They say in life, the only thing that is constant is change. We’ve certainly felt that over the last year with the pandemic shifting the way we communicate, socialize, shop and work. Businesses that survived had to react and adapt quickly to the challenges brought about by this crisis. We saw the rise of e-commerce, curbside pickup, virtual meetings, remote work and digital transformation. But as common as it is, for some, change isn’t easy.
Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”, which in a post-COVID workplace seems fitting. Workplace changes post-COVID are an undeniable reality, involving everything from business processes and practices, to technology and the people we employ. These necessary changes weren’t all negative. Many of these changes led to new insights, gave rise to new opportunities and a chance to revisit and reimagine the way we operate.
In these extraordinary times, managing workplace change is crucial. When done effectively, it can motivate and engage people, remove obstacles, improve performance and minimize negative outcomes. Here are a few strategies to manage workplace changes and smooth employee transition:
Assess & evaluate workplace changes – As business owners or employers, review the COVID-inspired changes to your business had to make. What changes will be permanent and what still needs to be implemented? What new processes and practices, resources/technology or support is needed for both the business and employees?
Document workplace changes & develop a plan – To successfully manage workplace changes, you need a plan. This plan should detail changes that were permanently implemented in response to COVID and which are temporary. Build flexibility into the plan to allow for adjustments as we continue to move through this pandemic. Determine the impact on employees such as how, when and where they work. Are there any new business protocols? Or new business tools and applications? Be specific. Articulating business goals, performance objectives and expectancies will set you and your team up for success.
Communicate frequently & consistently – Open communication is key. Employees have dealt with a year of uncertainty, so be upfront about the changes unfolding in the workplace, why they are needed and how these changes will impact them. When people are informed, they feel more empowered and less anxious.
Implement an employee feedback channel – Give employees an opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions. When they feel heard and understand what’s happening, they will adapt more quickly to the changes required. It’s also a great way to gauge adoption and areas of resistance.
Help employees manage fear – Change can be scary and in uncertain times, it’s only natural that employees can feel fearful and resistant to workplace changes. You may have to do a bit of handholding to encourage acceptance. Be honest and positive about the workplace changes (what they are and the rationale for why they are needed), to reduce anxiety and confusion.
Support employees through the transition – Supporting employees could include emphasizing the positive aspects of the changes, developing training programs, holding regular team meetings to discuss progress and any issues, delaying performance objectives, etc.
Managing workplace changes requires focus and focus requires a clear vision of your business goals and objectives. Despite the turmoil created by the COVID crisis, an agile business can quickly adapt and will be better positioned to weather the storm. While workplace changes can create high anxiety and stress for everyone involved, it’s vital that employees remain engaged to minimize lost productivity and revenue. To circumnavigate the complexities of managing employees through workplace changes, help develop new policies, protocols and training programs, speak to a Human Resource professional.