The Future of Change: Are You Ready?

Have you ever noticed that nearly every job description contains phrases like, “Can handle a fast-paced and changing environment”, or “able to work with others when given shifting priorities”?

That’s because these days, change in the workplace is a given.

It wasn’t very long ago that when people heard the word “change”, thoughts of downsizing, mergers and acquisitions, or layoffs immediately came to mind, creating an environment of fear and stress in the workplace. Now, change can also mean new IT systems, process changes, or upgraded software, yet employees still get turned off just by the suggestion of change which of course, creates uncertainty.

It’s during change planning and change implementation, when staff is at their most uncertain, when the challenge becomes simultaneously wanting them to adapt to the change, while at the same time keeping their performance up. This takes time and energy – and that’s just one change! All of us are already dealing with multiple changes at work, home, and in society.

We also need to apply that ancient credo, “Change is the only constant in life”, to the workplace, because organizational change is continuous and always will be, and will speed up. As a result, for an organization to be change ready for the future, change management, and change leadership must be a core competency for everyone in an organization.

Engaging the Executive and Front Line Staff

Change management is not just for managers and leaders. It’s now about everyone working together to affect the best change management strategy possible.

Gone are the days when the top brass would initiate a major change – and everyone else would just have to deal with it. In the modern workplace, everyone who is affected by the change plays a role in the process, and it’s up to the management team to help facilitate it through engagement with these stakeholders.

As a result, senior leaders will start looking at employee change management capabilities from C-suite and managers across all levels. They’re expecting their executives to be able to answer questions such as:

  • Can our leaders manage AND lead change?
  • Are our teams prepared to adapt to change?
  • How do we deal with all the changes, given more will be asked of us next year?
  • What metrics and measures are we using to see if the change implementation was successful?

More and more we’re seeing leaders engage front line staff in a change plan. While I’ve heard that can be a scary thought, they’re the ones interacting daily with customers, suppliers, vendors, and co-workers, and can give the leadership team an honest, informed opinion on what can be improved with an organization’s processes, programs and services.

At first it may feel counter-intuitive, but leaders who are truly dedicated to results-driven change will recognize that the input gleaned from frontline staff will not only lead to a better change management process, but will also lessen fears about future change among their employees, and increase their change management capability.

Help Your Team Adapt to Change

With new innovations, tightening budgets and shifting customer and client needs, rest assured that change will not only always be around, but also increase in frequency. According to Gartner*, the #1 thing we can do to help manage all these changes is to increase people’s capability to handle them.

Here are 7 ways you can do that:

  • Be aware of the politics: Competing agendas create politics during change and there are always competing agendas! Those of us leading change are tasked with managing our own egos, reducing uncertainty, figuring out how to satisfy the agendas that are a priority, and making sure people feel heard and acknowledged – knowing we can’t problem solve everyone’s issues and make their lives better.
  • Develop the right change practices: There are many different change models out there. I’ve heard a number of change practitioners and vendors say “this is the best model”. In my experience, there are usually many options. Make the shift from best practices to understand the “right practices” for the particular change initiative, and recognize that these practices will need to be adjusted with each new change.
  • Avoid false positivity: Know the difference between putting a positive spin versus taking a positive approach, and when to allow people to voice concerns when they’re feeling doubtful about change.
  • Lead change, instead of just managing it: Be clear when you are managing change or leading change. The first is reactive, latter is proactive. There are times for both. Take ownership by demonstrating leadership through the process, regardless of your job title.
  • Start talking about shifting mindsets: Change isn’t just a shift in behaviour or learning a new skill. Effective sustainment of change requires a change in mindset. Encourage a shift in the mindset of your leaders and employees whether it’s meeting customer needs, how work gets done, how they work with each other, or the organization’s overall business model. Gather evidence, stories, data, lessons learned to help everyone understand the mind shift that’s needed.
  • Know What Big Data Is and How to Use It: Change will increase due to enhanced technology and artificial intelligence that will lead into big data. Organizations will be capturing and analyzing more and more data, which sometimes makes it difficult and time consuming to make decisions. This again creates that challenge that if we are under pressure to do more in less time, how do we make good decisions? Big data will also allow us to tailor the change management strategies to individuals, and to make decisions with real time information. Because of this, our ability to be agile and not too stuck on a process will be a key to future change success.
  • Read About Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI will be present more and more in our work and home lives. Siri and Alexa are two familiar examples of the current use of AI. A study done at Stanford University** found that voice recognition was three times faster that texting. Does that mean everyone will be talking to the computers at their cubicles? That would make a loud office environment with everyone yelling during change! (More on AI in an upcoming article.)

Adapting to Continuous Change

9 to 5 office culture has shifted over the years – in fact I’m not sure why it’s still called “9 to 5” anymore!

As workplace expectations increase, working all the time isn’t the solution. Globalization and the ability to work from home all impact our ability to recharge and handle change.

Balancing staying connected and finding time to recharge will be key to maintaining the productivity and engagement of yourself and others.

Above all, it’s important to change the expectation that you can’t adapt to all these changes. Everyone can adapt, as humankind has successfully done since time immemorial. Our long-ago ancestors adapted to changing technology including the wheel, printing press, radio, and automobiles. If we can survive those major changes, you can handle your next organizational change too!