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How to Implement Change in the Workplace: Expert Tips

Company Culture
May 5, 2022
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It’s been said that 70% of organisational change fails. But, it doesn’t have to be the case for your business if you focus on the right aspects of change, including leadership and employees’ mental wellbeing. 

That being said, McKinsey has found that when frontline employees are driving the change, the success of transformations reaches 71%.  

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In this article, we will cover how to implement change in the workplace so that you can be part of the 71% of companies that succeed, rather than the 70% that fail.

What Does it Mean to Implement Change?       

When it comes to organisational change, it means that some way of doing business is shifting. It could be a big or small change. Some examples of change in the workplace include implementing new employee practices, deploying new software or technology solutions, or initiating an entirely new business strategy. 

While all of these examples are different in scope and outcome, they have a running thread that connects them, which is that they necessitate strategies for communicating change so that employees and managers are aligned. 

The first step in knowing how to implement change in the workplace is focusing on change management.

What are the Benefits of Change Management?   

Change management refers to the methods and strategies that a company uses to communicate and implement change internally and externally. For example, this can be in relation to culture change and the implementation of new values or it could be a structural change to shift into a large scale organisation with the implementation of operating models. A major part of change management undoubtedly involves employees, since they’re usually the people who are on the ground implementing the new ways of doing business. 

The benefits of change management are plenty because when you are clear, direct, and open about changes, everyone gets to be on the same page and receive the resources they need to do so.

With adequate change management, the organisation benefits from:

  • Improved efficiency and effectiveness
  • Enhanced employee engagement and productivity 
  • Better collaboration and co creation amongst teams
  • A clear path to move forward 

Employee voice should always be considered during any change management process. Involvement and demonstrating that employees have been listened to is vital. Many people fear change because of the unknown, which can lead to anxiety and stress. That’s why it is so important to recognise the human side of change and the impact it can have on mental wellbeing.

One way to do this is to provide your employees with an employee wellbeing tool that allows them to build their own awareness around how they feel and what’s impacting them. This increased awareness and emotional intelligence enables them to be able to better problem solve and deal with change more effectively. 

Plus, employers can see aggregated data on an organisational or department level to know where extra support may be needed. An employee wellbeing tool also offers resources, guided training, and tools to boost employees’ mental fitness, which increases resilience and their openness to handle change.

What Steps Support Effective Change Management?   

From a bird’s eye view, be sure to consider these elements of change management: 

1. Vision: 

From the start, be clear about what the change entails and what it will mean to be considered “done” or “successful.” 

2. Plan: 

Outline a concise plan that shows employees where the business is now, where it wants to be, and how exactly it is to get there.

3. Resources: 

Ensure that the right resources are in place to make the plan come to fruition. Primarily, this involves delegating responsibilities to the right people. It follows with logistics, technology, communication plans, and employee wellbeing resources. 

4. Support: 

Business leaders are often at the lead, trickling down what needs to be done to get to the end goal. During the process, leaders and managers should support employees with whatever they need to get the job done.

5. Measurement: 

Depending on your business goal, the KPIs will be in accordance. Be ready to collect, cleanse, analyse, and report data to stakeholders and your team members to showcase how the change has benefited the business. This also helps to make it easier to manage change in the future.

What are the Steps to Implement Change in the Workplace?       

Change management often works in stages, much like a domino effect. 

Here’s a look at some best practices for how to implement change in the workplace: 

1. Start with “Why?” 

When something is going to be adapted, most people will all have the same first question, which is “Why?” Once you explain why something is happening and express goals clearly, you’re more likely to get the buy-in you need to make it happen. 

Developing a communication strategy and identifying what needs to be shared, when, where and with who, can help an organisation to map out its change journey and recognise how best to share critical messages relating to change.  Some changes may have legal implications and therefore it is always important to manage the communication inline with legislation.  For example consultation periods with staff, TUPE Transfers and so on.

Setting out a communication strategy and identifying key milestones allows you to also work through the key goals associated with the change. Goals can also be broken down within each team and/or department with the aid of change champions - it is likely that every team will approach the change from a unique perspective.

2. Make a Plan

Having a plan is essential for implementing change. The plan can involve what areas of business will be affected and what practices may be adjusted as a result. It also communicates the goal of the change. The plan should be shared with everyone who will be affected. It is helpful to have project managers in place and identify who will be responsible at every stage to ensure accountability and streamlined processes. 

3. Leverage Champions

As mentioned, employees are a major part of any organisational change. And, when they are on the frontline and invested in being a part of the change, there’s a dramatic uptick in the likelihood of success. 

One way to do this is to enlist champions within a workplace so that employees can promote and be a part of leading the change. Along with the unknown, employees are often concerned about change because of social implications. 

By enlisting champions within your workforce, employees can explain the benefits of the change to fellow team members and help to alleviate concerns. This can lead to a empowering a self-motivated workforce.

4. Anticipate and Overcome Obstacles

It’s okay if there will be bumps in the road, and when setting out for organisational change, you should take that as a given. It ultimately comes down to how you prepare in advance to manage and overcome them. 

Consider what resistance may appear and how you can be ready to support your employees with the resources they need to continue moving forward. For example, if you are deploying a new software, you may run into technical issues or employees may have questions. 

If you have this in mind at the start, you could set up a center of excellence or involve your IT. This way, instead of freaking out, an employee will know exactly who to call for help. 

5. Pre-Empt and Resolve Technology Issues

The chances are high that technology is involved in some way within your business. So, be sure to check that all technology is functioning as intended. Or, it could be the case that with the new change, you need to deploy a new technology. 

For example, you may be transforming to a business strategy that is focused on having a mobile workforce. If this is the case, then you may need to introduce mobile workforce management software solutions. You can always trial run technology in smaller batches before introducing it to the entire organisation.

6. Prioritise Employee Wellbeing 

With both the old ways of doing business and the new ways, the primary focus should always be on the health and safety of your people. While change could mean an updated process, it ultimately affects an employee’s state of mind. 

To best support your team when initiating change, be sure to check-in with them consistently, provide answers to questions they may have, and share how this new change is going to help not hurt them. 

With an employee wellbeing platform, it becomes easy for employees to document and track their own moods. As an organisation, you get to provide your team with expertly-crafted resources to boost their mental fitness with a tool that gives them the freedom to choose how to use it. 

7. Monitor Changes Weekly

Once the change has gone into effect, don’t just step away from it. Actively monitor and measure how the change is working for the business. Depending on what your goals for the change in the first place, how you measure the success will vary. Again, you can call upon your project management personnel and team for this step. 

At the same time, keep your employees’ mental wellbeing at the top of your mind. Right before and immediately after change happens, your team members may feel more overwhelmed, anxious or stressed. If you’re using an employee wellbeing tool, you’ll gain access to these types of insights to know where to direct extra support for teams.

8. Train Management to be Agile

Middle managers also may need extra support with organisational change. Since they typically directly oversee the people who will be dealing with most of the new ways of working, they’ll need adequate support throughout. It’s also on their shoulders to model the change. What this often comes down to is a manager’s mental fitness, which is how they respond to change and act in turn. 

9. Provide Post Implementation Support

If you’ve gotten to this step, then congratulations! You have a lot to celebrate. But, don’t forget to keep providing consistent support to your team. Post implementation support involves empowering your champions, recognising everyone’s efforts, reviewing how your technology is performing, and maintaining open lines of communication should anyone on the team need to ask for help.

How to Introduce Change in the Workplace?       

They say first impressions are important, right? In the same way, a big part of knowing how to implement change in the workplace comes down to knowing how to introduce change from the get go.

Keep in mind these tips:

1. Communicate Your Goal: 

Express to all employees why this change is happening and what the business is hoping to achieve. 

2. Make Change Transparent: 

Be honest about and open about how their day-to-day will be affected and what they can expect. 

3. Talk About the Benefits: 

Of course, focus on what they are set to gain in the new way of doing business. This helps to develop enthusiasm as opposed to fear. 

4. Involve Employees: 

Let employees know that they are a part of the change, rather than just those handling it. Involve them in devising new plans, measuring their own success, and expressing how they feel about the upcoming changes. 

5. Set Expectations: 

Clearly communicate what you expect of each individual and/or team. This is a key way to help reduce stress levels because when people are aware of what’s expected, they don’t have to guess if they are doing something right or wrong.

6. Make Change Possible: 

Be sure to provide proper support and training where needed. Similarly, be aware of your team’s mental wellbeing and mood around the changes. 

With an employee wellbeing platform, you not only provide your employees with a better understanding of their mental wellbeing with the ability to track their mood over time, but you also support their wellbeing and resilience with the resources provided within the solution. 

7. Listen: 

Welcome feedback and address your employees’ concerns. If employees have ideas to help streamline the changes, be open to trying them out! When employees get to take ownership ov

8. Celebrate Success: 

Don’t forget to celebrate all wins, both big and small! Rewarding and recognising employees’ efforts in these regards will lead to a motivated and excited workforce.

Team working together
By Kaleidico from Unsplash

What are the Challenges in Implementing Change in the Workplace?       

There wouldn’t be articles like this dedicated to how to implement change in the workplace if challenges didn’t exist when doing so. 

Some of the most common challenges businesses face in change management are:

1. Employee Resistance: 

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome is employee buy-in. Without your employees on board, no change would be effective. It’s often a challenge with regard to how they feel about a change, be it fear, stress, burnout, or overwhelm. 

That’s why clear communication and support for your team’s mental wellbeing proves to be so pivotal in affecting any change. 

2. Communication Breakdown: 

Like mentioned, communication is key. Your team should know goals, expectations, plans, and the resources available to them to achieve the change. If your organisation suffers from a breakdown in communication, there will be the risk of a stalemate or pushback. 

3. Managing Ambiguity:

At times, implementing change often ends up feeling ambiguous because of the unknown variables. To overcome this challenge, it’s best to implement change in small doses to gauge longer term effect and reduce negative outcomes as you continue to scale the change. 

4. Stakeholder Management: 

Change requires buy-in from key stakeholders. In order to receive buy-in, change must be clearly communicated, decisive, and planned out. With a clear plan and motivation, stakeholders have a reason to be on board and supportive. 

5. Resource Management: 

Create a budget for what you expect the change to cost. By planning ahead, you can anticipate extra costs and ensure you have what you need in terms of both human resources and tangible resources to accomplish the change.

The Bottom Line 

Once you know how to implement change in the workplace, the notion of it becomes less daunting. For employees and managers alike, everyone can benefit from clear communication and support. From offering resources and training to providing mental wellbeing support, your organisation has a lot of power to propel change in a positive manner. 

As an organisation, you can also focus on supporting your employees’ mental fitness. By doing so, change becomes less scary. As such, the business benefits from an agile workforce that is enthusiastic and inviting about change rather than fearful and stressed. This is because your team is equipped with what they need to be problem-solvers and feel motivated to overcome challenges.

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