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Successful change management is a key factor to employee retention and satisfaction in today’s businesses. When change is managed well, the entire business benefits. We often hear it said that change is constant in organizations. The variable in this is how we manage and deliver that change.

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Consider these potential business changes:

  • Acquiring a company and onboarding many new employees
  • Shifting from a manual process to a software-based system
  • Office relocations
  • Upcoming changes in executive leadership

All of these changes are distinct, and all have the potential to be disruptive to the entire workforce, so it’s up to HR to ensure a successful transition. But workplaces aren’t nearly the same as they used to be, and with many different demographics, employee types, and personnel needs to consider, there are many aspects of change HR professionals need to keep in mind. Here are three steps every change practitioner should include in their process to make any upcoming initiative a success.

1. Gather Information from All Angles

Before you can do any type of planning, you need to know how upcoming projects or new HR initiatives will affect the business, upper management plans, and all staff members. In order to do this, you need to ask questions, listen to feedback, and fully understand how these new changes will affect everyone involved.

Before starting any new HR-driven program, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is being changed (process, job roles, technology, location)?
  • How many people will be impacted?
  • Are all people being affected in the same way, or will the change be experienced differently?
  • What is the timeframe and the scope of the change?

It is also important to relate your upcoming change to the organizations’ culture as a whole. This is something that may not be first of mind for HR professionals who might have been planning a new initiative for months or even years, but considering past history and office culture is crucial to change management success. When strategizing, consider the following:

  • What will be the perception of this change among employees and managers?
  • In the past, how have changes been managed and implemented?
  • Does this change match overarching organizational goals?
  • Are there other changes currently going on internally that could interfere?
  • Will this change disrupt current workplace culture (positively or negatively)?

Company culture will always be important, and even if you are trying to initiate new changes to evolve or adjust the culture of your workplace, you must first acknowledge the existing framework employees are used to.

2. Tie Changes to Strategy and Emotional Benefits

Business professionals may get so excited about their new projects and initiatives that they forget the human elements of change. It can be difficult not to get caught up in the execution. HR leaders must properly consider the emotional reactions humans have to change. One of the best ways to help employees embrace change is to be as transparent and empathetic as possible.

It has been shown that leading change with increased empathy will result in a greater ROI. It’s easy for employees to know when their managers and HR leaders are simply going through the motions versus when they have genuinely considered and anticipated the needs of the entire workforce.

In many workplaces today, there are employees who are working part time, on a contract basis, or remotely. Consider these employees’ unique needs and questions they might have before making large announcements or sending out mass communications. Take some time to craft answers to common questions that tie in how business goals will be impacted by these changes or how it will be easier to meet objectives with this new change. Don’t just say that workloads will be lighter or processes will be easier. Instead, try to directly link the change to benefits that employees are personally invested in, such as:

  • Having more time to branch out into new responsibilities
  • Time savings to avoid late nights or overtime work
  • Addition of technology will take away tedious and time-consuming tasks
  • Changes in management to better align departments and avoid bottlenecks

Your front-line employees tend to feel the greatest day-to-day impact of broken processes or time-consuming delays. By consistently viewing new changes through the lens of existing strategies and considering the emotional benefits to the employee, you will have a greater chance of high adoption and fast implementation.

3. Make Sure Everyone Has a Role

The best way to make sure your entire workforce is on board for upcoming changes or initiatives is to involve all employees. After communicating the situation and answering as many questions as possible, the next part of your change management plan should be detailing exactly how every worker will be involved in the transition. By giving employees a role, they will feel some ownership and control over the situation. This can help keep everyone in the loop about how the change will be made going forward.

This is all about the power of communication. By allowing everyone to be involved and feel valued during the process, they will have a sense that this change is being directed by them, not forced upon them. Some options for getting the entire workforce involved are:

  • Set up teams based on the level of impact the change will have on each group. This way, you can get valuable feedback on how employees are feeling about new changes and give them a forum to voice opinions and get questions answered.
  • To keep employees from feeling anxious about a transition, plan weekly update meetings or communications to keep them informed.
  • Have managers nurture employees who will be impacted by the change by giving them tasks or providing feedback (e.g., attending training sessions, helping design a new process structure, gathering feedback from the rest of the team).
  • Allow time for workplace town halls where everyone can attend and provide feedback.
  • Target key individuals who understand the vision of the change and allow them to drive certain aspects of the strategy with their teams.
  • Send out anonymous surveys or encourage those who may not be the loudest in your organization to speak up.

Today’s workforces have to be more adaptable and flexible than ever before. It’s important that any change management strategy be flexible as well. When getting ready to begin a new initiative, HR professionals should be looking at their plans from all angles and understanding the root of the change before beginning the process.

While you may believe you fully understand the needs of your workforce, be prepared for emotional responses and the anxiety that change brings. By leading with empathy and tying upcoming changes to goals your workers are already aiming for and personal goals they want to achieve, you will have employees on board in no time.

Lastly, by giving each employee a forum to share their experience and feedback, and by providing them with true roles in the change process, you will give them a chance to feel proud of the new direction your organization is headed for. They will feel like a key part of the change process.

The people in an organization are the lifeblood of any company. While change is always difficult, by following these three steps, you will have your new initiative up and running in no time.

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Kaneez Jaffer

Kaneez is a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) with an advanced knowledge of human resources and organizational structure and design. She has extensive experience with HRIS systems and understands the need to move HR from a transactional model to a transformational one. She has worked in the investment banking, insurance, and legal industries, as well as with large not-for-profit centres helping to simplify and streamline their internal systems. Kaneez is an expert in building relationships and affecting change in a positive and productive way. She acts as the key HR business partner at Apri Insurance Services Inc, managing the implementation of JungoHR, while providing expert advice and counsel on a range of HR matters. Kaneez holds a Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management as well as a Certificate in HR Law for HR Professionals from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada.

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