Think of the last big change that you went through at work. Maybe a new system was introduced or there were changes to the structure of the organisation. Perhaps you were either involved and so pretty comfortable with what was happening or didn’t know what was going on until an email arrived.
All too often in any change programme, the focus is on the systems and processes. These are hugely important to the success of any change initiative, however one line on a project plan for ‘communication and training’ does not mean that people have truly been accounted for.
Let’s consider a restructure or organisational design, which most of us will have been affected by somewhere in our careers. How many times do roles change, workflows streamlined or at worst people made redundant with no real thought or upfront plan on how the ways of working will need to be different? Add to this a lack of communication throughout and it’s a race to catch up after the changes are made, to get to a place where people know what’s expected of them and how to meet those expectations.
It’s time to start putting people first. No news isn’t good news during organisational change (or any change for that matter). People want to know what is happening, and that includes even when there isn’t really much to tell them. If there isn’t much that people can be told at that point, tell them that!
The impact of appearing closed and guarded is dangerous. People become distrustful and cynical, opening the door to stress and anxiety. Some will look around for their next role and make the move, leaving those who stay to face even more uncertainty and pressure. Others won’t consider leaving, instead feeling disengaged long after the change has been implemented.
We’re often asked to support clients by helping their people to manage stress or build resilience, more often than not because of recent organisational changes – such as the restructure. This is always a great sign that they want to provide support, but it can be perceived as an afterthought once the horse has bolted. Provide people with the communication, opportunity to collaborate and above all, the skills or mindset development that they need before and during the changes, not just afterwards.
Leaders: you all need to step up and help people to get to the ‘why’ behind the change, not just the ‘what’. Seek views, get input and involve people during the process. You’re called a ‘leader’ for a reason, and people will look to you through turbulent times. Positivity, resilience and adaptability will not go unnoticed.
The next big change you’re involved in, ask yourself: “What about our people, how will this impact them?” If you’re not controlling any part of the change, it’s easy to feel like things are being put upon us, yet it’s still in our control to speak up, offer to get involved or find out more about what is going on.
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