In the normal course of business, you need to respond to changes in technology, the marketplace, the economy, and more. But 2020 was not a normal year … and 2021 is not going to be normal, either. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of change has been dramatically accelerated – and your response to change must accelerate commensurately.
Change is always a challenge. Accelerated change is even more disruptive to a business. For example, one of our clients is facing the need to rapidly adopt new technology. This change will result in a short-term financial loss for the company and will affect how they do business with their customers. The roles and responsibilities within the company will shift for many employees. Understandably, people are very tense about the change and the disruption that comes with it.
If you are confronted with the necessity of making a major change in your business, here are four guidelines for leading change that will help make 2021 a great year.
1. Be Transparent with Your Team
Your people need to understand the what, why, when, where, who, and how of the change that is taking place. For instance, our client has communicated in an open and forthright way with all the employees why new technology must be brought in and how the roll out will happen. The leadership team has taken care to address concerns such as “will my job disappear?” and “is the business in jeopardy?”
You will need to communicate carefully, intentionally, and transparently with your people in order to manage change well. You can find more about what is required at each stage of change management here.
2. Incentivize Your Team
Change often involves significant capital expense, and that can make it hard or impossible to give people the same monetary incentives they may have gotten in the past. But just because you can’t give people large bonuses or salary increases doesn’t mean you should give them nothing. Give what you can, and explain the situation. For our client, incentivizing the team meant cutting bonuses by 75% – but they still gave bonuses. In fact, they decided to give them each quarter rather than at year’s end to keep people motivated.
Remember that incentivizing your team is a way of saying “thank you.” In the midst of disruptive change, you want your team to know that they are appreciated and that their work is valued.
3. Enlist Your Team in the Effort
For change to succeed, you need your people to give it their all. Now, frequently when change occurs, people say, “This change has to do with some other department. It doesn’t involve me. If those people do their job, everything will be okay.” This is really a form of covert resistance to change. By being passive, people undercut the change effort.
You want everyone on board when it comes to a major change in your company. To enlist people’s efforts, you need to make the contribution they can make to the “new order” very personal. For our client, that translated to setting personal goals for everyone in the company – regardless of whether people held an administrative position in the back office or were on the front line of sales. By doing so, they helped each person in the company focus on how they could contribute to delighting their current customers and winning new customers.
4. Share Results with Your Team
A major change can disrupt your company for months. To help allay the uncertainty that accompanies such disruption, give your team a snapshot of where the company is at on a quarterly basis (at least). Give an update on sales, revenue, customer satisfaction, productivity, or whatever metrics are most beneficial to show the company’s progress. Also, have managers meet with their direct reports to review people’s progress on their individual goals. Keeping your people “in the know” will help motivate them to continue giving their best efforts.
Yes, 2021 may be a year of disruption in your business. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a great year. With transparency and intentionality, you can make 2021 a true success!