How can you prepare your team for a culture of change?

24 January 2020

As a company grows and develops, it’s inevitable that it will go through periods of adaptation and change. Leaders have to continually modify their approach in order to remain relevant and competitive. Business change can take many different forms, from personnel changes or the introduction of new technology, through to an office move or a business merger, these changes can be small or large.

But managing this change is a huge challenge and arguably not all CEOs or business leaders are actually best equipped to do it – they might be too focused on the daily running of the business or they simply might not have the skill to implement the change programme.  The well documented ‘change curve’ perfectly illustrates the potential negative impact on an employee’s morale and productivity. If change is handled badly it can breed uncertainty and doubt, with employees finding it hard to move past the transformation. With this in mind, it stands to reason that there is a strong case for seeking external support when embarking on a transformation programme. By applying the help of an expert, you can use their skills to bring your team with you throughout your business’ journey.

Of course, many businesses will hire external consultancies to manage a change project, bringing in an entire team to implement the changes and oversee the processes. But this approach can be costly and time consuming – and for smaller businesses, it simply isn’t always viable. That’s where Interim support can truly come into its own. An interim Transformation Manager or Director will have the benefit of experience and expertise in change – they will know how to troubleshoot common problems and will have the benefit of distance from the business. By hiring an individual you can choose the personality to suit your business and its culture and by opting for an Interim representative you have the added bonus of keeping your longer-term costs under control.

So, what are the elements that you should address when embarking on a change programme, and where can a Transformation or Change Director help you?

Avoid a communications vacuum

Whatever the change, there’s no escaping it – honest and transparent communication is central to any successful transition in business. You must ensure your team understands why the change is happening, how it is important, what is going to happen and what it will mean to them. Developing a transformation communications programme will help ensure you don’t hold back important information from your workforce. This could lead to speculation and uncertainty – behaviours which can be toxic for any workplace environment.

Listen to your team

Business change is certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution and as a leader, it can be easy to have tunnel vision and think you know exactly what’s best; after all, it’s your company. By seeking the help of an external voice, you can draw on their experience to understand the best way forwards for your business. But equally, your employees know your business, and they could have some really valuable insight on direction and alternative options – and so it’s important to make sure you are engaging them throughout the transformation journey.

Holding workshops, inviting anonymous feedback or offering regular team sessions can assist in pinpointing and recognising what success and good changes look like for the business. Indeed, in some cases, members of the C-suite are not always the most approachable members of the team and by devolving this responsibility, you may find you receive more honest and reliable feedback. This will help employees to feel valued and consulted about the change. When handled well, this collaboration can help all voices unite to be one.

Address any concerns

Naturally a very important part of implementing change within a business is to address any concerns that the wider team may have. Although it isn’t always possible to address each individuals’ comments and thoughts in the solution, it is important to make sure that you reassure and discuss this with your business.

Knowing how to react to feedback from your employees is crucial, and again, this is where external guidance can truly come into its own. An expert in transformation will be able to help you to review and respond to the feedback and show them you are appreciative of the input and are making informed decisions about your business’ future.  

Maintain a sense of community

During periods of change, one of the biggest challenges is keeping a close eye on the working environment and identifying any negative behaviours in the workplace. But as a senior leader, your time is at a premium and with too much responsibility you could be at risk of becoming a single point of failure. By devolving the responsibility to an expert or a trusted voice within the business, they can keep conversations with your employees open, helping to maintain the overall sense of community in the office. This will help you to shift your people towards acceptance of the change.

It’s clear that managing business change can have widespread ramifications. But if you combine a consultative approach with employees alongside the support of someone who has experience and authority when it comes to driving a transformation programme, you can use the change to ensure your business continues to thrive. Instilling best practice will allow for a culture where change is accepted more readily and will help you to build a solid and agile workforce who support the business with its goals and pursuits.