If there’s one thing we’ve learned from studying our (almost) post-pandemic workplace is that people – employees and leaders, alike – are tired. Really tired. And, possibly approaching burnout.
Among the many impacts of the pandemic is the escalation of workplace changes – from the ways and “wheres” of working, to new technology and new leadership.
According to the 2022 Change Report from Notion Consulting, 75% of people in the workplace have experienced three or more consequential changes in the last 12 months. Sixty-five per cent cited a new leader or manager, another 65% noted new processes and procedures, half have new technology, and at least a quarter are dealing with new products, markets, mergers, reorganizations, layoffs, or a new workplace.
This relentless amount of change, while necessary for companies to remain competitive and sustainable, can make the average employee feel like the rug is being pulled out from under them, over and over again.
Reactions to Change May Depend on Where You Sit
Additionally, the Change Report examined how people feel when they hear more change is coming. More than a quarter (27%) see themselves as fully committed, 29% will go with the flow, but more than 40% are either skeptical, watchfully waiting, or thinking of leaving.
Significantly, these attitudes shift, based on where someone sits. C-Suite executives and other leaders are more likely to champion change. Individual contributors are mostly skeptics and bystanders who need information and encouragement to get on board.
Change Can Be Risky – And You Can Do Something About It
It’s not only the volume of change, but the organization’s handling of change that makes a difference. And, that comes with risk: 40% of employees at all levels feel their organizations are doing a mediocre job, at best, when it comes to meeting financial objectives and time commitments during times of change, as well as maintaining customer satisfaction levels. Sixty per cent feel the same way about their organization’s efforts regarding employee engagement and retention throughout a transition.
The good news is that there’s something organizations can do to mitigate the risks:
- Provide clear leadership
- Keep employees informed about the change and how it impacts them and their work
- Address employee questions and ask for feedback
- Provide adequate training and resources
What Employees Want
In the end, employees want three main things from their organizations during times of change – and they all relate to leadership:
- Be transparent: Let employees know what’s going on and why…honestly, clearly and frequently.
- Show respect. Demonstrate concern for employee wellbeing and express sincere gratitude for the flexibility around the change.
- Listen. Invite employee ideas and opinions, especially from the people doing the work; remain open to the different viewpoints.
Employees want the change to succeed. And, they want their leaders to lead. Here are five key ways to make that happen and ensure an organization’s success with its transformation efforts:
- Remove rose-colored glasses. Leaders tend to lead with blind optimism – but it doesn’t always fare well for them, their employees, or the change itself. Ignoring what people are experiencing is a path to dissent and resistance. It’s a hard trust for leaders – but a secret to future success.
- Listen and empathize. Acknowledge the basic human challenges employees are going through – from an empty gas tank to an elderly parent needing help. Create opportunities for leader-employee connections to build the kind of relationships that foster loyalty and trust.
- Build strengths. Determine the skills, resources, and training that employees will need to succeed. Don’t assume an employee will “figure it out” without guidance. That only leads to discouragement and, ultimately, disengagement.
- Shift mindsets. With any change, employees will need to think in new ways. Expect resistance. Turn that into a compelling story that appeals to their hearts, as well as their minds.
- Measure and reward progress. Share what’s happening with real-time updates across the organization. Include metrics on time, budgets, and customer impact.
Successful change isn’t really about technology, processes, or procedures. It’s about people. Organizations that possess this basic understanding will reap big benefits. Those who don’t could lose key talent, valued customers, and, ultimately, the integrity of their bottom line.
It’s a delicate balance, and the smartest organizations can tip the scales in their favor for long-term success.
Christine Andrukonis is Founder and Senior Partner of Notion Consulting, a leadership and transformation consultancy that helps organizations harness the full power of their people to drive change, advance their mission, and unleash their competitive edge. For the past 20 years, she has been leveraging her unique combination of HR and communications expertise to help C-suite executives lead change.