Preparing employees for times of great change

Written by
Lucy Whitehall

27 Sep 2016

27 Sep 2016 • by Lucy Whitehall

Unexpected change causes panic and breeds uncertainty, demonstrated by the pound plunging and change in Prime Minister. While none of us really know what will happen in the future, the HR department can put tools in place to help employees manage change effectively and their subsequent reaction.

The complication for HR is that we all react differently to change. Whether in your professional or personal life, change can trigger challenges both good and bad. While some people embrace, even thrive on it, others try their utmost to avoid it. Working in HR, you will see employees encounter changes throughout their career (changing jobs, colleagues and financial cycles) but learning to manage change more effectively is perhaps one of the most important and empowering skills they can master. 

However, if change is unavoidable, even inevitable (like Brexit), you may wonder why taking steps to address it is worth your time. Making the time to understand how employees will react to change and proactively putting steps in place to address this will benefit your business by being one step ahead. It will also increase your employees’ confidence and reduce the emotional impact a period of change can cause.

But how do you achieve this? By implementing the following techniques you can be a step ahead of the change process, and prepare your employees to take on any challenges it might bring:

Managing change...

•    Encourage employees to recognise their response to change – it may sound simple, but this step is really crucial. By stepping back and evaluating how change makes them think and feel, you can predict their reaction. Knowing this allows you to prepare and manage the business processes. It also enables employees to understand how their reaction can in turn affect those around them.

•    Create a strategy to manage change – we all handle change differently and as such, we all need different tools to help us manage the process. A set of coping strategies can help employees navigate the process, however, what works for some won’t always work for others. Strategies include:

•    Recognising that they have a choice – whatever the change, employees still have the ability to choose how they react and whether to accept this change. Making no choice is a choice in itself, allowing other people or events outside of your control to decide.

•    Setting goals – working towards and achieving these goals, whether personal or work related, brings an element of control back into an employee’s life.

•    Staying positive – most people don’t realise it, but as we go about our daily lives we’re constantly thinking about and interpreting situations we find ourselves in. By adopting a positive mindset, situations naturally feel less negative, reinforcing a positive attitude.

•    Explore the possibilities – if your employee is worried by what the future brings, help them explore the possibilities. It may sound odd but looking at the worst case scenario can help indicate how they might react. Being prepared for this scenario then makes other outcomes seem more manageable.

•    Face it head on – the worst way to manage change is for employees to avoid it and bury their head in the sand. Encourage them to use the above techniques to tackle whatever comes their way. While you can’t change what will happen to them at work, you can give them the tools to manage how they react and respond. 

Encouraging employees to manage change effectively can make for a smoother transition without knee jerk reactions. Businesses value a cool head and demonstrating this attribute does an employee’s career prospects no harm. Being proactive and learning about personal reactions is a positive step and will help them in the long run. In addition, it enables HR to work with employees to overcome potential roadblocks to success, by putting tools in place to support them.