Managing Change in the Workplace

Posted on 31 January 2024 by IRIS FMP

Categories: Culture

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Managing change in the workplace is a process all businesses go through. It’s highly likely that some level of change has taken place in your workplace in the past year. Maybe there’s been a management restructure? Perhaps new company policies have been introduced? Or there’s been a merger between two departments leading to redundancies?

The fact is workplace changes occur all the time; they’re an inevitable part of organizational growth and development. However, managing change in the workplace can be complicated and requires a clear, strategic approach where important messages are communicated openly and effectively. The effects of not managing change effectively can be devastating and cause a toxic workplace culture, a loss of employees, and a reduction in staff engagement and motivation.

Here, we will highlight the successful techniques for managing change in the workplace so that your business or organization is prepared for whatever happens next.

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What does managing change in the workplace mean?

Employers often must deal with managing change in the workplace. Change is inevitable when a business expands, grows, and develops. It happens for a variety of reasons such as the advent of new technology, major shifts in the market, staff restructuring, or a merger and acquisition.

Change is often necessary to remain competitive in a market, and the impact it has on employees can greatly vary. As exciting as change can be, it can also cause uncertainty and discomfort. Therefore, in modern business, managing change in the workplace has become a vital skill all business leaders and employees need.

It’s widely accepted that there are two levels of change in business – adaptive change and transformational change. Each has its specific conditions and responses in line with the level of change taking place and the impact it may have on long-term business culture.

What is adaptive change?

Adaptive change typically involves minor amendments to the processes within a workplace so that businesses stay competitive and successful. For instance, it could include structural changes, product launches, or moves towards a different way of working such as new payment options for customers.

Businesses often undergo adaptive change to remain agile and resilient in challenging environments. Generally speaking, adaptive changes are ongoing, evolve over time, and should not require high levels of company resources. Rather, adaptive change should be viewed as a fine-tuning exercise, and the daily impact it has on employees is likely to be minimal.

What is transformational change?

Transformational change is more complex and far-reaching than adaptive change. It has a direct impact on the core of a business and often occurs as a response to the pressure of market changes or the actions of competitors such as significant price reductions.

There are many reasons for transformational change including new technologies, cultural reforms, and operational adjustments in response to fresh product supply and demand. An organization’s business strategy is likely to be affected by transformational change, both on a local and global scale. Similarly, transformational change often leads to adjustments to business structures, processes, and goals and can often signal a complete shift in company culture.

While transformational change can be difficult to implement, the rewards can be significant and include increased employee engagement, enhanced creativity and innovation, and improved performance.

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How do you effectively manage change in the workplace?

Company executives, team leaders, and HR functions are among those best placed for managing change in the workplace. They have a role and responsibility to clearly communicate changes that are taking place and ensure that due process is followed, and employee voices are heard.

Employee engagement is essential for successful workplace change. With the proper techniques, leaders and HR teams can inspire loyalty in others so that employees buy-in to a new way of working. For this to happen, strong communication skills, creativity, and understanding are all necessary when managing change in the workplace.

Effective change management can be challenging for businesses and HR professionals, particularly those working in small to medium organizations where resources are stretched. Because of this, many businesses choose to outsource their HR function to an external provider with experience of driving workplace change.

If you are managing workplace change yourself, it’s important to identify key influencers within your business who can be the drivers of that change and address any staff anxieties or issues that may follow.

Below are 8 simple tips that will help HR leaders successfully manage change in the workplace:

1. Embrace change

No matter how much you fight it, workplace change is inevitable, as is the feeling of fear and uncertainty employees may experience when change occurs. Businesses become better placed to manage change in the workplace when a sense of order is brought to the process. This means adopting an outward display of confidence to show employees that things will work out for the better, even if the changes weren’t originally planned. Words of assurance from managers and leaders within a business go a long way to helping employees adjust to workplace change.

2. Expect resistance to change

It’s common for businesses to experience resistance to change. After all, some employees may be reluctant to accept new ways of working, while others may choose to ignore specific actions they’ve been tasked with. Uncertainty is often the cause of resistance among employees, so it’s important that the benefits of workplace changes and the reasons for them are clearly communicated during the process. This will help to maintain and build trust within a workforce so that changes can be introduced as seamlessly as possible.

3. Communicate the reasons for change

When managing change in the workplace, the end goal should always be communicated to all relevant employees. Clear messaging from leaders regarding the purpose of change and the benefits it will bring is essential and will help keep potential resistance to a minimum. It is also beneficial to communicate each step of the transition process, so that employees are aware of the company’s current position and where it is heading in the future. By providing full transparency, organizations are more likely to gain the trust of employees while changes are being implemented.

4. Use clear and simple language

When managing workplace changes, it’s important to avoid jargon when communicating with employees. Clear and simple language has a greater impact on an audience than technical terminology, making it easier for employees to understand the reasons for change and what it sets out to achieve. Following that, leaders may also open additional communication channels with their workers in the form of Q&A sessions and open-floor sessions. This will help businesses address any unfounded rumours about an upcoming change and provide workers with the reassurance they may need. Not only that, but it also gives business leaders the opportunity to provide updates on the process and to celebrate any key milestones that have been reached.

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5. Respect old processes

When the focus is on new processes and initiatives, it’s easy to dismiss old methods that had previously served a business well until the time came for change. This is a common mistake and often has a negative impact on employees who may have invested a large amount of time and effort in those projects, tasks, or processes. Therefore, when leaders are communicating change to their workers, they should also recognise the work that has previously taken place and how important that work was at the time. Following that, it’s then vital to communicate how the new workplace changes will benefit everyone in the business and why the changes are important for future success.

6. Anticipate barriers and challenges

There is an element of the unknown associated with any workplace change. Therefore, before changes are implemented and come into fruition it’s important to anticipate any roadblocks and conduct a risk assessment. Doing this will help identify key areas that may block the process or cause potential disruptions. Also, being upfront by communicating where these barriers may occur will help employees understand which challenges lie ahead and how they can be overcome.

7. Listen to feedback

Any level of corporate change will generate questions from employees. How will their daily work be affected? Will they move to different working hours? Is their job safe? Understandably, change in the workplace can be an emotional time for those affected by it, so keeping lines of communication open is essential when gathering feedback so that processes can be tweaked accordingly. When leaders and managers show employees they are listening to their concerns, it prevents the build-up of tension and negativity which threatens to disrupt harmony within the workplace.

8. Measure the impact of workplace change

Your change management plan has been implemented and your employees are on board. Now it’s time to measure the success of those changes and the impact they’ve had on your employees. This is essential for identifying any roadblocks or areas for improvement that need to be re-addressed.

To help with this process, leaders could create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that provide a solid framework for scrutiny and assessment along every step of the change process. Additionally, employees could be asked to complete a satisfaction survey to measure the impact the changes have had. This data could also be used to fine-tune future change management projects that may be in the pipeline.

Do you need help with managing change in the workplace?

Through thoughtful planning and clear communication, discover how we can help your business introduce changes in the workplace both efficiently and effectively. Contact us today.