By Anna Morris
Change is inevitable, and as a company grows, it becomes even more critical to have processes in place to facilitate and champion change.
Successful change management puts the focus on a company’s employees and helps them embrace and lean into change. If employees aren’t on board, the outcome will reflect that at the expense of your organization.
What Makes Change Management Difficult During a Crisis?
Traditional change management involves a heavy focus on a systematic and staggered rollout timeline, but in times of crisis, time is often limited, requiring change managers to entirely reimagine the process. This places a premium on the ability to pivot quickly to meet the demands of a situation that’s likely changing daily. Simply put, crisis-driven change requires agility.
It isn’t easy, but it is doable, which is why we’re sharing some tips to help ensure things go as smoothly as possible when navigating change – even in times of crisis:
Identify Your Focus
First and foremost, when communicating change to employees, it’s important that leadership is unified in one clear focus or goal. Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning explains, “During a crisis, there can be a massive spike in energy present in the workforce. Leaders who can appropriately focus the energy of its workforce toward a clear purpose in resolving the crisis will typically find more than just a deep wellspring of energy and discretionary effort – they will often experience a wave of new ideas, as individuals feel compelled to share insights they normally would keep to themselves.”
Prioritizing a specific goal and setting a clear vision will enable success through teamwork rather than causing further confusion that results from a divided focus.
Often the first instinct when planning for company-wide change is to think long-term – the further out you can see, the better you can anticipate and proactively address obstacles. But during a crisis when change and unpredictability are the only consistent factors, it’s best to adopt a short-term perspective, as well. Using a 90-day method to reevaluate progress along the way can facilitate greater success and agility.
This may require seeking feedback more frequently and conducting more meetings to track progress as strategies evolve. And while it can seem tedious during already hectic circumstances, this allows leaders to identify obstacles early and keep a finger on the pulse of the company. You can’t address a problem that you don’t know exists, and more frequent check-ins allow leaders to catch challenges early, while they’re still manageable.
Choose the Right People
Identifying a select group of people to oversee your organization’s change management process from start to finish is key to implementing a big change company-wide. While your company’s leaders introduce the change process, effective change management requires a diverse group of employees from all over the company to motivate adoption and generate buy-in.
It can also be valuable to tap into change management advisors outside your company who can offer expertise and objectivity in handling obstacles along the way.
Don’t Be Afraid to Mess Up
How do you implement change within your company without messing up? Simple answer: you don’t. Recognizing that the change process won’t be perfect is a great way for a company to demonstrate humility and vulnerability, which can build trust and inspire employees to share feedback along the way.
The change process – especially one associated with crisis – is fluid. Situations can evolve one, two or even ten times. Embracing these changes rather than avoiding them can enable greater success as you set an example of adaptability. Want to take things a step further? Go ahead and encourage flexibility and agility by holding ongoing conversations with employees and actively responding to feedback and how they’re feeling.
Make Sure Employees Know They Matter
Undoubtedly the most important step in any change program is making sure your employees know that they matter and that their voices will be heard. At the end of the day, company-wide change can’t happen if employees aren’t on board. During a crisis, anxiety levels are already high. Add change on top of that, and it becomes a hotbed of confusion and fear. Subdue the anxiety by frequently letting your employees know that their needs will always come first.
The Enterprisers Project advises leaders to do this by acting as a coach rather than simply a manager. When you frequently check in on your employees, determine what they need to succeed and offer guidance, change will seem a lot less daunting.
A solid change process isn’t going to happen overnight, especially one that needs to be enacted during a crisis. But with the right people, the right tools and the humility to pivot when things aren’t working, successful change management is achievable. Need some additional tips? Our change management experts would be glad to offer guidance. Contact our team today.