7 Ways to Support Your Business Strategy by Helping Your Employees Manage Change
A well-thought-out business strategy for your middle market company is vital, but so is supporting and developing your people so they're capable of executing that strategy. In today's dynamic business world, capable people are defined by their ability to adapt to change, and with change always a prevalent scenario in the midmarket realm, everyone at your company needs to know how to deal with it.
Here are seven tips for helping your employees adapt to change, whether it's a new sales strategy, a new IT system or anything else that impacts your overall business strategy:
- Make a strong case for the change while being receptive to feedback. The role of a leader is to help employees understand the reason behind any change, as well as how and when it will be implemented. Employees will have questions, and if you can't answer them, your people won't be as easy to engage.
- Communication is imperative. Once you've answered the basics concerning the change, continually update your employees on its progress. Let people know when milestones are achieved and whether they're on time. This will build momentum behind the change, allowing employees to gradually understand the process and get on board before it's fully implemented.
- Be understanding and acknowledge difficulties. It's likely that some employees will have doubts, especially if the change affects them directly. You should listen, recognize their emotions, reassure them and offer a support system. In these situations, it's important that leaders and managers convey belief, both in the change and in employees' adaptability. This is the best way for executives and upper management to illustrate owning the change across the company.
- When possible, try to implement change gradually. Many of your best people will adapt quickly, but others may need time to adjust their mind-sets, develop new skills and become accustomed to working in a new way. Taking a gradual approach to change makes it less disruptive and reduces shock.
- Offer training and coaching. Communication will help, but you may also need to invest in developing new skills. Have a plan for what skills are needed, how you can help your employees develop them and how much time is needed. Training may be necessary when implementing something new. You'd be foolish to invest in a new, updated IT system if your people don't know how to use it in a way that maximizes its functionality, so be prepared to get all your people ready.
- Reward employees who show leadership by engaging fully in the change. It's all about reinforcing positive behaviors, so a formal system of financial incentives and recognition aligned with making the change effective may be appropriate. Use engaged employees to coach and communicate with your less-engaged employees, or set up an award program for employees with the best ideas or who show the most effort.
- Confront and manage resistance. The change may foster resistance and criticism, and you don't want this attitude to run rampant. Do your best to create buy-in by explaining the change's benefits, and frame your argument from the individual employee's standpoint. Underline the entire process, including the support system and any training/coaching that's available. If you run into major issues after having this discussion, it may be time to reevaluate these people and their role in your business.
Change is complicated and sometimes emotional, but the best way forward is acknowledging the process and managing it with clear communication, training, incentives and strong upper-management conviction.
When considering changes that will affect most or all of your employees, should you seek widespread input before making big decisions? Let us know what you think by commenting below.
Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+.