How To Handle Change In Your Company

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How To Handle Change In Your Company

Change is inevitable. How can we handle it effectively?

Making changes in a company is different than creating change at a personal level. However, since a company consists of people, we have to consider how change happens on an individual level.

When we make a change in a company, we have to think not only about the processes that will take us from point A to the point B, but also about how we’ll engage the company’s members in this change.

Some people embrace changes and are excited about them, while others resist and try to prevent them.

What are the reasons why some people don’t like changes?

It could be different reasons:

They avoid uncomfortable situations. We tend to feel comfortable with familiar things, things that we are used to.

They value consistency and stability more than variety.

They have to deal with uncertainty, because they don’t know for sure what the outcomes will be.

They lack trust in their abilities to change.

At the organizational level, other reasons could be added:

They don’t understand the reasons for the change.

They don’t trust that the reasons presented to them are the true ones.

They don’t think that the change is necessary. They may have a different perspective on the situation that is subject to change.

They fear that they will lose something, such as their power or their status. 

They don’t think that the change is possible, etc.

Have you experienced these kinds of situations with your employees?

How does the company culture influence the employees' attitudes toward change?

How the members of a company react to changes also depends on its culture. If they are used to continually improve the internal processes, they are used with questioning their work methods and searching for better ways. This is the first step that makes them open to change.

So, changes will be much easier in companies that encourage progress and employees’ contributions to internal processes. And, it will be more challenging in those companies where most employees are seen just as executants of the internal processes.

It has to be a balance between the changes that a company introduces at one moment and the traditional methods or patterns it has. Too many changes simultaneously could be overwhelming for the company’s members and can cause more stress, frustration, and resistance.

A change is not entirely produced until it becomes the new norm, the new pattern. This means that the employees become used to the change, and they don’t think about going back to old ways of doing things. That’s why a change requires time and patience. In the transition process, they may still approach things in the old ways or work in the old ways.

When changes occur most often in a company

Changes may be determined by pressures from internal factors, like low performances, conflicts, high turnover rate, employee feedback, and external factors, such as evolution of digitalization, economic recessions, or global crisis.

Most often, changes are caused by these two kinds of pressures. It must be a critical situation, or the situation must be perceived as no longer satisfactory for change to take place.

It’s like on an individual level. We don’t change a behaviour until the consequences are too painful, we don’t take care of our health until we confront an illness or an injury, etc.

A healthier way to make changes is to prevent the issues that cause changes when it’s possible. Sometimes, some problems are let to escalate and produce bigger problems, before taking action to change them.

Examples of changes produced by internal factors:

Changes produced as a result of employees’ feedback. The work schedule can be modified due to many requests in this sense. Some internal processes can be changed or improved due to employees’ proposals.

Changes caused by changes in the company structure. When a company gets bigger, its tools and technologies may become inefficient or time-consuming. They may have to adopt new tools and technologies. What worked for a small number of employees will not work for a larger team.

A  difficult internal financial situation can lead to downsizing and reorganizing the work of those who remain.

A company acquisition can lead to massive transformations if it merges with a new culture and processes or just has a new management team with a different vision and leading styles.

Examples of changes produced by external factors:

External factors like Covid, economic recession, technological changes, can also cause major disruptions in how a company functions.

Sometimes these changes are imposed, like in the Covid case, when the companies were asked to make changes in how the employees interact with each other. Other times, like in the case of technology/digital evolution, change is not imposed. But failing to keep up with external environment can create disadvantages in a competitive market.

For example, many companies are now integrating new AI tools, like ChatGPT, in their businesses to enhance their work.

Examples of companies such as Blockbuster, which failed to transition to a digital model, or Polaroid, which didn’t want to adopt the digital camera, show us how important it’s to be aware of the opportunities that arise and the threats that these can bring.

These changes are harder to anticipate and can be more stressful than those produced by internal factors. Who could expect Covid?

They require more flexibility and the capacity to respond faster from the company than in the case of changes that are caused by internal factors. 

Guidelines regarding the change process

As mentioned earlier, we need a process to go from point A to point B. We have to make a plan with the steps that will take us to point B. The success of the change depends on this process as much as on the company’s members’ engagement. If the plan is not good, it doesn’t matter how engaged the employees are. In fact, their engagement is tested by lack of results/by failures. One reason is that we don’t like to associate ourselves with failures, and another is that our trust in our capacity to succeed decreases. 

So, take time to create  the change process carefully.

1.

Clarify the reasons for which the change is wanted in the company. What do you want to achieve? What are the benefits of change, and what will happen if this doesn’t take place?

2.

Create a plan to make the change. Settle the steps that will be taken to reach  point B.

3.

Evaluate the plan. You can make a SWOT analysis. Analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and possible threats of the plan. Change the parts that are not so good or present threats, or find solutions to deal with these if the worst scenarios will happen. Manage the risks involved.

4.

Analyse the action plan’s impact on other internal processes or the company’s culture. Make adjustments where it’s necessary so the change is aligned with the internal processes and the company’s culture.

5.

Implement the plan and adapt it on the way if necessary. Overcome the obstacles that occur, that weren’t anticipated.

6.

Evaluate the results. To which degree did you reach your objective? What can you do to improve the results?

7.

Establish how you’ll maintain the change.

Guidelines regarding the people involved or impacted by the change

Identify what members of your company will be directly impacted by the change you want to make and what members will be impacted indirectly.

Establish what members will be involved in the change process. Will some of them participate in the planning phase? Who will participate in the implementation phase? Who will assess the results? Just like in a project when you have to decide who will be in the project and what their roles will be, etc.

Establish how you’ll communicate the change to those impacted directly and indirectly.

Establish how you’ll manage their questions and concerns, how you’ll overcome their possible resistance or complaints.

Establish how you’ll engage them in the change to support it.

Best practices:

  • Communicate openly with your employees about the reasons for the change.
  • Communicate what their benefits are if the change is made. Communicate what the losses for the company and for them are if the change is not done.
  • Involve them in the creation of the action plan. If their ideas are there, they will sustain them and engage. You will not have to convince them or sell your plan, they are already on board.
  • Encourage them to give feedback, to ask questions and address their concerns. Answer all of these in detail and honestly.
  • Communicate the progress that is made and the wins.
  • Provide training or learning opportunities if the change involves the use of new skills, competencies from them, as in the case of new tools, programs, tasks and responsibilities, or new internal processes.

If you want to learn more about organizational change, I recommend you check out the change model developed by Kurt Lewin and the McKinsey 7S model. 

Key Points:

1. Why change is different in a company than at personal level.
2. What are some top reasons why people don’t like changes.
3. How does the company’s culture influences the employees’ attitudes toward change.
4. What are the most common situations in which change happens – internal factors and external factors.
5. Guidelines about the change process.
6. Guidelines about the people involved or impacted by the change.

Let me know what are your thoughts about change management. If you have questions about this post I’ll be happy to answer them at: daniela.tancau@improvework.ro

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