Just as project management is a full-time job, so is building resilience at work through change management. While project and change management are complementary functions, they are not the same and serve distinct needs. Project management focuses on the timely delivery of a project within both budget and scope. Change management emphasizes the people involved and ensures that their needs are accounted for throughout the course of the project.
Change management approaches building resilience at work as reflexive. Meaning, resilience isn’t a check-box item on a to-do list, but a discipline that becomes woven into the fabric of an organization. This allows organizations to pivot seamlessly between routine (when there is no change) and improvisation (when there is change or disruption) modes, as required by circumstance.
That all sounds fine, but how? In this blog post, we’ll look at practical strategies for organizational resilience.
1: Model Resilience through leadership
Research from Prosci indicates that the most important contributor to a successful response to organizational change is effective sponsorship from executive leadership. Employees need to see support and enthusiasm for the change coming from the top.
Key elements of effective sponsorship from leaders include:
- Actively and visibly participating in the change
- Regularly and directly communicating with employees
- Getting other key leaders involved
Many leaders struggle to communicate effectively, especially during a planned change or disruption. Developing a leadership communication plan takes the guesswork out of communicating through change. Considerations for effective communication from leadership include:
- The cadence of the communication
How often do people want or need to hear from leadership?
- Consistency of messaging
Are all members of leadership communicating the same information?
- Transparency of communication
Are we clearly explaining why the change is happening (including business drivers), and when? What benefits and disruptions can people expect to experience?
- Channels of communication
What is (are) the most appropriate mode(s) of communication (e.g., all-staff meeting, email, discussion boards) for the message?
- Source of communication
From whom should people be hearing the message?
2: Listen and Respond
Like the workplace, people’s lives are in flux. A person may seem energetic and engaged one day, and sluggish and disengaged the next.
Organizations across the globe are falling victim to the so-called Great Resignation because they are failing to adapt to what are becoming increasingly obvious trends (e.g., demand for flexible schedules, remote work). More and more, the workplace requires a human-centric approach to change management. That means checking in with the humans and “reading the room.”
3: Cultivate a “Psychologically Safe” Environment
To encourage open and honest responses, change managers must establish trust with the people they are shepherding through the change. Key elements to creating a psychologically safe environment include:
- Listening and seeking to understand.
This lets people know that their feedback, opinions, and expertise are important to you.
- Responding to feedback.
This lets people know that they have been heard. Note: Responses do not need to be in the form of an iron-clad answer. Acknowledgment of feedback—perhaps with follow-up questions—also tells people that they are being listened to.
- Communicating changes that have been implemented based on feedback, and explaining why other suggested changes are not being implemented.
This lets people know that you valued their contribution.
- Following up post-feedback.
This lets people know that you care whether their concerns have been adequately addressed.
4: Promote a Learner-centric Culture
To keep up with today’s monumental pace of change and disruption, organizations need to develop employees in the moment. This means integrating development opportunities into the natural course of work (vs. a training event that pulls someone away from their job for a week).
Learner-centric organizations create learning opportunities of all kinds to cultivate curiosity and growth. They embrace innovation, flexibility, and adaptivity, which are key elements for resilience during change. Allowing employees access to learning opportunities lets them know that you are invested in their success—that you are willing to invest in their success. This in turn makes them feel valued and improves morale. Creating learning opportunities also allows organizations to address any skills and competency gaps they may be experiencing.
5: Empower Your Employees
During planned change or disruption, a necessary burden is placed on people (e.g., learning a new technology or adapting to a new process). But people have limits to what they can take on. Monitor for the people side of scope creep by letting them know that it is ok to prioritize tasks and allow them to have a voice in that prioritization.
6: Be Agile
Today’s work environment requires a blend of strategic planning and adaptable design. The five-year plan of the past has been largely replaced by the concept of working toward a strategic vision in discrete, iterative steps. This allows an organization to pivot and adapt when change and disruption inevitably come along the way.
The success of any project depends on stakeholder adoption. After all, if the end result is not accepted and used, it is useless. Agile methodology emphasizes a virtuous cycle of stakeholder feedback from project inception through post-launch. Using the iterative development approach, stakeholder feedback can be implemented as the project progresses.
7: Practice Conscious Leadership
The Conscious Leadership Group recognizes two states of leadership: 1. Acceptance and Trust, and 2. Resistance and Threat.
- Acceptance and Trust (“above the line”)
Marked by a responsive, curious approach to teamwork. These leaders embrace growth and learning. Behaviors include:
- Looking for learning lessons and growth opportunities in challenge and failure
- Considering different perspectives
- Taking responsibility for mistakes
- Appreciating and recognizing the contributions of others
- Resistance and Threat (“below the line”)
Tending toward a reactive and defensive approach to teamwork. These leaders can get bogged down in internal conflict and drama. Behaviors include:
- Responding defensively to challenges and failure
- Fixating on their own perspective
- Blaming others for mistakes
- Finding fault with others
Any leader may flip-flop between the two states. Conscious leaders evaluate where they fall at any given time and strive to achieve a state of Acceptance and Trust when they find themselves slipping into a Resistance and Threat mindset.
You might consider keeping the Conscious Leadership Group’s graphic titled “Locating Yourself: Above or Below?” close-at-hand and use it to reflect on where your mindset falls at any given time: above the line (Acceptance and Trust) or below the line (Resistance and Threat).
Does Your Organization Need Help Building Resilience at Work?
To be successful in an increasingly competitive workforce, companies must be resilient. But change isn’t always easy and knowing where to start can be confounding!
GSX helps organizations develop innovative talent management and human capital strategies using multiple forms of credentialing and learning solutions. We work with your organization to build and maintain agility and resiliency in your workforce through a fully customizable methodology, advanced readiness tools, and critical analytics that addresses your need to focus on the change concerns of today and tomorrow.
If your organization is struggling to adapt to change in the workplace, Global Skills X-Change can help! Contact us today!