Over the last few weeks, the impact of the coronavirus has affected everyone and caught most of us by surprise in its sheer scale and speed. Individuals are self-isolating, companies have empty offices and everyone is feeling uncertain of the future. How do we move forward? How long is it going to last? How can we manage this change effectively? These are just a few of the questions that are on people’s minds. As a business leader, how do you deal with a situation like this? Your employees are looking for you to be a stable and confident centre-point, the one person that they can look to for guidance in a time of crisis.
Coronavirus may create lasting workplace change
It has become clear that the coronavirus is impacting the working lives of most. If we are to believe the experts, such changes are not going to be simply for the short term. In such situations of enforced disruption, it is important that company leaders have the knowledge, skills and tools to deal with the change, communicate clearly about the current state, its consequences and why it is happening, while also proposing a logical and positive forward plan of action to work through the challenge systematically.
Excellent communications are just one of the pillars within the discipline of change management. There are three levels of change management which all come into play:
- The individual level; considers how people experience change and gives them a process to more easily and consistently progress through changes they are personally impacted by.
- The organisational level; involves the creation of a customised set of plans designed to ensure that impacted employees are effectively led, equipped and supported through the changes that they are experiencing.
- The enterprise level; explains why and how effective change management should be embedded into your organisation’s roles, structures, processes, projects and leadership competencies.
In the unexpected situation that we are in now, the key is to engage your people in the right way, at the right time, with the right information.
Understanding and enabling employees
At an individual level our natural psychological and physiological reaction is to resist change. However, when supported through times of change, we can be wonderfully adaptive and successful. Effectively leading any organisation through impact of COVID-19 requires a clear understanding of how such a crisis alters the way people process information and the facility to assist them in accepting and adapting to these enforced changes.
It requires knowing what will help people make a successful transition: the messages people need to hear (when and from whom), the optimal time to teach someone a new skill, how to coach people to demonstrate new behaviours.
With COVID-19, Governments have mandated Stay at Home (SHN) notices globally. Despite this challenge businesses are fighting hard to equip and support employees in still being able to work effectively from home where possible and there must be systems in place to enable them to do so. Providing an environment for this “new normal” has generated significant issues around IT, the management and coordination of work, interaction with colleagues, cybersecurity, data protection, comfort and mental wellbeing.
Developing an organisational plan
It is often challenging for a team leader to manage change on a person-by-person basis. Outlining organisational steps that are easy to follow helps support the hundreds or thousands of individuals who are impacted by the change.
Change, especially during crisis situations, disrupts people’s expectations of the future, reducing their sense of control and their ability to process information. In times of high anxiety and stress, the part of the brain that deals with emotions, the amygdala, overtakes the cognitive system that analyses and interprets behaviour, resulting in panic and a protective state of mind. This “fight, flight or freeze” response dates back to prehistoric times, when we constantly needed to be on the lookout for danger in order to survive.
Left unchecked, this instinct can have a severe impact on job performance in times of crisis, compromising safety, quality and productivity.
By identifying the groups and people who will need to change as the result the current situation, and in what ways they will need to change, allows you to successfully transition individuals through the process.
Preparing for the future
Every organisation is currently trying to figure out the best way of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. It is new for everyone and we are learning as we go along. However, implementing change management and making it a core principle of your organisation will put you in a much better place to manage the current impact of these enforced changes and, importantly, to deal with any type of future crisis.
An enterprise change management capability enables individuals to embrace change more quickly and effectively and organisations become adept at responding quickly to any market changes, embracing strategic initiatives, and adopting new technologies more quickly and with less productivity impact.
This capability does not happen by chance, it requires a strategic approach and structured, intentional plan to embed change management across the organisation.
To help you learn more and enhance your leadership skills in managing change – CMC Partnership Global have introduced a virtual version of the Prosci® Change Management Practitioner certification programme. This is the first in what will be a series of Prosci’s role-based change management programs re-imagined for the new virtual world many of us are now forced to work in.
We're also offering private virtual training for your organisation. Take a look, or get in touch to talk to a member of the team to discuss how we can support your organisation in this time of change.