One of the most difficult tasks that business leaders face is initiating and managing change. With markets that are more competitive than ever before, companies frequently need to shift their focus to maintain and expand market share. The job of a business leader is to foresee the necessary adaptions and ensure that the organization is adequately prepared to make them.
Organizations that do not handle change effectively can become stagnant and may ultimately fail as a result. Still, the question remains of how leaders can ensure that change occurs smoothly once it has been initiated. Below are some of the most important tips to keep employees engaged with the company and productive during times of change.
Explain the reasoning behind the change.
When employees do not understand why change is happening, they may resist the process. The primary charge of a leader during times of change is to ensure that everyone understands why the change is necessary. Another major responsibility is to motivate everyone to contribute to the future of the company.
Times of upheaval and uncertainty can prove stressful, and stress may inhibit performance. When leaders take the time to explain to people why the change is happening and what it means, employees feel protected.
The easiest way to relieve the stress of change is through straightforward communication. Employees who understand the change feel like they are a part of it. Then, the change becomes a source of excitement rather than one of stress.
Clarify employee roles as they shift.
Change necessarily involves shifts in the roles that people play at a company. Business leaders have the responsibility to ensure that employees know exactly how their roles will change. Leaders must also ensure employees have access to the tools they need for success in their new roles.
Change is scary, but understanding exactly what will happen makes it more manageable on an individual level. Simply handing someone a new job description is not enough. Leaders need to take the time to ensure that employees understand the larger vision and how their new roles complement this vision.
Leaders need to set employees up for success and protect them from failure. Too often, employees feel lost during times of change. This is more often the fault of managers than it is of the employees themselves.
Listen to feedback.
Employees are the best source of feedback during the change process. Leaders who do not ask for or listen to feedback put themselves at a major disadvantage. Decisions are ultimately in the leader’s hands. However, paying attention to the thoughts of employees, especially during times of change, can help put things into perspective or reveal new paths that were not previously considered.
Talking to employees is important, but it is also helpful to provide more anonymous ways of offering feedback. This encourages complete honesty. Everything from surveys to employing an ombudsman can result in honest feedback about the new direction of the company and how the change was handled.
If this information comes too late to solve an issue during the current transition, important lessons can be applied to future transitions. However, if the information can be applied to the current process, then leaders should create a strategic plan to demonstrate exactly how they plan to enact the feedback. This action shows that the leader is taking the opinions of employees seriously.
Enlist informal leaders.
Leaders cannot be everywhere at once, nor can they fulfill every role required during a transition. As a result, they need to identify informal leaders who can help them. A deep bench of informal leaders can help everyone else feel more secure during the change process.
Some potential informal roles include change ambassadors and pride builders. Change ambassadors are those people who truly understand the importance of change and can act as evangelists. These individuals are positive examples of how to deal with change and help get other people on board with the transition.
Excitement is also important to maintain the momentum of change. Pride builders are the people who remind others of what the organization is trying to accomplish and how important their contribution is to the ultimate goal. Through pride, individuals can be motivated to achieve great things.
Capitalize on the existing culture.
Too often, leaders abandon the company’s culture in times of change. They may do so because they think that transition necessarily involves the adaptation of an entirely new culture. However, there is a way to capitalize on the aspects of the existing culture that work, while pushing for improvement in those that do not.
Employees often have a deep connection with the current culture. Additionally, tapping into loyalty is an effective way of keeping employees on board during times of change. Maintaining existing aspects of company culture maintains some degree of familiarity – even if many other things are changing.
This familiarity can keep people remain connected to the company. When the culture completely changes, people may begin to feel alienated and disconnected. If this happens, employees may disengage completely.