5 Tips for Managing Change at Work

January 23, 2023

Change at work can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. From management restructuring, to new policies being implemented, to changes in employee roles and responsibilities, guiding workplace teams through these times can be challenging to say the least.

If you’ve found that managing change has become a big part of your workday, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve put together this list of tips to help manage change at work:

What is Organizational Change?

Organizational change is when a company starts implementing aspects of its business strategy and operations in response to changes in the market.

For example, digital adoption (implementing new digital tools and processes) has become a necessity in a post-COVID, hybrid workplace. Companies also need to implement change to stay competitive and adapt to pivots the competition is making.

According to Harvard Business School, change can be classified into two categories: 

  1. Adaptability: when an employee or a company implements a change to enhance a current process or strategy, like offering a new service.

  2. Transformational: a seismic shift in an organization’s guiding philosophy, company structure, or culture changes occur from the top-down.

Often these two types of change happen at once, which makes the job of managing change effectively even more important.

What Happens If a Workplace Doesn’t Change?

Businesses that don’t adapt with the times will get left in the dust – it’s as simple as that.

According to research from WalkMe, 47% of organizations that integrate change management are more likely to meet their objectives than the other 30% that did not incorporate it.

How to Manage Change at Work?

Implementing successful changes at work relies on two things: leadership from the top, and buy-in from employees at all levels.

This means communicating with employees about why a change is happening, asking for input and feedback, and incorporating it as much as possible so your teams feel like they have a say in the changes affecting their daily lives.

This can pose a challenge for even the most seasoned HR leader, especially in small or medium-level companies who might be resistant to change. The first step is to understand your own “change preferences” and how you react to change.

The second step is to identify “influencers” whose work and opinions are well-respected among their peers and get them to become advocates for change. 

Once you’ve identified your team of change leaders, follow these tips:

5 Tips for Managing Change at Work

1. Accept That Change is Inevitable

At some point, change comes for every business. No matter how much leadership may dig in their heels, eventually the company will get to a point where it’s forced to adapt, or close up shop.

Ideally change implementation will happen long before this “make or break” moment, but by being proactive, advocating for changes and company-wide adoption of the suggested changes, and consistent communication about the positive benefits associated with the change from the top-down.

2. Accept That Change Takes Time

No two companies are the same, which means there’s no “one size fits all” guide to change management.

However, all change processes are similar in that they have a starting point, an end goal, and a series of steps (changes) that happen in-between in order to achieve that goal. These “phases” are typically grouped this way:

Preparation: The change manager (in most cases, the HR Manager) focuses on preparing the company, leadership, and employees for the changes that are coming. This includes explaining why the change is happening, and outlining the steps and plan to get here.

Implementation: The change manager takes the steps outlined above and begins executing them, collecting feedback throughout the process.

Follow-through: The change manager focuses on making sure the changes become a natural part of the company’s culture moving forward. 

3. Understand (and Communicate) the Drivers of Change

Stating that change is coming is one thing; getting buy-in is another. Learning how to approach change is essential before starting to apply it at a company-wide level.

The best way to get everyone on the same page and excited about embracing change is to anticipate questions and objections in advance. When planning your change implementation plan, consider:

  • What pressures are driving change?
  • Are they internal (like new leadership)?
  • Are they external (like new technologies, a disruptor in your industry, etc.)?

4. Create a Plan

Your plan should be developed before you take your first step down the change journey. This guiding document should be easy to understand and include things like:

  • Establishing the key stakeholders
  • “Change teams” who will manage the rollout in their departments
  • Detailed road maps of how changes will be implemented across various departments 
  • The steps required to achieve high-level and department-specific goals
  • How these elements will be measured throughout the change process

5. Anticipate (and Prepare For) Change Fatigue

The harsh reality is that 70% of all change initiatives fail. This happens because employees develop “change fatigue” and eventually go back to their old ways of doing things.

By expecting that some employees will start to cut corners, ignore new directives, or avoid using new tech tools you can nip this counter-productive behaviour as soon as it starts. 

For example, if one of your departmental change leaders flags that an employee isn’t using the new digital inventory management system properly, arrange a meeting with that team member and ask why.

Employees “on the ground” can often share valuable insight that might help shape how the change is implemented moving forward. Listen, consider their feedback, and decide what the next steps are.

In some cases it may be as simple as arranging for a little extra training to help the employee get up-to-speed; in others it might reveal a way you can enhance the process of change for everyone.

Learn How to Manage Change

Learning to be a leader during times of change isn’t a skill we’re born with; it’s a skill that can be honed and developed over time. 

This is especially true for women in STEM fields, which is why we’ve developed our Leadership for Women program. Register for our next online course starting on February 7th now.

If you’re looking for ways to empower your teams and help them develop their abilities, enroll them in our e-learning management system (LMS) where they can access on-demand and self-directed resources on their own time. Contact us to learn more!