Constant change is a fact of life and a hallmark of a thriving business in most businesses and industries. Many companies and their employees are challenged by their need to keep pace with rapid changes in market conditions, in technology and in consumer preferences. The most successful companies are able to go one step further and actually lead these changes.
Research highlights two important findings about change:
- Companies who don’t manage change well don’t capture the potential impact of initiatives, meaning that their efforts don’t tend to pay off; and
- Strength on any one level of the organization, whether senior executives, middle managers, or the frontline workforce, gives companies a better chance of success. Interestingly, no single level was found to be more critical in that respect than any other.
Change affects business performance. It interrupts our flow and it interferes with our sense of security. So, even when it’s good, change can be painful. Not everyone is negatively affected by change and not all change is bad. But, change acts like an extra heart beat; it creates a blip that can be neutral or downright deadly.
Clearly, one of the best ways to position your business for growth is to work on its capacity to anticipate, manage and lead change. The question is how to go about doing that. Before you start the change process, it useful to understand that almost any change can have a significant impact on a business, and to use effective strategic planning methodology to figure out where you are, what’s important to your business, what must be done by when to achieve priority goals, and who’s accountable.
One important key to dealing with change in your company is to understand that people are hard wired to be either resilient, resistant, or somewhere in between. So, start by building an adaptable workforce through purposeful recruiting. Look for candidates with the following qualities: a strong sense of self, a sense of control, solid coping skills and self- efficacy (the belief in his or her ability to succeed in specific situations).
If your change initiative is beyond that point, knowing where each member of your leadership team lands on the embracing change continuum will help you manage them. In turn, having this awareness will also help them manage their teams. Here are a few other tips:
Talk about the upcoming change with your trusted advisors. Involving others in the thinking behind the change and in the overall vision allows key players time to come to terms with the potential impacts on the financial, infrastructure and people side of the business.
Identify the champions in your company who will facilitate (or at least enable) the change. These are usually the employees who are the most adaptable and who have embraced change in the past. They can also be informal leaders who are skilled communicators. Communicate early and often with your champions.
Be available for conversation as concerns arise. This is important throughout the change process, but especially so in the early phases. Regular conversation helps diffuse fear and makes it easier for your team members to work through challenges and develop solutions.
Know that people prefer to know, even if you don’t know all the answers. In the absence of information, employees may fill in the blanks with speculation and/or their own versions of the truth. This can easily derail an entire work unit. Your employees will cope better with uncertainty if they see that you’re being open and honest and telling them everything you can.
Treat your staff with honesty and respect and you might be surprised which employees use the changing environment to shine. For some, this will be an opportunity to be flexible, to showcase skills that might have not been visible before, and take on greater responsibility. Even a small group of people who exhibit these behaviours can ease the transition process and make it seamless to customers.