AS THE tongue-in-cheek truism goes, there is nothing certain in life except death and taxes. Well, make that death, taxes and change.
Rapid globalisation coupled with technology updating at lightning speed make change a powerful, inevitable force in our lives.
Companies, especially, need to keep up-to-date and stay relevant in a fast-changing economic and business landscape. Products and services need to be constantly enhanced to sustain consumers’ interest, and keep competitors at bay.
Business processes need to be continuously improved upon to increase productivity and help organisations sharpen their competitive edge. Companies have to continue innovating and bring new ideas to the market. In other words, businesses have absolutely no choice but to embrace change — or perish.
Consequently, employees also need to be highly adaptable in today’s world. If your company is developing a breakthrough product, you need open minds that are ever ready to dive into uncharted waters.
If you are revolutionising internal protocols and processes to enhance your competitiveness, you need employees who will be willing to adapt and adopt these new practices.
However, human nature is such that we are generally resistant to change. People get accustomed to certain ways of doing things, and do not like to be jolted out of their comfort zones.
When change is introduced in the workplace, employees’ emotional reactions can run the gamut from anger and denial to opposition and even depression. So how do you manage change effectively? Try these tips:
Introduce changes slowly
The first step to effecting a successful change management programme is to introduce changes slowly — in small waves rather than in one fell swoop.
These gradual, bite-sized pieces of change make it less daunting for employees to swallow, as it gives them more time to accept incremental changes without shocking their systems too much.
Equip employees for change
As a leader, you need to ensure that your employees are equipped with all the necessary capabilities and resources to support them through the change. Preparing them well to handle the change is critical to the success of your programme — whether it is sending them for skills upgrading via training programmes and workshops or providing them with the technology and equipment they need.
Involve your people
Avoid using a top-down approach. Instead of shoving the change down your employees’ throats, you should involve them in the process from the creation to the implementation of the measures. This way, they will take greater ownership of the change and may become “change ambassadors” who will influence their peers.
Another way of supporting employees through this change process is by providing constructive feedback at regular intervals. Feedback should always be given in-person and in private, soon after the event has occurred.
You should be very specific about the behaviour and choose the right words and intonation carefully as you do not want to use sweeping statements that may cause the recipient to be defensive.
Be fair, and give the employees a chance to share their side of the story. Then offer suggestions on how they can improve and ask yourself what you can do to help them along.
It is important to finish on a positive note and reiterate your employees’ strengths so that they do not feel dejected. Let them know you care about them and are ready to support them.
You should also recognise and reward progress when your employees display behaviour or produce tangible results that are aligned with the changes that your organisation is moving towards.
Keep communication lines open
Communicate the reasons behind the change so employees understand the need for these changes. And be available to your employees should they need to air their concerns or share some of the challenges they may be facing as a result of these changes.
Be a role model
As a leader or part of the management implementing the change, you need to make sure that you walk the talk. You need to embrace the change yourself and exhibit behaviour that is in line with the changes being introduced as this will help get the necessary “buy-in” from your workers.
With proper planning, a meticulous execution strategy, and periodic check-ins, you will be on your way towards a successful change management programme.