In today’s fast-paced and rapidly evolving business world, change is inevitable, and leaders must be proactive in helping their employees embrace change to ensure a smooth transition and success. And because most companies face new, unnavigated challenges, I’d like to explore some strategies leaders can adopt to help their employees embrace change.
1. Communicate clearly and transparently
One of the most important things leaders can do to help employees embrace change is to communicate clearly and transparently. Leaders need to be upfront about the reasons for the change and the potential impact on employees. They should also provide regular updates throughout the change process to keep employees informed and address concerns.
For example, when StoneAge rolled out our strategic plan this year, we wanted to be sure that our employee-owners could better understand where we were going and why. We are evolving from a traditional manufacturing company into a tech company, and as you well know, transformation always means change. Rather than presenting the changes via PowerPoint, we made a series of videos explaining the changes in bite-sized chunks. Then each department leader pulled their teams together to watch the videos and discuss what the changes meant.
2. Listen to employees and involve them in the change
Leaders should listen to their employees’ concerns and ideas regarding the change and involve them in the process. This could include holding focus groups or town hall meetings to gather feedback, forming task forces or committees to work on specific aspects of the change, or involving employees in decision-making processes.
Continuing with the strategic plan rollout, we wanted to communicate clearly and transparently and wanted input and feedback. We wanted to bring people along on the journey. As each team watched the videos, we asked for input, feedback, and questions. The results were outstanding. Our employee-owners appreciated the more personalized approach. In fact, some teams asked so many questions we had to hold follow-up sessions. All leaders should strive for that kind of engagement when rolling out change. Why? Leaders can gain valuable insights and ideas by involving employees in the change process and increasing buy-in and commitment to the change. It also helps to create a sense of ownership and empowerment among employees, leading to a smoother transition and greater success.
3. Provide training and support
Change can be challenging, especially when it involves learning new skills or processes. Leaders should provide training and support to help employees adapt to the changes, such as one-on-one coaching, group training sessions, or online resources.
As part of our ongoing digital transformation, we are implementing a digital customer experience platform that includes brand-new websites with single sign-on and account management capabilities – very different from our current website and portal. Knowing it was a significant change for our internal teams and customers, we rolled out an extensive training program to ease the transition. We even delayed the launch of the new websites when we received feedback from our customer service team that they weren’t comfortable navigating and troubleshooting the website. It was far more critical that everyone was on board with the changes than hitting an arbitrary date, so we pushed the date and prioritized more training and support.
4. Recognize and reward positive behaviors
Everyone loves to hear, “Yes, do more of that! Great job!” Positive affirmation encourages people to be more open to change. Leaders should recognize and reward employees who embrace change and demonstrate positive behaviors such as public recognition, spot bonuses, or even promotions when they lead the change. I go out of my way to acknowledge my teammates leading the charge and helping the company grow and evolve.
5. Lead by example
Leaders need to lead by example and demonstrate a positive attitude toward change. Employees who see their leaders embracing change and adapting to new situations are more likely to follow suit. I talk about change regularly and embrace our initiatives wholeheartedly. My management team understands where we are going and why we are going there. They inspire their teams to go after our goals by being good role models. We live and breathe the future of our company, and it sets the tone for the rest of the organization.
Change is inevitable in today’s business world, and leaders must be proactive in helping their employees embrace it. By communicating clearly, listening well and asking for input, providing training and support, leading by example, and recognizing positive behaviors, leaders can create a culture of change that benefits the entire organization.
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