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Change Management: Building a Successful Change Strategy

The world of business changes constantly. Technology advancements, new business practices, and changes in global trends all lead to frequent shifts in any industry, and companies need to adjust their strategies to keep up. Change isn't only required when something in your industry changes, though. Sometimes, global crises and worldwide movements outside of your industry create a need for change as well.

Change management empowers you and your employees to adapt to a changing world. A strong change management strategy is critical for any business, especially those that are quickly growing and those that are in rapidly evolving fields. You should understand what change management is, why it matters, and how you can create an effective change management plan for your company.

What Is Change Management?

Change management is the practice of preparing for and supporting change in the workplace to promote employee well-being and improve outcomes. As your business goes through a major organizational change, you may have to adjust team structures, introduce new technology, or offer extra resources to your team to help them with the transition. All of the strategies that support your company and your employees during a major change are elements of change management.

There are different levels of change management that you may need to utilize as a team leader. Sometimes, change in the workplace happens on an individual level. You may change some of your employees' job responsibilities or assign them to different teams. Although this doesn't cause a significant change to the overall organization and vision of your business, those employees still need support as they make the transition.

Other times, change within a business happens on a larger scale. For example, your company may merge with another, or there may be a major change in the leadership team. In these situation, you have to support your individual employees and the team as a whole.

Change management is particularly important for crisis management. Even if you aren't anticipating a change, you may encounter one anyway. Some circumstances are outside of your control, and you never know what tomorrow may bring. Being prepared for change allows you to adapt at a moment's notice.

Most companies became aware of the need for change management when the COVID-19 pandemic began unfolding. Almost overnight, many businesses had to drastically change the way they operate. This put an enormous strain on employees, especially those who worked for companies that offered little support.

Why Change Management Matters

Change management helps your employees embrace and adapt to changes in the workplace. Routine and familiarity are comfortable, and adjusting to new technology, team structures, or responsibilities can be difficult. With a change management strategy, you can offer meaningful support to your employees to make the transition as easy as possible.

The goal of change management is for your team to adjust to change with very few interruptions in their work. It's virtually impossible to make it through a big transition without any obstacles or slip-ups, but change management will reduce the number of mistakes, delays, or other issues that happen as your team adjusts.

Change management increases job satisfaction, too. It reduces stress among your team, and happier employees lead to better outcomes. By offering support during an organizational change, you communicate to your employees that you care about their experience, and this can promote a stronger sense of loyalty.

How to Implement a Change Management Strategy

A complete change management strategy can be complicated, but any business can follow some basic practices to make transitions easier for their employees. Here are some of the most important change management tips:

Be transparent.

Misleading your employees during an organizational change will only lead to confusion and frustration. Honesty is one of the most important characteristics of a team leader, and being transparent is key when you're preparing for a significant change.

Let your team know what they should expect as they navigate the transition. Discuss any obstacles they may encounter so that they can plan in advance. Keep your employees up-to-date on the timeline for the transition, but be transparent about any uncertainties or variables.

Offer training.

If the change will require your employees to use new technology or complete new tasks, offer training sessions to help your team feel more confident. This will eliminate a lot of the anxiety your team has regarding the transition.

As soon as you know what your employees will need to learn, start offering training opportunities. Ideally, your team should be completely comfortable with the new practices by the time the change is in effect.

Listen and empathize.

Listening to your employees' concerns is always important, but you should be particularly empathetic when you're implementing a change in the workplace. Your team will probably have concerns, so take the time to hear them out. Ask them what you can do to help them adjust, and reassure them that you're here to support them.

Promote knowledge sharing.

Some people learn and adapt to change more quickly than others. Knowledge sharing empowers your employees to help each other manage the change and learn everything they need to know.

You could host knowledge sharing sessions for your employees to bring questions to the table and offer suggestions to one another. Your team members may be more comfortable asking each other for help than turning to management for assistance. There are also several online platforms designed for employee communications and knowledge sharing.

Reward your team.

Change is difficult, so you should reward your team for making it through a transition. Recognizing your team's efforts and thanking them for their hard work will motivate them to comply with the change and do their best to adjust. You don't have to wait until the transition is complete to reward your team. You could set smaller milestones throughout the process and celebrate these successes.

Change management will help you and your team adjust to new responsibilities and practices. If you're anticipating a big change in your company, start planning your change management strategy now. By offering as much support as possible to your employees, you'll encourage flexibility and open-mindedness among your team.

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Molly Tyson