What now? How to cope with change in business

| May 2, 2016

They say the only thing that is constant is change, and nothing changes more than our globalised economy. For managers, being on the forefront of change and accepting it with open arms can be the key element that separates the wheat from the chaff.

The more adaptable and agile a business can become, the more likely it is to succeed, and what gives businesses the ability to be adaptable stems from its managers.

Luckily, there is plenty that managers can do to assist teams in accepting change and flourishing when a business decides to take a new direction.

Recruit for change

Change management requires leaders who have the kind of personalities that can handle change well and thus communicate it effectively through all levels of the business. When you are recruiting for new team members, ask your candidates to talk about a time they have facilitated change in an organisation to assess how well they handle and communicate change.

It is crucial to have agile people both in leadership roles and within the teams themselves, as these are people who can promote change with their optimism and convert the attitudes of those who are less accepting of change.

Involve every layer

Strategy decisions might be made from the top, but it’s the layers of employees below that implement them and will be affected by them.

As a manager, the normal communication channels need to be expanded as your team will be hungrier for more information than usual.

Feedback opportunities are also integral. Giving staff at all levels the chance to offer their thoughts and ideas will help make them feel a part of the decisions being made and will increase their levels of accountability and buy-in.

Expect and accept chaos

People naturally find comfort in familiarity, established relationships, and routine. When the status quo is challenged by anything, it is never going to be instantly accepted by everyone and it is unlikely that the change will be transitioned smoothly, no matter how much planning is involved.

There will be teething issues, and the sooner this reality is accepted, the quicker those issues can be dealt with and a new status quo can be established.

Once established, familiarity and routine will be built. Businesses that do not acknowledge the inevitability of chaos, tend to give up before order can be restored.

Be honest about negative change

With any change, people immediately think of how it is going to affect them.

Trying to spin things that are obviously negative for your staff into something positive comes across as condescending, inauthentic and insensitive.

If the news you are delivering is going to have a negative impact on your team, for example, pay cuts or redundancies, then it is better to be honest and show empathy. State the facts, acknowledge that it is disappointing and be available to answer questions.

What can also help in these difficult situations is outlining the measures that will be put in place to avoid this from happening in the future and detail your strategy for future growth.

Create short-term wins

Nothing motivates people like a win. By creating short-term targets within the broader context of the change, your team will be able to see tangible evidence of progress and success, and this will spur them on to continue towards the broader goals of the business.

Change is something many people fear, so it is crucial to handle it delicately and with a considered and formal approach. Communication, feedback loops, regular engagement and short term goals will help unite staff to work towards the company’s vision.