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Top 3 Change Management Challenges Facing Leaders Today — and How to Solve Them

24 May 2021

Change is everywhere and occurs all the time. That sentence may be easier to believe after a year of adapting to the global pandemic.

But even when your work appears routine, there are subtle shifts under the surface that affect workflows and productivity. Whether the change your organization is undergoing is large and unexpected or small and planned, one truth is universal: It’s not the change itself that matters but how we respond to it. That’s the challenge of a change initiative.

Many organizations are struggling to adapt to unprecedented shifts in how we work. Let’s take a look at the top three change management challenges organizations are facing right now — and how to solve them.

Engaging employees remains a top priority

Forbes reports that U.S. companies waste $2 trillion each year on change initiatives that don’t last because they fail to seek and sustain employee buy-in. Companies that manage change by making a decree will continue to make this mistake. Buy-in matters. A lack of sponsorship for change initiatives at the executive level down to the frontlines kills a lot of good ideas. It also wastes a lot of money and time.

While there are dozens of articles on the importance of change management sponsorship at the executive level, engaging your frontline workforce is of primary importance. Gallup says we’re doing a terrible job; on a good day, only 35% of your workforce is “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” Now imagine mandating a big change initiative from the top down. If your employees already struggle to care about their work, do you think your new initiative will have a shot at reaching its full envisioned potential?

People at every level of your organization want to derive purpose and meaning from their work. They want positive relationships with their colleagues who work with them toward goals. They also want to know the “why” behind any change initiative you mandate. The reality is that employees won’t buy in if they don’t understand the reasons for the change. Engage your workforce in a mission and surround them with managers who are mentors rather than productivity drivers. Engagement will follow.

Building culture in remote teams

From an HR perspective, remote work has been the biggest disruptor since COVID-19 hit. The shift to dispersed teams has created massive change management challenges. Leaders have tried to adapt their communication styles to this new normal. How can leaders manage interpersonal relationships in this new environment?

COVID-19 shifted our culture from physical interactions to virtual. There are no more watercooler chats or casual social interactions that formerly connected individuals into teams. It’s challenging to be alone all day with just a screen; for some, it can produce a feeling of detachment.

To overcome this disengagement and keep culture thriving within your organization, you need to communicate frequently with teams and individuals on both formal and informal channels. Create community with events, activities, huddles, and standups, and use these venues to acknowledge the efforts of specific team members. Bring everything back to your company mission, and give people a sense of what they’re working toward and how it can help change the world for the better.

Adapting workflows and mindsets for the future state

The biggest challenge that lies ahead is that organizations must adapt to environmental changes and disruptions that have now become our new normal. Leaders must take what they learned from COVID, which was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and use their newly acquired knowledge to manage the future state of change.

Organizations should incorporate the following into leadership workflows moving forward:

This process should be human-centered and repeatable.

Organizations and the individuals within them are likely feeling shell-shocked. The past year has dealt us a relentless uncertainty that many have never experienced. Managing these changes in a way that benefits your company is the most logical, effective way to move forward.

Fitch Consulting was founded on the principle of change management as a business benefit. We help organizations overcome the challenges caused by change. Talk with our team today about how we can better equip your management team to adjust, improve, and prosper in these challenging times.
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