Since 2020, we’ve all endured a lot of change in the workplace and the world. Economic uncertainty continues to lurk. The Great Resignation of 2022 has been followed by the “loud layoffs” of 2023. Many companies are (still) figuring out whether remote working is, well, working. And the emergence of AI has challenged us to think about what work and workplace culture will even look like in the coming months or years. With all these changes, the future seems in flux across many industries right now, and employees in companies of every size have likely felt the impacts.
While change is typically a necessary part of business growth, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. And generally not everyone will be as ready to jump on board as the leaders who are steering the ship.
According to a recent Gartner® survey, 74% of employees were willing to support organizational change in 2016, but in late 2022, only 38% said the same. This correlates with a lower intent to stay with the organization: Only 43% of employees who experience higher levels of change fatigue intend to stay with their organization, compared with 74% of employees who experience low levels. This likely means that with too much change, morale could dip, and employee productivity and retention may follow.
Leaders need to motivate and empower their teams to reach the end goal by uniting them during this time of change — whether they’re implementing a new way of working, a pivot in mission and metrics, a restructuring, or some other organizational shift.
In a recent Center for Creative Leadership study, executives were surveyed about their leadership strategies. The surveys revealed the habits of successful change leaders, which reflect the three Cs of change leadership: communicate, collaborate, and commit.
Keep the lines of communication open
Open and transparent communication is typically critical for uniting employees during times of change. According to the Center for Creative Leadership study, the most successful leaders focused on what should be achieved and also why. These leaders explained why the change was needed and connected it to an organizational value or goal. By demonstrating their thought processes, they made their teams more likely to unite behind the benefits and value of change.
To leverage this technique, consider communicating with your team regularly, and encourage them to ask questions of you and one another throughout the change process. Also consider making more time for one-on-one meetings, team outings, and all-hands updates so everyone is informed and united.
Create more space for collaboration
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” — Steve Jobs
Collaboration is generally always valuable, especially so during times of change. Not only does this allow employees to connect during a climate of uncertainty, but when team members collaborate, they may experience more fun, less stress and fear, more creativity, more personal growth, less burnout, and more motivation. As workplace experts at Indeed® explain:
- Teamwork promotes a positive work environment where employees can tackle problems more effectively by applying diverse points of view and approaches and, as a result, may see greater success and inclusivity.
- Through teamwork, employees may accomplish complex tasks more quickly, reach new benchmarks, expand their professional skill sets, and deliver more innovative solutions than when working alone.
Times of change are moments when innovation and problem-solving are most important. Uniting teams in collaborative efforts allows you to facilitate that. As a leader, you may create a better environment for problem-solving and encourage your employees to connect more often by providing them with the tools and resources they need to do it, like software, space, and time during the day.
Commit to a common goal
To get your team to buy into the company’s vision for the future, you need a common goal for everyone to rally around. Joel Peterson, Chairman at JetBlue®, is no stranger to change within an organization. In an article for Inc.®, he reminds managers that they need to inspire their employees to drive change.
Peterson said: “Nothing about the process can be abstract. Communication is key to identifying what team members want personally as well as sharing what the company as a whole is working toward.”
He also shared six critical steps to getting there:
- Include everyone. This means employees, customers, investors, and anyone who will be affected by this change. Find a goal that everyone can rally behind.
- Make it real. Put simply, lose the jargon, and make sure that you cite a specific desired outcome.
- Celebrate your team. Make sure to recognize team members who go above and beyond, whether for customers or their coworkers.
- Renew the vision. As change takes over, it’s not uncommon for workers to lose focus. The best organizations constantly ensure that what they’re working toward is clear and works for the company.
- Keep things simple. Pick a desired outcome that your employees will want to work toward. Then establish three objectives to meet that will show them they have achieved that outcome.
- Sacrifice. As a leader, you know you’ll be asking your employees for more during times of change. However, you need to make sure that they see your sacrifice, too. This will help stop any feelings of resentment and unite the team.
Lead your team through times of change
As the great team leader and coach Ted Lasso says, “Most of the time, change is a good thing, and I think that's what it's all about — embracing change, being brave, doing whatever you have to so everyone in your life can move forward with theirs.”
Change may be hard on a business, but it doesn’t have to tear your team apart. Do what you have to do to bring everyone along. Communicate openly, encourage collaboration, and commit to a common goal. Not only may this help motivate employees to get on board, but it generally helps ensure everyone is innovating and working together to solve the many problems that come with going through organizational change as a united team.