It’s 2009. You own a company that’s been doing fairly well. It’s not at the top of the field, but it’s comfortably living among the mid-range organizations in its business arena. Then the bottom falls out of its market.
Clients disappear. Requests for your services vanish. You need to make changes in your company, but all your senior management personnel, like you, are panicking. Your company’s field is construction. Welcome to the United States’ Great Recession, when two industries – finance and construction – were badly hurt when the housing bubble burst. Now what? Take a lead from companies like GE, Shell, IBM and Coca-Cola. Invest your time and energy, and your employees’ time and energy into change management.
Change Management Baby Steps
Change can be a very good thing, but it can also be frightening. What needs to be considered isn’t simply what will make upper management happy. Everything and everyone in an organization needs to be scrutinized and addressed. And an important factor at play in changing a company is communication with employees.
Processes and systems periodically are updated and reconfigured, especially with the rapid-fire changes in technology. The greatest variabilities in effective change management have been, and always will be, the employees. And the over-arching unifier of the three company components is corporate culture.
Are there people within a company that are in a position to examine processes, systems and employees, analyze the pros and cons of company culture, and lead the charge in effective change management? Yes. Your human resources pros.
Change management can be a daunting challenge. There are some fairly simple steps that can be taken to determine what’s needed, and where the changes are needed.
Lisa McQuerrey penned an article for The Houston Chronicle that lays out the factors a company needs to address prior to actually moving forward with a change management plan:
- evaluating need
- educating subordinates
- setting clear expectations
- acknowledging the human elements
To put it simply, change is only good when you actually need change. Sometimes there are minute adjustments made to a company’s processes or systems. For example, the construction company might want to make a change from the bid model they’ve been using to a new model. Change management will occur, because an old process is proving to have too many cons and not enough pros. So the need has been evaluated, and everyone – from the company president to the newest purchasing assistant – is on board with the new bid model. This is clear because the human resources manager put together a clear, straightforward email that went company-wide. The email provided the three bid models used in construction with a brief explanation of each. Finally, the email was made interactive, so employees could select which option each preferred, and what their preference was based upon.
Since the new model has been selected, the next step is education. The company has two employees that have used the method, and are thoroughly versed in it. A decision is made to make an employee-generated video which will be disseminated company-wide. A handbook outlining all the method steps is created and posted on the new cloud-based document space created by the Human Resources and IT departments.
Expectations are managed too. There is generally a period of time after the introduction of a new process, system or technology for everyone to adjust and gain expertise in the new “way.” That can be stressful, as people prefer routine over change. But it can be done. As Entrepreneur’s guest writer Daniel Newman observed, “Routine offers many benefits but being too relaxed is dangerous for those in the marketplace, as well as their employees.” An organization shouldn’t assume that everyone moves at the same pace when learning something new. A possible antidote to employee resistance in learning a new procedure could be to have training sessions. It might be as simple as having a company-wide lunch, where the same employees who did the video could lead the session. Company cohesion is never a bad thing.
The final piece is also the first piece in the daunting puzzle of change management: acknowledging the human elements. People are wonderfully diverse in their skills, personalities and native abilities. Every company is people-centric. Sometimes, top executives forget that, as they focus entirely on profit. They forget that profit is tied directly to their employees’ performance. It’s the human resources personnel who can get an organization to embrace the changes that will make the company better, while making sure that all of the employees are on board.