The corporate world is never still! Buy-outs, mergers and downsizing are not just cool jargons here, but a constant reality. And, because of this reality, companies tend to transform overnight, leading to a thorough organizational change. And with workplace restructuring comes the desperate need for change management. While mergers and buy-outs are important for the growth of the company, they cause profound revisions to the management and the overall structure. These changes are never subtle and they completely disrupt the status quo. And these changes affect the company’s workforce more than one can understand, and sometimes, not in nice ways.
Change is among the hardest things for humans. People want and prefer certainty; change is disruptive and unsettling. While the organization’s management and its leaders struggle with the novelty of the merger and the confusion it causes, such changes affect the employees a lot more. Hence, it becomes the management and HR department’s job to help employees by coping with change at work and the resultant uncertainty.
It is your duty to help your workforce overcome the apprehension and anxiety that result from such changes. Helping them cope is challenging, but you must do it, nonetheless.
Let’s, therefore, look at 5 powerful coping strategies for change that can help your employees cope with organizational change:
- Listen to them, observe them
When you are designing a change management process, make sure you know what to do, Change is troubling, especially when it happens at an organizational level. Workplace restructuring affects everyone from the CxOs to the housekeeping staff. In such situations, it is the employer’s duty to put the effort to listen to and observe your employees. Change, when it affects positively, is good. But a change like the very restructuring, from the foundation to the very top, even when done systematically, can make people anxious. This anxiety can lead to an unsettling aura that can negatively affect the workforce and the business. These circumstances require you to watch your workforce closely to see if they are coping with organizational change well.
Occasionally, employees may be expressive of their anxiety. There will, however, be times when their anxiety only becomes apparent in their behaviour or work output. This especially happens when the change demands that they step out of their comfort zones and habitual routines. At such times, workforce management should become your number 1 priority.
Be patient and observe the very pulse of the employees, and help them cope with change by telling them that you understand it is a tough time for them. Encourage them to adjust to the new management, roles and routines. Show them that you, like them, are working on coping with change at work.
- Show them you care
Change management is a difficult undertaking as you are expected to help employees who find coping with organizational change perplexing. Therefore, it is really important that when you help your employees cope with organizational change and workplace restructuring, you genuinely care for them.
Companies cannot meet their targets if their employees cannot perform for any reason. Especially in stressful and challenging times, they look up to the management and topline leaders for solutions. When this happens, be transparent and honest with them about the changes that are taking place and show them you care by doing things that aid them in coping with change at work. Ask them to come to you anytime to talk about how they are feeling about the new bosses and/or new responsibilities. You can go one step ahead and place one or more therapists in the company, even if temporarily, to help your workforce open up about how they are feeling and doing. Show them that you really care for their welfare, understand their anxieties and will do whatever it takes to assist them.
Also, when you see them trying and making progress, recognise their efforts and resilience in these tough times. For managers, coping with change themselves, it may be difficult to give this kind of support when they may, especially, be struggling with change too. But, you must do things that help the employees. Show them you care and they will make all the more effort to cope with change better.
Also, it is good practice to make a note of the techniques that help the employees cope with change. This will help with change management if such a need were to arise in the future.
- Fix whatever is possible, let everything else be
As an employer, as you are trying to identify coping strategies for change to add to your change management process, remember that you may not be able to fix every single problem of every single employee. And that is perfectly okay! You have listened, observed and done everything to show your workforce that you care about them. Despite that, you are only able to fix a few (or many things), but not all of them. There are other things you cannot control or fix. So, after coming up with solutions that cater to most of the change-related concerns your employees face, and having fixed whatever could be fixed, stop trying. Then, gather your workforce and tell them about the challenges you have addressed to positively impact the uncertainties of workplace restructuring. Also, give them an assuring word that for the rest of their concerns, you will continue to find solutions. That said, also be honest and open about what is beyond your reach.
Additionally, you can look at the solutions that are working and try to implement more of that so that your workforce appreciates the efforts you have been taking to help them cope with change.
- Look out for positive opportunities
Coping with change is hard. This is why change management dictates that when designing coping strategies for change, one important aspect would be to “remain positive”. Employers need to be positive and challenge employees to undertake initiatives, seek new solutions, come up with new ideas, and identify avenues of cost savings. It is also important to revise standard policies and procedures or offer alternatives to current policies and procedures.
And sometimes, during the course of the change management process, it might appear that employees are not putting enough effort, making you unhappy. Do not, at any point, during organization restructuring, make the workforce feel that their efforts aren’t appreciated. So, instead of fixating on things that you cannot control, take actions that can help. And then, as a team, identify creative solutions for the new changes and challenges ahead of you.
More importantly, focus on the things they can affect and influence. A major reason why changes cause anxiety is that you feel like you don’t have influence or control over the consequence. Hence, employers must also encourage employees to open up about what they think they can affect or influence, thereby, helping them focus on what the positives while letting go of the things that are not in their control.
- Prepare and train the workforce for change
When you foresee an organizational and/or workplace restructuring coming, prepare the employees ahead of time, so that the change does not come to them as a shock. Coping with change is difficult. It is so much more difficult to cope with organizational change. Because the workplace is one place where most employees feel safe as they are not running the show, as opposed to their homes. Hence, if you are privy to the needed resources, take out time to prepare your employees by training them new skills like adaptability, etc. This kind of training and preparation can help your workforce transition easily into newer roles with a different routine. They can also consider changing departments, looking for projects in other areas, if they feel so.
Coping with change is never easy, no matter how prepared one is. But, as a company, when you have a change management process in place with the right kind of coping strategies, it helps you gear up for the tumultuous times ahead. This makes workforce management easier than when you aren’t prepared for it. Start putting processes in place for change management and keep your employees prepared for the day, and you will be ready for when that day arrives.