Your employees and your entire organization have known and embraced change every day for the past 11 or so months. From not commuting to working at home, they have managed it all while also living very limited social lives. Needless to say, everyone has been challenged.
With the new COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, individual lives and society will begin to change again. The same is true for your employees and your organization. You need to begin planning what your office will look like, along with how many employees will return when possible, all while still facing uncertainties imposed by the pandemic. This all means you will need to work on your change management skills.
What is change management?
Change management is the process of preparing and assisting your employees through organizational change. That could be helping some of them with new roles within the company, or in a more immediate case, helping your workforce return to the office – once it’s safe to do so.
While doing our research for this blog, we’ve realized everyone has their own definition and processes of change management. To help you understand, we’ve selected principles that best express our ideas of facilitating change.
Significant organizational change is embraced differently from employee to employee. For example, when you return to the office, one employee may come in four or five days per week, while another may only be able to come in two or three days per week. This means your change management processes and procedures need to be flexible in order to accommodate every employee’s schedule.
This means talking to and listening to your employees individually, or in groups in similar situations (parents with babies, parents with young kids, single people who live farther away, etc.). You can’t focus on certain aspects of change and assume every employee will be able to make the switch overnight. You need to survey or hold interviews to really help every and all of your employees.
One principle of change management that can help with personal change is The Change Curve. The purpose of the Change Curve is to help you predict how people (in this case, your employees) will react to change, helping you and them through the process. You can learn more about The Change Curve here.
This section goes hand in hand with the previous section. After you’ve understood your employees’ needs, you need to effectively communicate with them. When you gather information, you begin to understand what your employees are looking for and, in turn, determine the tools you need to provide them. When a major change happens, you don’t just say, “Here’s what’s happening, and we’re starting tomorrow.” You explain what’s happening and why, lay out a timeline, and offer any tools and assistance needed.
In addition to informing your employees of the change, you need to communicate why. Sometimes the why is obvious. At the beginning of COVID-19, your employees probably worked from home. The why? There is a global pandemic. Most of the time, it’s not always as clear cut.
Say your company is moving offices. That’s a huge change, and will impact every employee differently. Every employee would have a new commute, a new schedule, and even new lunch spots. It’s important to walk through the thought process of the decision, what you’re doing to help, and what you expect of them. This can be done through information sessions, email campaigns, and one-on-one change plans. The most important thing is effective communication.
Okay so you’ve communicated with your employees about what’s happening, what is expected of them, and how you’re going to help them each individually. Now it’s time to implement the change. Let’s go back to our hypothetical office move. You don’t just pick up and move offices in the middle of the night. It’s a process that can take months, or more than a year in some cases. How do you prepare your employees? We found Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model, which we think does a good job of breaking down change implementation.
- Create urgency
- Form a powerful coalition
- Create a vision for change
- Communicate that vision
- Remove obstacles
- Create short-term wins
- Build on the change
- Anchor the change in your culture
The idea of this model is to start by floating the change to your employees and planting the idea. Then find advocates within your organization, build the goal and process of change, and communicate that with your employees. Then remove the obstacles that arise in order to succeed, and then make the change your culture. This is easier said than done (trust us), but change is a natural part of moving your organization forward. For more information, you can visit Mind Tools’ site here.
Right now, the biggest change most organizations are facing is the return to the office. This is a perfect opportunity to put these principles to the test. Your employees most likely haven’t been commuting, or been in a typical office environment, for almost a year. To help with that change, we put together a return-to-the-office toolkit to help you create a plan and communicate with your employees.