Often people are uncomfortable with change. Routines are comforting. It doesn’t matter if the change is for the better or for the worse—the unknown is scary. Changes, however, are a natural part of a business’s life cycle, and big changes can often lead to disgruntled staff members. While you may not be able to impact your staff’s first reaction, you can control how you prepare them for the transition. Here are 8 ways to help your employees cope with a major change.
- Take time to watch and listen
If you know changes are looming–and they are for most organizations–take time to watch and listen carefully to your employees. Whether it’s a major restructuring or a modification to a well-established procedure, change (or even the anxiety over impending change) can unsettle your employees and negatively impact the workplace. Sometimes employees will express their anxiety directly to you, but other times their anxiety becomes apparent through changes in their behavior or performance. This is especially the case when change threatens their comfortable and stabile routines. Take time to observe and listen to the pulse of your organization, and then take steps to deal with the anxiety that you may detect.
- Demonstrate your genuine concern
Great bosses realize that they can’t achieve their goals if their people aren’t performing at their very best. Employees, especially in times of stress and challenge, look to management for solutions. They seek guidance when they feel uncertain and isolated from organizational decisions that are out of their control. As a first step, be an example of transparency and honesty. Open the lines of communication between management and employees. Talk openly and regularly about what you know, and encourage input. Show you truly care about your people’s welfare by understanding their concerns and by doing whatever you can to help them. This not only helps you solve any problems you have direct influence over, but also helps them by allowing them to talk freely about what is troubling them.
- Fix what you can
After hearing concerns and gathering input, fix the things that you have control over. Often, uncertainty results from miscommunication or misunderstandings. If, after listening to your employees, you discover an easy solution to dispel their angst, take the initiative to fix whatever you can as quickly as you can. A reassuring word or guidance from management can have a profoundly positive impact on employees in times of uncertainty. If you find the problems caused by change are beyond your scope, avoid promising your employees things you cannot deliver or have no business promising them in the first place.
- Be positive and look for opportunity
Remain positive. Challenge your employees to take initiative and seek out solutions, new ideas, or cost savings. Look at standard procedures and policies and rework them, or propose alternatives with the bottom line in mind. When times are unsettled, it may appear to employees their efforts are not appreciated by management. By encouraging them to take the initiative you help them to keep moving forward, focused on what can or might be done, rather than fixating on events over which they have no control. As a group, come up with creative solutions to the new challenges created by change.
- Train and prepare
If you have the opportunity and the resources, make time available to your employees to learn new skills. Give them an opportunity to prepare for change with more skills or experience. Preparation and training can help them transition more easily into new roles, or look for work in another areas or organisations, should it become a necessity.
- Explain the Why, When, and How
When introducing a change, give as much detail as possible about why the change is happening, when the change will go into effect, and what the process will look like. Eliminating as many unknowns as you can will give people fewer details to worry about.
- Concentrate on effective delegation.
Too often managers and supervisors feel they must use self-protective measures, especially during organizational change. They start by trying to police all activities. Don’t try to cover all the bases yourself. You should concentrate on effective delegation during the early stages of the change process. Effective delegation is particularly good for two reasons: first, it helps you manage and maintain your workload, and second, it gives your employees a sense of involvement. Involvement positions employees to share responsibility for change.
- Raise levels of expectations.
Now more than ever, you should ask more from your employees. It is expected that more work needs to be done during the change process. While it may be most practical to expect less in terms of performance, raise your levels of expectations and theirs. During change, employees are more likely to alter their work habits, so reach for the opportunity and push them to try harder and work smarter. Require performance improvements and make the process challenging, but remember to keep goals realistic in order to eliminate frustration and failure.