How to help your team get ready for change

The last couple of years have challenged organisations and the individuals within them. Former signed-off strategic plans have been thrown out the window to make room for ‘Plan Bs’. No one could have predicted the challenges that the business world has faced or the need for employees to become so adaptable to change.

Leaders who were previously risk adverse have led significant change through a workforce that in many cases has feared it due to the negative impacts of a global pandemic. We may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of COVID-19 but it is predicted that change will continue to play a major part of business for years to come. An organisation’s ability to adapt and evolve will ultimately become the difference between success and failure.

8 tips to prepare the business for change

When organisations put in the effort to become ‘change ready’, they are able to quickly respond and adapt to both planned and unplanned change. The following 8 tips will help to build your business’ readiness to change and empower your leaders to build a change culture.

1. Assess leadership change competency

If you are starting a business from scratch, there is no doubt that part of your recruitment criteria would be to hire employees with the aptitude to change. However, with existing employees you either need to hope that this is already within your team or you need to train it. Start by assessing your change leadership competency and plan to bridge the gap.

2. What is the employee appetite to change?

Successful change is only achieved when employees have the appetite to change, the skills to navigate change, and the mindset to want to. It is common to have resistance to change, so you need the majority to be willing to work collaboratively toward the new, desired state. Understand who could be the ‘change champions’ and who will be ‘the roadblocks’ and tailor a plan to gain willing participants.

3. Is there a change culture?

It is recommended that prior to a major change, there is an assessment on the change culture. Ask yourself:

  • How has this team previously responded to major change?
  • Is there an appetite to move towards a better future or to stay at status quo?
  • Does everyone hop on board the change train or do we usually take prisoners?
  • How quickly can employees seek out the benefits of change?
  • Is change only led from above, or at all levels in the business?
4. Create open communication channels

When the leadership team operate like the secret service, it can create resistance and suspicion. Generate trust and buy in through regular updates and transparency. Provide clear options for the employee group for how and when they will be communicated with. Encourage senior leaders to be accessible to frontline workers to share feedback and concerns and set up e-channels for instant communication.

5. Address fear

It is common for workers to fear the worst with change. When a large scale change is announced, employees commonly ask:

  • Will I lose my job?
  • How will this impact me? My role? My benefits?
  • Will technology replace me?
  • Is there going to be job security?
  • How will this change affect my ‘day to day’?

Fear paralyses a working group and it can become a large hurdle to move forward towards required change. Drive fear out by addressing employee concerns and replacing it with facts and transparency.

6. Ask ‘what if’ questions to break through barriers

Resistance to change is common and driven by the unknown. It is much more comfortable to remain the same, than to enter into a different work environment. Build an appetite for change and reduce fear by asking employees ‘what if’ questions. For example:

  • What if we tried this new technology and it reduced the amount of manual data entry?
  • What if expanding our product range created opportunities for promotion and growth?
  • What if a competitor took our current market share? How would we respond?
  • What if this was your business? What decision would you make?
7. Encourage collaborative diverse work groups

Change deserves different perspectives and it ultimately requires collaboration. With impending business change, a group of different employees with diverse backgrounds and insights can bring the right solution to the table. When diversity is embraced in a change initiative, the wave of change is easier to ride. To ensure this is achieved, ask yourself:

  • What perspective am I missing?
  • Which employee group is not represented in this decision making?
  • Have I gained insights from a range of different sub groups within the work group community?
  • What other departments could help with this change initiative?
8. Celebrate wins early and often

When there is resistance to change, it is important to show that the wheels are moving in the right direction. Sometimes leaders want to wait until major milestones have been achieved, but the risk is employees will feel the angst of change and will not see the benefit. Sharing small wins and increments towards the bigger picture keeps the team focused and on board.

Lead from the front

It may be leadership 101, but sometimes managers overlook the benefit of being at the coal face of change. You may have a degree in change management and a glossy transformation plan that won over the board of directors but as a business leader, it is integral that you are prepared to experience the highs and lows of a change plan alongside those who are expected to execute it.

Remain inquisitive, invite regular feedback, and be brave enough to continually ask, “Help me to understand what I may have missed?”. When you are vulnerable enough to share the journey, you may be surprised at who wants to jump onboard.

Further information 

Ai Group has experienced HR consultants who can partner with your business to devise workplace leadership strategies designed to increase engagement and operational efficiency. For assistance with your workplace matters, Members of Ai Group can contact us or call our Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77 for further information.

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Georgina Pacor

Georgina is Senior Content Writer and HR Specialist – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 25 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.