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Strategies for Managing Change in the Workplace

  • Recursos humanos
  • Artículo
  • Lectura de 6 minutos
  • Last Updated: 05/02/2024

Hr leader communicated with employees about change in the company

Table of Contents

When managing change in the workplace — whether it's introducing new strategies to boost company performance or team-based transitions — it's essential to have the right processes and technological support in place, as well as a plan for communicating the news. Here is a closer look at some ways to effectively manage organizational change in the workplace.

What Is a Change Management Strategy?

Given that change can often have many ripple effects for a business, an organizational change management approach is a systematic way to handle the process. Change management strategies help guide businesses through large-scale changes and see them through to a resolution — accounting for multiple factors such as stakeholders, resources, key dates, costs, and workflows. The primary goal is to successfully prepare, support, and see through the execution of new processes, products, and business strategies while minimizing adverse outcomes for impacted individuals.

8 Types of Change Management Strategies

Businesses can use a variety of models to help them through the change management process. Some of the most common models for managing change in the workplace are:

  1. Lewin's change management model: A three-phase model that breaks down significant changes into "unfreeze," "change," and "refreeze" states. This approach involves spreading the "change" phase over a long period to overcome resistance and provide adequate training.
  2. McKinsey's 7-S model: The model's 7 elements are designed to assess how they affect each other so you can identify weaknesses:
    • Strategy
    • Structure
    • Systems
    • Shared values
    • Style
    • Staff
    • Skills
  3. Kotter's theory: Helps generate enthusiasm for and understand the changes needed by working through 8 stages:
    • Creating a sense of urgency
    • Building a change team
    • Forming a strategic vision
    • Communicating the vision
    • Removing barriers to change
    • Focusing on short-term wins
    • Maintaining momentum
    • Instituting change
  4. Nudge theory: Built on the theory that "nudging" change is more effective than strict enforcement. This approach uses subtle, indirect suggestions backed up by evidence so that employees will be nudged toward the direction of change.
  5. The ADKAR model: A bottom-up method that puts the focus on the people behind the change. Each step is a goal to be reached as a company:
    • Awareness (of the need to change)
    • Desire (to participate in and support the change)
    • Knowledge (on how to change)
    • Ability (to implement required skills and behaviors)
    • Reinforcement (to sustain the change)
  6. Bridges' transition model: Focuses on 3 stages of emotional reaction to guide people toward acceptance and embracing new beginnings.
  7. Kubler-Ross change curve: Based on the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), this model acknowledges that change often results in emotion-based reactions versus logic-based objections.
  8. The Satir change model: Monitors the emotional progression of employees by tracking their performance through multiple stages and focuses on preparing for change, not necessarily identifying the changes that need to be made.

Change Management Techniques: How To Effectively Manage Change in the Workplace

Your organizational change management guidelines and strategy will all depend on what your business is trying to achieve. Whether your change is people-focused, process-focused, or a large-scale transformation (or any combination of these), ensure that you're accounting for solid planning, transparency and communication, and employee and stakeholder buy-in. Some things to consider when developing a change management strategy include the following:

Establish a Vision

Any change management effort starts with a clear vision of why the change is occurring and the desired outcomes of the change. For example, if the change is a new business process being implemented across your company, define for stakeholders — employees, board members, investors, etc. — the opportunities missed without the new process and the advantages the new process will offer. Communicating the anticipated positive outcomes can help excite your team and increase project ownership.

Put People First

Change in life and business is challenging. Confusion, ambiguity, and uncertainty can quickly bubble up unless you share information with employees and clearly explain how the transition will impact them day-to-day and long-term. Helping to ensure that changes are for the overall good can also be very helpful to calm any nerves.

Frame Change as Exciting

Prioritizing people and communicating their potential impacts is also part of garnering employee support for change. Employees who are unclear about what's happening, anxious, or resistant could hold the entire initiative back. A way to mitigate this is part of your communication plan for employees. Address concerns, reframe change as an opportunity, and welcome their input. Once employees have understood and bought into the change, they may be more willing to help with and advocate for the transition.

Include Leadership

A solid change management strategy takes a top-down approach; as such, leaders and managers at all levels should be involved in helping the organization understand and interpret what the change means for the business as a whole. Educate leaders on their roles, reemphasize how valuable their buy-in is for success, and keep them apprised of critical milestones or challenges as they happen.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Any significant change management initiative should be tracked to determine the effectiveness of your strategies and identify areas that should be improved upon during the next change. First, establish a baseline by collecting data related to the issue as it currently stands, and then develop targets for further growth and achievement. Use objective data that can be measured over time. For example, employee engagement surveys can help measure the effectiveness of a new HR program.

Balance Short-Term Wins With Long-Term Progress

Once you've established the baseline for what you want to change and created benchmarks to measure success, plan strategies for achieving those goals. When determining strategies, consider:

  • What steps need to be taken to communicate the change?
  • How long will it take for the change to take effect fully?
  • What will define success?
  • Who has ownership of specific tasks?
  • What framework will be used to manage the initiative?

Be sure to include strategies to motivate your team in the change management plan. Change is complex and can be difficult to sustain over time. Overcome this challenge by building in success points; small victories and near-term wins can be balanced with long-term goals to keep your team on course.

Technological Support Is Key

Today's technological tools are making it easier to identify opportunities for improvement and implement change management initiatives across an organization. Integrated HR systems give business leaders insights into various company metrics needed to make strategic decisions. With HR support and technology, you can pull on strengths throughout your organization to implement the change process and measure its impact across different parts of the company.

How To Develop a Change Management Strategy

When understanding what a change management plan looks like, it's essential to understand the benefits of a systematic approach to help ensure the business can meet its objectives. A change management process generally includes the following steps:

Identify Areas of Focus

Whatever the catalyst is for organizational change, it's important early on to identify focus areas and clarify goals. A well-executed change management strategy requires a solid foundation for clarity, ease, and successful implementation.

Identify and Secure Approval From Stakeholders

Stakeholders could be executives or upper management who direct and finance the transition. They could also be a group of employees tasked with implementing the changes. It's essential not only to identify these key players but also to clarify their expectations and what it will take to get their buy-in.

Create a Change Management Project Plan

A change management project plan should outline clear steps, measurement criteria, and analysis, including:

  • Objective(s) of the change
  • Key dates and deadlines
  • Resources needed (employees, equipment, technology, etc.)
  • Costs and available budgets
  • Key performance indicators for measuring success

Use Data To Evaluate and Monitor Progress

To help keep a change management plan on track, use data analysis and reporting to improve communication with stakeholders and teams involved in the change, ensure timelines are being met, and measure success. One example is using an integrated HR platform to deliver employee training opportunities, monitor use rates, and automate follow-up communication for those who haven't completed it yet.

Communicate About Change

Clear and open communication during times of transition is essential. Take the time to explain why the change is happening and what this means for those impacted. Be open to any questions or concerns, talk to individuals and teams, and help employees stay up to date on the next steps.

Embrace the Ongoing Process of Change Management

Even if there's a deadline or "end date" for a change, adopting it in the workplace is an ongoing process. A solid plan for measurement and analysis can help change management teams understand successes, challenges, and opportunities for pivots or improvement.

Communicating and Discussing Change With Employees

Communication plays a crucial role in change management. When a company decides to make changes that might have adverse effects (or be perceived as having negative effects) on employees, the methods by which the news is communicated can make all the difference. If handled poorly, news of a change can damage morale and productivity. If handled well, employees may understand the need for changes, learn how the change is part of larger business success, and accept what's to come. Here are tips for communicating change management from HR leaders.

Carefully Consider the Reasons Behind Planned Changes

According to Paychex HR Business Partner Rob Sanders, any organization contemplating changes to policies or benefits that could be perceived negatively by employees should consider the following questions beforehand:

  • What is the driving business need for making such a change?
  • Are the reasons based on financial, operational, legal, or other needs?
  • Can this need be addressed through other means that might not adversely impact employees?
  • Is there time for discussion or feedback sessions with a focus group of employees?

"Before simply implementing a 'mandate from above,' companies may benefit from an open discussion with employees who may suggest actionable alternatives and consequences that management may not have considered," Sanders says.

Make a Plan and Stick to It

"Having a plan is key," says Matt Keup, Product Manager at Paychex. "That plan, if managed properly, should confirm that the change you're implementing has a high probability of successfully generating the desired result."

As part of that plan, he adds, it's essential to "identify the scope of impact and share that knowledge with managers whose employees will be affected by the change. The known is generally much easier to manage and communicate than the vague."

Provide Advance Notice and Transparency

"When discussing change with employees, provide as much advanced notice of the change as possible," notes Paychex HR Services Area Manager Melissa L. Wheeler. "This way, employees have the opportunity to ask questions. At the same time, be honest and transparent in answering those questions. If changes are occurring and they're not effectively communicated, people may speculate and assume the worst."

Strive for Clarity in Your Communications

If, for example, there are planned changes in health insurance and employee benefits, your intended message must be as straightforward as possible. Some employees may not be familiar with industry jargon, and including technical terms may lead to more confusion and uncertainty — the opposite of your desired outcome. Be ready to explain any industry jargon you feel is necessary.

Create a Method for Collecting Feedback After Implementing Change

Sanders recommends having a mechanism in place after a change is implemented to gather employee feedback — an electronic help desk, for example, or a point person who can answer questions. This mechanism should be able to respond to feedback in a timely and caring fashion.

Offer Support To Adjust to Changes

Paychex HR Business Partner Victoria Whittaker notes, "It's very important to communicate the reason and necessity for the changes, as well as how employees may benefit from the changes. Let them know you'll help support and provide training and systems needed to adjust to the coming changes."

Careful planning and offering opportunities for feedback can help mitigate adverse effects on employee morale and productivity.

Change Management Doesn’t Have To Be Turbulent

Changes in a business can have varying degrees of impact on everyone involved. Careful planning, open lines of communication, and feedback loops can help mitigate adverse effects and make the process as painless as possible. To manage organizational change more confidently, use an integrated HR platform to pull on strengths throughout your organization, implement your change process based on data-backed factors, and measure the impact across different parts of the company.


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* Este contenido es solo para fines educativos, no tiene por objeto proporcionar asesoría jurídica específica y no debe utilizarse en sustitución de la asesoría jurídica de un abogado u otro profesional calificado. Es posible que la información no refleje los cambios más recientes en la legislación, la cual podrá modificarse sin previo aviso y no se garantiza que esté completa, correcta o actualizada.

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