Managing change in the workplace effectively

Business Insights

Change. It’s something we have all experienced a great deal of in the past eighteen months. But in actual fact, change is a natural part of life and as the Ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, famously wrote “the only constant in life is change”. So why is change often so difficult to accept and why does it unsettle so many people?

James Kelly, the script writer of iHASCO’s online short course, Responding to Change, explains how change can affect us as individuals and how it can be managed effectively in the workplace.

Change is an inevitable part of life, and some people cope better with it than others. As human beings we prefer familiarity, so when we are faced with uncertainty, the unknown can leave us feeling resistant to change. There’s often very little we can do however, as change is often external to us, but how we handle our psychological and emotional response to change is within our control. It may not always be easy but with practice our response to change can improve for the better.

If you have worked at your workplace for some time, it is likely that you will have seen many changes. Businesses must be agile and make decisions which often result in change for its employees. These changes can range from going paperless to a change in leadership or a merger, and some employees may find the transition more difficult than others. In these situations, change can be positive, but it is not always easy for your employees to see this at the time when they are going through it.

Understanding change

Models of change, such as the Kubler Ross Change Curve or the Bridges Transition Model can help us understand more about how we respond to change, but everyone’s feelings are unique and may not necessarily be reflected in these models. However, they can be useful to help recognise that there will likely be a range of emotions when it comes to change. It’s important to accept that all feelings are valid and someone’s journey when it comes to accepting change may be longer than others.

Managing Change

A good starting point when it comes to supporting employees with change in the workplace, is to talk with them, both as a team and individually. This will help reassure them about any worries they may have and validate their unique experiences. But equally important, is the need to be open and honest, and set expectations before the change takes place.

To help support employees with a smooth transition, offer additional training or set some small, easily achievable goals, which will help employees feel motivated, as well as boost team morale. Remind employees that often if a change is seen as a threat, they can flip their thought to something more positive, and view the change as an opportunity or a challenge instead. At some point the change will no longer feel new, and it will become normal. Don’t forget to celebrate the achievements of your employees, and remind them of their successes.

Preparing for change

In fact, a good manager can prepare their team for change before it has even taken place. Effectively responding to change is a skill that can be developed. Provide a bite-sized eLearning course to introduce the topic and provide pointers for dealing with change. This will be useful in the workplace but also in an employee’s personal life and allow them to start practicing this skill, so when the next workplace change does occur they will be more prepared.

Developing further soft skills can also be useful when it comes to responding to change, for example building resilience and learning mindfulness can provide further support in times of change and support transition. Helping your employees grow and strengthen these skills will help them embrace change, rather than resist it.

If you are interested in further understanding change download iHASCO’s free Managing Change whitepaper for business managers and owners here