Change in the workplace can be especially difficult. You’ve spent years mastering your craft, building relationships, and learning the ins-and-outs of your company. You know all of the policies and procedures and even figured out all of the software you must use to do your job. Any forthcoming change, small or big, that threatens your performance or job security is sure to drive up the stress levels.
Common examples of workplace changes include managerial and organizational changes, downsizing, new products, new technology, and new office space/business locations. However, smaller-scale changes may also be surprisingly difficult for employees to manage.
Here are five tips that any business owner or manager can use when preparing their employees for change:
In order to have a change plan, you have to anticipate the impact of the upcoming change so you can be prepared. What may seem like a small change to you may be a big deal to your employees. Put yourself in their position and try to answer the following questions with their perceptions in mind (remember, if they don’t have all of the information, their perceptions may not be reality):
- Will they think their job security or compensation is threatened?
- Will they need to learn anything new to do their job, such as a software program?
- Will it take them out of their comfort zone?
- Will it require them to put in additional time and effort, in addition to their current responsibilities?
- Will they have to build new relationships or overcome issues with previous ones?
2. Be Empathetic
When considering how to manage your employees during the change, you may find the urge to say “this is their job so deal with it”. Although there’s some merit to that hard-line statement, fight the urge. Remember that people naturally resist change so getting positive results with this approach is not realistic. Even if a softer style is not part of your make-up, it does make good business sense to be empathetic to your employees’ changing situation. Your job is to keep up productivity and morale. When stress levels rise, your best bet is to show your employees that you understand their plight and let them know that you will help them navigate the waters, however choppy they may seem.
Communication is a major factor in keeping your workforce engaged during a big change. Get out in front of things and alert your employees to what’s coming. Blind-siding them will only create feelings of distrust and heightened anxiety right off the bat.
Once changes have begun, keep the lines of communication open. Establish a frequent schedule of communications and stick to it, even if there’s not a lot of new information at each step. Without regular communications, your employees will start to fill in gaps with their own information and draw their own (often inaccurate) conclusions. Rumor mill, keep on turning!
Be as honest as you can in your communications. Aside from confidential information, you should share as much as you can about the transition to keep everyone informed. Do not make up information or set false expectations, even if you have good intentions. You will lose all credibility as soon as your word is contradicted.
In times of transition, people want a crutch to lean on. Give your employees the resources they need to successfully navigate the change. This can come in the form of training classes, online and hard-copy manuals, access to an expert, and many other things. Seek feedback to understand areas that need clarity or are causing concern and provide FAQs or other resources to address them. You’ll probably even learn some great ideas to improve the change at hand.
5. Lead by Example
Plain and simple: your actions should match your words. If you’re telling your employees that they should be acting a certain way or doing certain things, then you must lead by example. Don’t complain or spread rumors. If you require your employees to take a training class, you should also be present and actively participate (sitting in the back of the room and playing on your iPhone doesn’t count). Be knowledgeable so you can answer questions or get help for your employees. Being a strong leader through stressful times will not only minimize transitional issues, your actions will leave a positive impression when conditions stabilize.
Do you have other tips to help manage change in your business?