social responsibility, the rise of social media. In a period of constant turbulence, be this social, political, economic or environmental, being resilient and adaptable to change is not only valuable for today’s organisations; it is an absolute necessity.
Navigator works with a range of employers across various sectors, many of whom are facing similar challenges to their continued business success, such as the list mentioned above. Of course, these difficulties lend themselves to different types of organisational change which Navigator and other service providers are able to assist with, for example: restructures, personnel changes, or ‘going green’. However, what is often neglected is how to actually manage the process of ‘change’ itself.
Before we can offer advice on how to handle change, it is worthwhile to first understand what is happening internally for the individuals experiencing it. The ‘Change Curve’ denotes a three-stage process mapping out the emotions generally felt during periods of organisational change.
Shock and denial typically come first, whereby employees or managers may not be willing to accept the impending changes through fear and uncertainty for the future of their organisation, and even their job. Productivity can temporarily fall by the wayside while changes are processed, however it should be noted that such a response is entirely natural, and an important part of the process of managing change. Alongside being transparent in communications to employees, business leaders should also ensure they communicate with and support each other: recognising you are not alone in your uncertainty is a crucial step towards accepting change.
Next, it is not uncommon to experience anger and depression, finding something – or someone – to blame as realisation sinks in that changes are there to stay. For the likes of restructures, there is a high chance that employees will look to blame management, which should represent all the more reason for leaders to communicate honestly with their employees. Anger can turn into depression and self-doubt, with productivity at its lowest as people may wish to put off finding solutions to uncertainty in their work. Again, teamwork and the reassurance that others are going through the same experience can be motivating factors to get out of the ‘rut’ which often results from periods of significant change.
Finally, as the Board, management and employees become accustomed to the change, a period of acceptance and integration will eventually ensue. Optimism and productivity tend to increase at this point, after leaders have accepted the change, started to implement a solution, and instilled this optimism and high levels of support in staff. Resilient organisations are able to embrace and absorb change as a facet of their culture, leadership and means of operating, allowing them to reach this stage more quickly than others.
For any particular change that your organisation is going through, there will be numerous methods relevant to managing that specific issue. Because this is generally on a case-by-case basis, we would recommend approaching Navigator for advice on techniques to manage the change you are facing: this may just be an initial consultation, or a larger scale project.
But what is arguably more important than case-specific change management methods, is building an overall culture of resilience at your organisation. This is crucial to be able to protect yourself against – and actually benefit from – potentially disruptive change. A strong culture of resilience enables employees and leadership to respond to significant changes as quickly and effectively as possible, alongside ensuring the manner of response actually makes the organisation more conducive to change in the future. Attempts to foster a culture of resilience may include:
- Running change management workshops for leadership or employees.
- Investing in wellbeing programs at your organisation: taking a regular and long-term approach to employees’ mental, physical – and now commonly financial – health is a great way to create a culture of strong individuals who are prepared to take change in their stride.
- Having a change management policy – including what employees should do in a change situation; what senior members of the organisation should do; and how this should be communicated; among other things – and following it! Very few organisations actually have a change management policy, despite the norm of constant change in modern day employment.
- Employing resilient people, and trusting those with the most situational knowledge to take responsibility for decisions, rather than relying on management.
A variety of situation-specific techniques, bolstered by a broader underlying framework for implementing these techniques effectively, is a valuable approach for organisations to have at their disposal when managing change.
If you have any queries on the above article, please contact Scott McCrory Irving.