Managing Organizational Change

Change can be hard for anyone, but managing organizational change can be particularly challenging in the workplace. Especially as a leader, you need to be familiar with the dynamics of change since even the most minor changes in your organization can have a significant impact on your business. Ultimately, you need to have a positive culture for change to help your employees work through the "change curve" and a plan in place to make a smooth transition.

The concept of "major organizational changes" may seem like a vague term because it can encompass a wide variety of different topics. According to Harvard Business School Online, organizational change refers to "the actions in which a company or business alters a major component of its organization, such as its culture, the underlying technologies or infrastructure it uses to operate, or its internal processes." In simpler terms, it's any sort of significant change that a company or business undergoes. There are many different examples of organizational change and several types that businesses and companies may encounter.

Effective organizational change management can occur when a company's goals are clearly defined, aligned with the business, and communicated clearly to a team. Our team of experts has over four decades of experience with effectively helping employers to increase employee engagement and retention, improve overall workplace culture, and develop ethical and empowered leaders within their organization. We will cover strategies to manage organizational change, along with tangible tips for leaders to implement with their teams.

The Process of Change

There is a basic change management process that organizational change will follow, whether a transformative change or something that will have less of a dramatic impact on the workplace. The following are guidelines for the process of change.

  1. Preparing for the Change, Motivating Teams: Naturally, the first step in the process of change would be to prepare for it. We've always stressed the importance of a proactive approach in basically everything, especially when it comes to organizational success. The change process is no different. The preparation step should include training your leaders and equipping them with all the knowledge and skills they need to successfully guide team members through change.
  2. Implementing and Managing Change: Naturally, this part of the process goes much more smoothly when your organization has leaders who are confident in their ability to coach employees to high performance, even amidst organizational change. Leaders who can be adaptable, maintain employee satisfaction and engagement, and keep open lines of communication (both amongst themselves and amongst all team members) will see high levels of success.
  3. Reinforcing the Change and Reviewing: The final phase of the change process is reviewing how the change was implemented and reinforcing it. Along with this, it includes empowering your employees with the confidence to maintain the business processes and procedures, guidelines, corporate culture, technologies, or strategies that have been updated and/or implemented.

Now that you know the basic process that organizational change follows let's take a deeper look at how to make sure your leaders are prepared and how they can learn to adapt in order to successfully guide team members through change.

Types of Organizational Change

Let's break down the different types of change that you can expect to see in the workplace since it can come in several forms. While we've shared some of the ways you can manage change in the workplace, first, it's important to distinguish what some of the different types of change may look like. There are three major types of organizational change, including the following:

  • Developmental Change. Developmental change is a change in the workplace that improves or enhances previously implemented and established processes, systems, strategies, or procedures.
  • Transitional Change. This is a change that falls between the less drastic (developmental) and major (transformational) type of change. It occurs when an organization moves away from its current state to a new state or phases out one way of doing things and replaces it with another. This often happens in the form of mergers, acquisitions, and system automation.
  • Transformational Change. This is a major organizational change that fundamentally changes a business's structure, values, and company culture and will likely cause a large disruption in their daily operations.

Strategies for Organizational Change Management

It's crucial to have the skills to manage change as a leader. Understandably so, it may be difficult to know how to best handle this in the workplace. Here are some strategies you can implement in your organization to help alleviate some of the stress and confusion that comes with the change process when it happens at work.

  1. Keep the reason for the upcoming change transparent. Be open and honest with all members of your staff about why the change is happening and why it's necessary. Clearly communicate why the decision(s) are being made.
  2. Share the ideal outcome you envision. Be transparent about the anticipated outcomes on both the big picture as well as the day-to-day changes to be expected and any new business strategies that may be implemented. Express not only business impact, but the impact that implementing change will have on the individual employees who work there.
  3. Set expectations surrounding the changes being made and create open lines of communication between management and employees. There should be an open-door policy for employee questions, if not already standard across the board in the organization.
  4. Request feedback from employees so they know you have their best interests in mind. They are your most important asset, and this will help with a smoother transition and less employee resistance. You can expect some form of employee resistance when implementing change, but you can avoid potentially negative outcomes by being proactive in your communication.
  5. Seek advice from your HR professionals on how to best relay communications to the whole team and field questions as they come from employees. Communications can include internal social media channelsemployee apps, email, up-to-date webpages, etc.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of the strategies for organizational change management, but it's a great start. Implementing these tips will get you started on a great path for positively facilitating changes in the workplace. In addition to the above strategies, there are other plans you should have in place that will make leading your teams through organizational change easier and lead to overall workplace success. If increased employee retention, higher employee productivity, and having a more involved and focused workforce are goals within your organization, here are some areas you should look to focus on and train your leaders to be the experts in!

Implementing all of the above will help you to create authentic employee connections and become an employer of choice. Training your leaders in these areas will help them to move your organization forward and exceed business goals, along with ensuring they are positive champions of the change management process.

How Leaders Can Adapt to Change

In a recent article, we shared at length how you can help train your leaders to adapt to a coaching style of leading. You can read more in-depth about that here. To sum it up, it's possible to teach your leaders to learn a new way of, well, being leaders. Many leading styles of the past find supervisors and managers in a "command and control" type of mindset. However, it's essential to help them shift to a different type of managing, one that promotes individual growth, confidence and fosters an environment where employees are engaged and feel supported, heard, respected, and understood.

It's been said that "an old dog can't learn new tricks," but an established front-line manager, supervisor, or even executive-level leader can learn a new way of leading. So often, managers are appointed to that title based on the amount of time they've been in a position or because they are good at their job, rather than the hands-on experience they have exemplifying real leadership skills.

The good news is that training exists that can help shift the "manager" mindset to one of leadership and help empower your leadership team to foster their strengths to move an organization forward. If you want to maintain your union-free status and foster a workplace culture where potential job candidates are actively seeking employment opportunities, you can't turn down or dismiss any opportunities for leadership training

Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change

Naturally, there may be some resistance to the changes happening in your workplace. Resistance to organizational change can happen with even the most positive of organizational changes - because change can be difficult to both implement and process. However, we believe that steps can be taken to overcome change resistance. When combined with the right leadership training, the tips listed above can lead to a smooth transition and less resistance from employees.

When they hear about big changes in their workplace, the initial reaction of your employees can be that of shock, confusion, or even anger. This is completely normal, but it doesn't have to have lasting negative impacts on them or your organization. When your team members trust that you are being authentic and leading ethically and with integrity, openly communicating the reasons for change, and sharing how the changes will affect them and their daily lives, it will lead to a successful implementation of change!

Working Through Other Change Barriers

Aside from employee resistance, you may face some additional barriers to change, such as a lack of effective communication, insufficient direction, or even a lack of buy-in from upper management and leadership - whether actual or perceived. It simply can't be overstated: keeping the lines of communication wide open between management and employees will significantly reduce the barriers to change. Involve employees in the process from start to finish, and provide plenty of opportunities for questions and sharing concerns. Most importantly, your leaders should be the champions for change and fully on board through the entire change curve. If your leaders aren't confident with the skills required for leading organizational change, it's time to provide them with the training and knowledge they need!

Change Management Skills

Some of the necessary skills that your organizational leaders will need to ensure effective change management include:

  • Strong, effective communication
  • The ability to coach as a leader
  • Delegation
  • Adaptability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Active listening
  • Strategic planning

Ultimately, your leaders need to be able to earn trust, communicate effectively, connect with their employees, and motivate people to move smoothly through any change resistance.

Training for Leading Organizational Change Management

It's normal to feel underprepared for leading organizational change in the workplace since it's a skill that needs to be developed. Along with your leadership team, you need to feel confident in your abilities to help your employees through workplace changes. That's where organizational Change Management Training from A Better Leader can prepare you through the process of organizational change initiatives and help you with a seamless transition through the stages of the change curve. Here's what you and your leaders will take away from this training:

  • The importance of a Change Culture in your workplace
  • Tips on how to positively affect the Change Culture in your organization
  • An understanding of how to work with change instead of against it

You can schedule a free demo or sign up for a 14-day trial to get started with your first training today. Help your leaders feel empowered and provide them with the change management skills they need to learn new organizational change management strategies!

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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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