Change Management Coming out of the COVID 19 Crises
The COVID 19 crises will have undoubtedly forced changes in your firm but have you assessed the need to sustain the changes that have occurred and can the firm benefit into the future through adopting some of the changes the firm has been forced to take?
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Change Management - Coming out of Covid-19
Change can be voluntary or forced, arising from any aspect of your firm be it financial, regulatory, statute lead, technological, operational or the result of external influences such as we are experiencing now with COVID 19.
In the current crises, firms have needed to adapt the way they work to continue servicing clients and bringing income and new clients to the firm to ensure the impact of COVD 19 is minimised into the future and in some cases ensure the continuity and stability of the firm.
It is a fact that firms that are not prepared to change will soon fall behind the competitors as others strive to evolve.
The recent crisis has seen many firms start to adopt ways of working that previously would have seemed impossible or difficult to get staff to embrace. Home working is now common place and many firms are moving closer to paperless environments with post being scanned and emailed to staff enabling them to deal with the correspondence received.
Often the most significant barriers to change are willingness of finances but this crisis has driven firms to find a new way of working and many will embrace this forced change into the future to streamline how they approach their work.
Whilst there is an overwhelming need for firms to get back to normal to ensure the firm can operate at its optimum, a number of firms TSP has spoken to have indicated their intention to maintain a mix of home working alongside office access to make use of the unexpected investment that has been needed to continue the business.
Some firms are seeing potential positives of remote and paperless ways of working and are looking to the future and analysing how they can sustain an element of the changes to reduce expenses in the firm, such as premises cost, which is often the second most expensive element of a running a firm after salaries.
The reality is that firms have needed to invest into their IT infrastructure. This change has not been a natural evolution but has been forced to enable firms to survive and continue to operate.
Although there is no obvious end to the current crises, it is hoped this will happen soon, but firms now need to assess what the future operational and management processes in the business will look like and whether there will be a ‘new normal’ which is sustainable into the future for the benefit of the firm, its staff and clients.
As most firms have seen, change can be disruptive, and a rushed or badly executed change management programme can cause significant damage to a business. It may be that a firm wishes to maintain some of the changes they have implemented due to the current crises.
If this is the case, as they have seen some benefits in the firms overall productivity, despite being somewhat reactionary it is still important to communicate and gain buy in from those affected by ensuring they understand why the change will be maintained and the overall benefits.
For those firms who have experienced a more dramatic impact of the current crises, as they were not set up for remote or paperless working, it is essential that they assess the impact of the change on the firm and identify the elements that may survive into the future and who will be affected.
Discussed below are the steps that we believe are vital to the successful implementation of sustaining change.
Any change management strategy must put the staff at the heart of the change management programme or you risk dealing with the fallout if they resist.
As noted above there may be a number of reasons why changes are necessary, in the current crises, change is being forced, but often it is a conscious decision and regardless of the reason, acceptance and sustainability will only be achieved through gaining long term ‘buy in’ which will be achieved through an effective change management programme. The following offers some guidance on this:
- Recognise – Always the first step to change is recognising the need. As in the current circumstances, change has been thrust upon firms but those who wish to sustain some of these changes will now need to establish what will be retained, the reason why and who will be affected.
- Consult – Once the decision is made. it is imperative that that staff are consulted. The staff may or may not want to return to the old ways of working when the crises is over but it cannot be assumed that it will be a simple task to maintain a new way of working as some may be accepting others will not. As the current crises starts to come to an end, firms should prepare to consult with their staff in the event change is going to be sustained into the long term. The consultation elements enables those affected to understand the reasons why and importantly, the firm will gain buy in from the affected staff through giving them a voice and listening to them.
- Identify – Talking with the staff will help identify their concerns and demonstrate that you are prepared to take them into account. Once the staff have established that you are listening to them, buy in will come much quicker. If the firm is also considering implementation of other changes this may be the time to consider consulting on change. It is not advisable to have a succession of change management processes running so covering change in one go is an important consideration for the firm and staff often appreciate being kept informed and being able to understand why and how the firm is changing.
- Understand – Take the time to understand the concerns of the staff and how the changes may impact both them and the firm. If you accept any of the points identified as causing concern you can respond to them or adapt your processes to address them. Not every issue can be overcome but you can aid understanding of the staff by informing them of the reason why the firm will be sustaining some of the current ways of working so they have an understanding and through this, an acceptance.
- Adapt – Where you can adapt do so. Listen to the ideas and suggestions of the staff and be prepared to change your own views and plans. The staff are often much closer to the service delivery and therefore the clients than the owners or managers so their views will have value.
- Goals – What are the goals and objectives of the change and what does success mean. Set them out clearly. Whether this is reduction of expenses or improvement in processing of work or a combination of factors it is important to set the goals as only through doing so will you be able to confirm your change has worked.
- Plan - With the thoughts and views of all having been taken into account and a clear path to the future management of the firm established, the planning phase can commence. This element is essential to successfully implement long term change. Planning and understanding the impact of continuation of the change programme will help establish success. Knowing what to do is often the easiest part of the task but exactly how it will be followed through and results monitored is important. Where there is an impact on jobs, particularly job losses, ensure your message is clear and consistent so that you do not lose key people through a period of uncertainty. With every change there is a need to ensure that it has worked and despite the current position being forced on the business, it has been sudden and there has not been a process of understanding why the change is necessary, what is expected and what success means. This still needs to be understood. What is the firm expecting to achieve be that financial savings or improved ways of working? Understand the impact and what success means to the firm and ensure you are able to monitor
- Finalise – When the consulting and planning is complete, and the change is about to be implemented take stock of where you have arrived, and information gathered along the journey. This will be the last time to make adjustments before you implement. Call together your key team and review what you originally set out to achieve and if any final adjustments need to be made to achieve the ultimate goal.
- Implement – If your preparation has been right the implementation stage should be the easiest part. You will be aware of what change is expected, as will the staff and as you move into the new phase of the firms evolution the implementation will be easier to process and sustain.
- Monitor – Once you have set the firms on its new path, you must revisit the goals and objectives set to ensure you are achieving what you set out to. Not all change will work and will need adapting as time progresses but that will not happen if you do not set new targets and objectives.
The impact of change will not always be a positive experience for everyone regardless of the starting point and drivers. However, for change to be successful it has to be thought out, discussed and implemented with a clear strategy and goals.
Change does not stop when the business has delivered its new way of working, ongoing monitoring is essential. Have targets been hit and goals being met? if not, why? Managers should be asking “Do we need to change again”
Change has to work as failure could mean losses and losses could mean the end of a business (eventually)
At The Strategic Partner we work with firms through the change management providing guidance and support. It is often helpful to have an impartial view and a view that comes from outside your business but with industry knowledge
For more information on our change management services you can call us on 0203 911 9710, email us email@example.com or visit our website and complete an online enquiry