The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainties in the business environment as many organisations are struggling with how to handle the issues arising from the pandemic. Employers and Employees react differently to uncertainties, including feelings of loss of control, anxiety around well-being, and speculations around financial insecurity and job loss.1 While some employees are struggling with the chaotic work from home arrangement; finding it difficult to maintain a good work and life balance, employers are trying to find ways to keep their employees productive and engaged, while making sure their business is still profitable.
Change is naturally difficult and advisedly should be taken slowly but the pandemic has caused many organizations to make changes on the fly to survive the "New Normal". The abrupt changes though needed could cause frictions in the operations of many businesses. Some of the changes might be reduction in staff strength, implementation of a work from home policy, multifaceted reporting lines, adjustments to the mode of communication, down to engagement with various stakeholders who in a bid to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 protocols may opt for virtual meetings instead of the conventional physical face to face meetings which was the norm prior to the pandemic.
For organisations who are not proactive and with a change management process in place, having to implement all the changes required to remain in business may result in an anxious workforce and a precarious work environment.
Effective Change Management Strategies that can be implemented
People who are the organisation's most valued asset must be protected. Steps must be taken to ensure that health and safety of the people is the organisation's top priority. Adequate work tools required to optimally perform and deliver desired results must be provided to staff working on site or remotely.
Have an unambiguous change management plan
It is popularly said that 'failing to plan is planning to fail'. Therefore, planning for the change is a key step as well as a plan that gives direction to the change management process. The plan helps to clearly communicate timelines to the various objectives that needs to be achieved. An official or business unit can be held responsible for disseminating information as this ensures that every information is consistent and verifiable.
It is recommended for businesses to set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time- bound goals to get the best out of employees. Employees need to know what role(s) they will be playing in achieving set goals and how it will impact them and the organisation at large.
Constantly communicate the plan
Leaders make the mistake of only communicating the plan and goals merely at inception. Given that the execution of the organisational plan is a continuous process, staff need to be reminded constantly about the plan and their respective roles in the organization as a strategic way of keeping the aspirations in view.
Anticipate potential challenges
Change management process can be risky and present new challenges. It is therefore imperative that leaders must try to anticipate these challenges, discuss the potential challenges and associated risks, and steps necessary to address them, should they arise.
Setting new performance parameters
It is expected that organisations also reassess performance management criteria. Staff cannot be evaluated based on the former benchmarks they will want to know how these changes affects their performance. These changes need to be well understood before the performance period begins.
Communication can only be said to be successfully done when the message is received, understood, and implemented. It is important for the employer and employee to have a viable means of sending information across. If this is not done properly, employees are exposed to misinformation. Communication lines should not be limited to business leaders and their employees only. Other stakeholders also need to be carried along. Leaders need to listen carefully because employees and other stakeholders have many questions, ideas, and emotions that need to be carefully managed as they try to navigate the change process.
The pandemic has given us reason to embrace technological solutions even more with the increased use of applications like Zoom and Microsoft teams for meetings. Organsations are advised to invest in technologies that will make their operations easier in and out of their workstations.
Organisations will need to reskill and empower their employees with the relevant skills needed to adapt to the required change. Employees should be encouraged to take advantage of the various digital learning platforms to have the right knowledge, skills, and ability to meet up with future demands.2
Change has never been easy. And in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic coupled with uncertainties surrounding job security, mental wellbeing, etc., implementing change has become more difficult. Employee participation in the change management and decision-making process cannot be overemphasied as it affords them a sense of belonging thereby guaranteeing their full participation
1. Deloitte. (2020). Combating COVID-19 with an agile change management approach: A guide for organisations to prioritise people's needs while maintaining business continuity during uncertain times, available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/in/Documents/human-capital/in-hc-consulting-deloitte-change-management-pov-on-covid-noexp.pdf. Last accessed 11th September 2015.
2. Temitope Fadare (2020). Future of jobs: The implication and role on people, businesses and the government. Available: http://www.spaajibade.com/resources/futureof-of-jobs-the-implication-and-role-on-people-temitope-fadare/. Last assessed 15th November 2020.
3. Temitope Fadare (2020). Future of jobs: The implication and role on people, businesses and the government. Available: http://www.spaajibade.com/resources/futureof-of-jobs-the-implication-and-role-on-people-temitope-fadare/. Last assessed 15th November 2020.
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