Managing director and PR, marketing & communications consultant Amy Bell from Hey Me tells us why change is changing and how we should prepare for it.
Change has long been considered constant in business. We all know that for a business to evolve, change needs to happen. But now change is changing – Covid-19 has flipped the world upside down like never before. Businesses have had to quickly adapt on so many levels; from facilitating remote working overnight, to grasping new technology like Zoom and inducting new starters virtually.
As we move forward into the “new normal”, many businesses are no longer operating as they have in the past. Offices have a much lower level of occupancy and are functioning with the knowledge that their plans could change at any given moment.
In addition to all of this, there are other anticipated changes on the horizon. Before the pandemic, there was already a lot of discussion on the rapid growth of technology. We’ve had to fast forward and adjust to new forms of tech sooner than expected because of Covid-19.
Then there are the common operational changes, such as restructures, mergers, change in office locations, etc., that still happen as normal. Not forgetting smaller adjustments in the workplace, such as new seating arrangements, new starters, new projects, and the departure of good employees. All these changes can impact your organisation and need to be managed successfully.
If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that change is no longer a constant – change is changing all the time and at an unpredictable speed. It’s therefore crucial to have provisions in place to weather upcoming storms – big or small. So, how can we prepare for change effectively?
Be flexible going forward
It may sound obvious but being flexible in a changing situation is critical for business continuity right now. The last few months have highlighted that work environments need to be agile and flexible in order to get the best out of their people.
While most companies have adopted flexible working throughout the crisis, where possible it should be implemented beyond the pandemic. Flexible working allows businesses to continue no matter what. Plus, it can reduce costs, increase productivity, reduce presenteeism, and improve engagement.
Give extra thought to those staff working from home
For those businesses looking to implement flexible working permanently, it’s crucial to consider the comfort and safety of those people working at home. We can’t simply translate our office diary into a remote diary – it won’t work.
Businesses need to be constantly in tune with the demands of their employees and adapt working methods accordingly. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes when making decisions – would you want to a sit in a three-hour meeting on Zoom trying to keep your pets and children out of the room? Probably not. Meeting etiquette is one of many working practices that will need to be addressed flexibly to ensure better health and wellbeing moving forward.
Put a crisis management plan in place
Crisis planning is key to limiting the implications of uncertainty. As the Boy Scouts say, fail to prepare and you prepare to fail. You cannot plan for everything, but you need to know in times of crisis that employers and employees can pull together, otherwise things can fall apart quickly.
There are different levels of crisis planning, but the most important element is making sure that everyone in the organisation knows what to do when and what it means to them. By creating a transparent plan, you can save yourself from a lot of difficult situations and conversations which can negatively affect your business.
Checking in with staff and providing helpful resources can pre-empt additional stresses brought about by change. Be open, transparent, and regularly update with clear communications to all parts of the organisation. Try to use several communication methods, not everyone will take information in and react to it in the same way.
Make sure that HR are involved in all communications
Times of change can be extremely stressful for everyone involved and messages can be misinterpreted. Too much information from different sources, or too little information, can harm business operations and individuals.
When communications and HR work together, they ensure a consistent message is shared with all employees, preventing confusion, and developing a sense of trust and engagement. Taking control of change in this way can help give employees the security they need during tentative times.
In such a fast-paced world, change is becoming an increasingly complex web to navigate, and it’s never been more vital to manage it by planning ahead.
For more on change, take a look at Hey Me’s toolkits, which provide helpful templates and resources to help you prepare for all the different changes that may come your way.