In today’s interconnected economic, political, social, and technological environment, changes are occurring at an unprecedented pace, and globalisation is bringing us closer together with information being available instantly through the Internet and mobile technology.
Consequently, change and challenge are all around us, and we must expect, accept and welcome both as a normal part of doing business in order to thrive and reach our company’s growth expectations.
For change to bring positive results, it must first successfully deal with the two major obstacles involved in major organisational change: communication breakdown and employee resistance.
The basic challenges are the same in every change initiative, whether it is dealing with a merger or acquisition, growing a business or a business turnaround, i.e. a lot of change will occur, people will feel threatened about job security, and the business will need to recruit and retain the right people to make it a success.
Communication is paramount in successfully leading change. All communication with staff has to be clear, open, and on a timely basis with specific goals, key measurements, consequences, and results provided and understood.
Apart from talking to staff and creating a two-way communication culture, it is vital to read between the lines and sympathise with the respective employee’s position in order to become familiar with what is actually causing the resistance, so that management can quickly resolve or remove it.
As the greatest barrier to change is in people’s minds and emotions, change requires emotion and not just money and time because businesses do not change, people do.
When embarking on changing the way a business is currently run or changing structures due to reorganisation or a recent acquisition, the leadership team must understand the overall organisational culture and the sub-organisational culture in the areas where change is required as the sum of its behaviours, values, rules, processes or simply the way the company works. This will make it easier for the leadership team to help people adapt and alter their emotional behaviours.
Business owners or CEOs usually have a very clear vision and understanding of the cultural change that their business must undertake in order to best respond to market opportunities and their competition.
The leader’s vision and business strategy need to be clearly communicated, and employee acceptance needs to be established before successful change can be achieved. It is imperative that middle and front line managers quickly comprehend the issues, causes, and nature of the resistance they might face in order to build alignment and integration.
Building consensus on the business’s direction and the potential areas for improvement from the beginning creates a broader range of potential solutions that can be implemented quickly and with better results.
Pressure to fix issues quickly might lead to concerns that building consensus takes considerable time and effort. However, this initial investment will provide greater confidence and assurance to the employees that their leader and senior team are taking a proactive approach to resolve any possible outstanding matters.
Productive change occurs when people are ready, willing, and able to contribute ideas and solutions and encouraged to take responsibility in shaping the future design of the organisation in order to achieve its strategic goals.
Change through enforcement is rarely possible and, if achieved, not as long-lasting and accepted.
In order to achieve lasting change, people need to be ‘on board’ and ‘on the same page.’ This can only be achieved by engaging and listening to employees and getting them aligned on the issues of change. Employees need direction—they need to see it laid out in a road map with key deliverables, milestones, and the finish line.
The CEO and managers require progress updates in order to inform employees how the project is advancing. If the changes are more extensive, it may require a change in priorities (e.g., revise their annual goals) or more resources to help.
Employees need to see the link between their effort and the results. They should be able to discuss what key performance indicators are being measured, ‘how can I influence them?’ and ‘what does it mean to me in terms of rewards and/or recognition?’.
In order for the company to grow during and after change, it is crucial that the organisation reviews its business plan and adjusts its goals accordingly. The organisation will also need to have the right systems, structures, and processes in place. The whole process will require flexibility and agility from the company as well as the senior management team to lead and implement changes swiftly and effectively.
Successful change requires excellence in its planning, design, and implementation, and this will lead to successful market placement, profile and service delivery outcomes.
Effective change management requires a systematic identification and development of behaviours, attitudes, and processes that support change.
Building change agility into the organisation’s culture, within—for instance—effective systems and processes, facilitates the path towards transformation and growth. Agile systems and processes enable the organisation and its people to implement and implant the change when it occurs.
In order to create change agility, it is vital that the talent, recruitment and retention, rewards, succession, and performance management systems are all properly working together to offer consistency and trust throughout the organisation.
When an organisation undergoes great change, it will require building change management capabilities on all organisational levels.
It will also need to create a fit-for-purpose structure and roles for the coaching and training of employees on new processes and tools. The training could include skills training (e.g. skill development programmes, workshops, and online assessments), which then must be audited in post-training tests to confirm understanding of the material.
Consequently, recruiting and retaining staff will continue to be a key success driver for the implementation of change and promotion of innovation.
Effective change management is closely related to several key metrics, such as employee engagement and employee change readiness, both of which influence productivity and performance.
By evaluating and reviewing all steps in the change programme, applying continuous improvement, and adopting measurement ratios and assessment tools, such as dashboards, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), employee surveys, and focus groups, a more realistic picture of its progress will be achieved.
The CEO and senior leaders must have the capabilities and agility to work effectively through change to ensure high levels of engagement, performance, and productivity within the organisational culture.
Organisations must master the skills needed to manage change, so they are ready to react quickly. Indeed, change is constant in business and companies able to respond with competence, communication, and agility will successfully compete—in any economy in the global market.