Coping with Change in the Workplace
Change has always been synonymous with the workplace, indeed change is often accepted as being the only constant. Yet the past two and half years of unprecedented change felt globally has understandably impacted the ways in which Human Resources responds to the task of supporting change programmes and initiatives.
Many HR professionals experience resistance to change from employees, when change initiatives commence. As a result, those same changes can be slowly adopted and embedded less effectively than envisioned.
Yet with the multitude of continued changes the workplace is set to experience, from shifts to increased automation, reorganization, mergers, acquisitions and increasing decentralization, how can HR make a success of any change?
1. Understand the Business Case for Change
Step one in every change management programme is to understand the business case behind the change.
The business case objective is to define what the organization wants to achieve, the rationale for the change and the benefits to the organization. In short, the business case should set the stage for managing expectations and intended outcomes.
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This will also provide the HR team with the necessary details regarding the change, so they can communicate the reasons for the change effectively to the organization. The communication strategy will be a key underpinning factor in the smooth embedding of change, once the business case has been signed off for implementation.
It is also vital that the HR team are in agreement with the context of the proposed business change. Providing a safe guard to ensure the change is a legitimate one that is ultimately beneficial to the organization.
At the stage where HR have signed off the business case, the next steps involve presenting the case to the board of directors or the appointed senior steering committee to gain approval for the change project going forward.
2. Define and plan the change management project
The team in HR will need to plan for the change to go ahead once sign off has been obtained. Critical considerations, such as business readiness, impact and timeframes will need to be factored into the plan.
Alongside the plan, there will also need to be consideration given to the aims, objective and purpose of the change. Serving as a starting point, the ‘change charter’ will become the North star of the change project. Serving as a source of reference for those facilitating and driving the business change.
The plan itself will need to be a detailed and comprehensive project plan, with clear timeframes, deliverables, dependencies and milestones that are closely aligned with the business needs. Critical to the success of the project plan will be stakeholder mapping, a communication plan and a full costs, benefits analysis, along with a comprehensive budget.
3. Stakeholder communications
Encountering resistance to change can be one of the major stumbling blocks to the success of a change management project. Yet one of the key enablers to successful change, is the strength of the communication plan and strategy.
Stakeholder communication is crucial to aid the transparency of the project’s plan with those who will be impacted by the change. The aim of stakeholder communication is to anticipate and smooth out challenges and potential blockers to change by helping those impacted, influencing or benefiting from the proposed change to understand the context, benefits and engage with the change.
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It is vital that the HR team identify those who will need to be communicated with and the core methods and timeframes of the communication. The communication plan can be led by HR directly or the appointed project manager or programme management office.
4. Appoint employee champions in the change management
A successful tactic for HR to deploy when leading a change project is to appoint employee champions, tasked with assisting the smooth landing of the change plan. Employee champions are those who have an influence in the employee community and may also be affected by the proposed change.
By engaging these crucial stakeholders in the change being made, there’s a good opportunity to overcome any potential resistance to change being expressed by colleagues and wider stakeholder groups.
This approach also gives HR an insight into the concerns that people have about the changes being proposed. A direct connection between HR and employee stakeholders is vital to facilitate the preparation for ways in which the concerns can be addressed and tackled. Thus limiting the impact of change resistance. Or certainly being prepared to work through the resistance ahead of time.
Further benefits of this approach are upticks in change adoption, and an increased likelihood of those involved in the change buying into it.
5. Provide timely & consistent updates on the change deployment
Understanding what blockers there may be to the change is one thing. But having timely and consistent updates on the change deployment as it unfolds, is a sure fire way to ensure that stakeholders are engaged with the change process.
Updates as the timeline unfolds works well when they are a combination of one to one and one to many communications updates to share. By providing consistent updates that are scheduled, offers the dual purpose of contributing to an engaged culture whilst also driving top down and bottom up connection.
6. Evaluate as you go, lessons learned reflections are key
With all change projects, there are lessons to be learned along the way. Reflecting on the project as it unfolds, but also at the end of the project. Contemplating what worked well, what could be improved upon and what didn’t work at all. Are all important considerations for the HR practitioner and team to think about.
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Change is a continuous process and at the closure of one change project, it’s almost inevitable that another change project will be in the pipeline to commence.
As such, the lessons learned exercise deployed at the close of a project and at the commencement of a new one enables the HR team to consider whether the project met expectations, and whether it achieved a return on investment.
Change in these increasingly volatile and shifting times, will continue as a constant in the workplace. While change isn’t always disruptive and uncomfortable it often can be. Yet despite this, there are many benefits that change can bring to organizations and people alike.
The introduction of more efficient ways of working, streamlined processes, improvements to technology and movement away from processes that sap time, rather than enabling innovation are all business change programmes renowned for driving improvements that impact for many years following the changes implementation.
One such change, that delivers significant benefits for many small to medium sized businesses throughout Europe and beyond, has been the decision taken by business leaders and HR leaders to move to Sage HR.
With Sage HR, time consuming, but wholly necessary HR administrative and management tasks are taken care of in a series of well designed modules. Streamlining the HR process that can detract from the availability of HR professionals to deliver change whilst being hands on to support the very stakeholders on the change curve.
By adopting change and solutions such as Sage HR, the challenges being felt by leadership teams everywhere can become one less business challenge to worry about.
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