Covid-19 has drastically transformed the economy and the way that businesses within it operate. Many crisis management plans and responses were simply not adequate to counter the effects of the pandemic on the global economy. Business leaders have been forced to rapidly re-think and re-design their business models from marketing strategies to technological advances and communication channels. However, vital to the change of any business model will be the employees that work within it. A business cannot simply change it’s operation and expect that it’s people will automatically adapt and follow suit. So how can you ensure an effective change management strategy amongst the workforce?

Identify the barriers

To establish an effective change, business leaders must first anticipate and understand the reasons why employees may resist change and the barriers that may be faced when trying to enforce a change. Some common barriers for change may include:

  • Poor communication and failure to involve employees which may lead to a limited understanding of the motivation and benefits of enacting the change.
  • Negative employee attitudes and lack of buy in.
  • Increased workload with inadequate incentives.
  • Previous bad experiences of change within the workplace.
  • Lack of management support.

By predicting potential barriers and resistance, business leaders can be prepared to counter them and gain buy-in for change. To limit resistance, it is crucial for business leaders to support and guide employees through uncertainty and ensure optimal communication and involvement with the workforce.

Understand the impact

Once the barriers have been identified, business leaders should actively seek to understand the impact the change may have on employees. Various models of change have been proposed by scholars to understand the best approach to change management but all models emphasise the necessity of understanding the impact of organisational change on employee attitudes and behaviour.

Kubler-Ross proposes that employees will go through an initial stage of shock and denial before they experience and engage with change and eventually reach acceptance and integration. Kotter similarly suggests that a climate for change must be established before it can be implemented and sustained.

From this, business leaders must realise that whilst change is likely decided from above, it is their role to facilitate it from below by empathising with the emotional strain of organisational change on employees and working with them to deliver reassurance.  

Promote workplace champions

Finally, promoting workplace champions to bolster the positive message for change is a highly effective tactic in change implementation. They are generally high-performing employees that are engaged with the business and have the credibility amongst colleagues to influence opinion. Workplace champions play an important lead in communicating important messages to colleagues and answering questions and concerns they may have. Often colleagues will be more approachable to employees than managers or leaders so champions are an extremely effective way to strengthen communication and encourage understanding and buy-in. The champions will also be an important channel for communicating employee feeling and feedback upwards to leadership so that they can assess progress.

 In the current volatile economic context, a poor change management process can have damaging consequences to business performance and the overall fate of the business so the importance of gaining employee buy in to change should not be overlooked. Any business change should be thought out and well-planned in line with it’s people strategy. Failure to execute change effectively could lead to financial losses, drops in productivity, motivation & engagement, absenteeism, high turnover and wasted time & resources. As such, businesses implementing change should consider following the abovementioned steps to enhance the change process and outcomes.

If your business is currently experiencing change and would benefit from further advice on maximising the impact of that change, through the people that will facilitate it, contact us via the contact us page to discuss how we can help.