What is change?
Simply put, change is when an organisation moves from one situation to another. These changes can be major, such as a merger, redundancies, re-structuring or a change in working practices. More minor changes can include new company policies, training, or even cosmetic changes to a workplace.
Major changes tend to occur once every three years, while minor changes are almost constantly taking place. As a result, managers should be aware of how to manage it.
What causes change?
Change can be caused by external pressures, such as action by competitors, the market, customer feedback, or new legislation or technology. Internal pressures include employee feedback, the need for new policies, or a skills gap.
The need for change will happen when that pressure builds up to the point where the employer realises something needs to be done. It can occur suddenly, or build up for many years. It’s best to deal with it as quickly as possible.
How do I manage change?
You need to pro-actively manage change for several reasons. Change can be necessary for the organisation’s survival, and having a plan in place will make the transition much easier for everyone involved.
Plan for change
Change can come suddenly, so it’s important to have a strategy in place in case it does. Using problem-solving techniques such as force field analysis, SWOT analysis, cause and effect analysis, and root cause analysis will show you where and when change is most likely to occur, so you can plan accordingly.
Brainstorming with members of the team can be useful for gathering ideas and suggestions on what to do in any given scenario. Agree an action plan and timescale for implementing those plans.
Understand that individuals within your organisation may be going through a range of emotions when faced with change. Different employees will have different feelings depending on their own circumstances.
Some may feel anxiety or fear, feeling that their position is under threat. Others may feel happiness or excitement at the possibility of a new opportunity. What you need to do is be open and communicate what is happening at all times. This will remove uncertainty from the situation and prevent worrying rumours taking hold.
Telling the truth about change – even if it isn’t all good news – will allow you to offer reassurance, or build on positive feedback. Addressing personal concerns and letting employees ask questions will help too. Employees may be at different stages of coming to terms with the changes.
Bear in mind, when communicating change to employees it’s not only what you say that’s important, but how you say it too. Be sensitive to the situation.
Keep up-to-date with the law
Contracts, redundancies, lay-offs, TUPE, and flexible working are all areas that you may need to be familiar with in order to manage change while remaining legally compliant.