Lessons of 2020: Change Management

This year has taught businesses many lessons. The sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic followed by drastic changes to the economy have forced companies to alter the size of their workforces, restructure work environments, and revise sales models (among many other challenges). So, what this means for employees is change.

Even before this year’s public health crisis, many businesses were researching and establishing policies regarding change management. In short, this is a formalized approach to providing employees the information, training, and ongoing coaching needed to successfully adapt to any modification to their day-to-day jobs.

There is little doubt that one of the enduring lessons of 2020 is that businesses must be able to guide employees through difficult transitions, even (or especially) when the company itself did not bring about the change in question.

Why Change is Hard

Most employees resist change for many reasons. There is often a perceived loss of, or threat to, job security or status. Inconvenience and unfamiliarity provoke apprehension. In some cases, perhaps because of misinformation, employees may distrust their employers’ motives for a change. And some workers will always simply believe the ‘old way is better.’

Sometimes changes might make employees’ jobs more difficult. For example, moving to a new location might enhance an organization’s image or provide safer or more productive facilities. However, doing so also may increase some employees’ commuting times or put employees in a drastically different working environment. When their daily lives are affected in such ways, employees tend to question the decision and experience high levels of anxiety.

What You Should Not Do

Often, when employees resist change, a company’s decision-makers cannot understand how ideas they have spent weeks, months, or years deliberating could be so quickly rejected. (Of course, in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, tough choices had to be made in a matter of days). Some leadership teams forget that employees have not had time to adjust to a new idea. Instead of working to ease employee fears, executives or supervisors may double down on the change, more strictly enforcing new rules and showing little patience for disagreements or concerns.

As such, it is here the implementation effort can break down and start costing the business real dollars and cents. Employees may resist change in many destructive ways, from taking very slow learning curves to calling in sick to filing formal complaints or lawsuits. Some might even quit.

The bottom line: by not engaging in some form of change management, you are more likely to experience reduced productivity, bad morale, and increased turnover.

How to Cope

“Life comes at ya fast,” goes the popular saying. Given the events of this year, it is safe to say that most business owners would agree. Identify ways you have been able to help employees deal with this year’s changes and document them so they can be of use to your company in the future. Contact us for help cost-effectively managing your business.

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