Best Practices for Managing Change in the Workplace

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Change is expected in business. Markets shift, new technologies emerge and companies that want to keep competitive must keep pace.  Change, however, can deeply impact employees, their morale, performance and productivity. Learning how to effectively manage workplace change is imperative for the well-being of an organization.  This article discusses the key features of workplace change and best practices for managing it.


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What is workplace change? 

Workplace change refers to transitions in the work environment and the ways employees do their jobs. This can impact employees in various ways:


  • Employee engagement: When changes aren’t communicated properly, employees may feel a loss or that their needs haven’t been considered. Even with positive changes, employees may disengage if changes are too rapid and they’re not informed or prepared.
  • Fear of change: Some people dread change, regardless of whether the change is beneficial or not. This can lead to negative behaviors and poor performance.
  • Lowered productivity: When there are changes to reporting structures, new tools or software, new assignments or reorganization of dties, productivity levels may decline. If not trained properly, employees may feel overwhelmed, unable to keep up, or like giving up. All of these responses lead to lowered productivity.


Best practices for managing workplace change

To manage change in the workplace effectively, consider using these best practices: 


  • Communicate throughout the change cycle
  • Offer incentives


Communicate through the change cycle

According to Kurt Lewin’s model for organizational change, change management involves three stages, referred to as unfreezing, changing and refreezing: 


  • Unfreezing: In this stage, management informs employees prior to the change using the various communication channels like the employee intranet, emails or memos. Group meetings and informational sessions can be very beneficial during this stage as they give managers an opportunity to understand how employees are feeling, gather employee feedback, and address resistance or other concerns.  
  • Changing: In this stage, changes are being implemented. Companies can help their employees by providing tutorials and other training materials, user forums for employees to help troubleshoot issues or points of contact on staff who are deeply versed in changes.
  • Refreezing: After the change, keep the communication going. There should be a user community or point person for questions or suggestions for improvement.


Offer incentives

Once the transition is complete, offer incentives that reinforce and promote the change. Here are a few suggestions: 


  • Offer performance-based bonuses to employees who embrace change rapidly 
  • Consider an improvement in employee benefits to offset any negative impacts 
  • Reward champions of the change with gift cards, movie tickets or other gifts 


Frequently asked questions

Here are some common questions about workplace change:


What are the benefits of workplace change?

While transitions may not be easy for all employees, there are some distinct benefits. As employees adapt to new ways of doing things, they break out of old routines, learn new skills, and devise new solutions and techniques. 


What’s the most common barrier to effective change management?

Inadequate resources can pose a problem. Changes need to be managed and education and communications are inadequate, your managers can get overwhelmed with “putting out fires” due to the change. This leaves your business unattended and normal processes slow. Managers in this position may begin to disengage while employees develop a negative attitude. These impacts can result in lowered productivity and morale.


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