Hybrid Working | Managing Change in an Uncertain Workplace

Managing Change in an Uncertain Workplace

‘Freedom Day’ on 19th July should perhaps be re-named ‘Uncertainty Day’, as the lifting of restrictions overnight marked a seismic shift for both people and organisations.

Previous out-of-control decisions such as: ‘should I go to that party?’ or ‘should I attend that meeting face-to-face?’ are now back in our control, with many of us left unsure how to approach this freedom.

Re-tuning ourselves to this old way of thinking presents challenges for employers and employees, with new found attitudes towards areas such as flexible working also requiring important decisions to be made.

On a recent survey conducted by Hays, they found 65% of employees expect a combined home and office set up, but how do we manage the shift to hybrid working in a positive way?

The 5 fundamental skills we need to learn when managing change

In this blog, we will outline 5 key considerations when managing change as outlined by Business Psychologist and author of the best-selling book on Change, Lucinda Carney.

1. Follow the 5 key skills of a Change Superhero

Lucinda outlines 5 key ‘superhero skills’ we need to manage change effectively – of these, Courage is at the forefront.

Ask yourself - Do you have the confidence to challenge people?

As organisations are having to make swift decisions on how they approach flexible working, at least in the short-term, this could result in communications that could derail the change or people’s response to it.

For example, the Board-Level Sponsor who puts out a message to all staff about encouraging flexible working, but then demands their own team to be in the office every Monday, could receive a very negative response. We need to have the ability to rise up and challenge such behaviours in a constructive way, using real courage.

Learn about all 5 skills of a Change Superhero in the very first episode of The HR Uprising Podcast : The 5 Secret Powers of a Change Superhero

2. Understand the emotions associated with Change

The Change Curve Model covers four key stages that people go through when faced with change: ‘Denial’, ‘Resistance’, Exploration and Commitment’. Although initially created to highlight the stages of bereavement, the model can be adapted to the workplace, as it looks at how we meet someone’s emotional state when going through change. The key to the model is understanding how we adapt our style of communication to recognise the stage that someone is at along the change Curve.

The framework is valuable as it helps us to recognise that although we have all had change ‘done’ to us during the Pandemic, our circumstances and how it has affected us all is unique, and therefore our approach to responding to this should be too.

So whilst one person’s attitude towards adapting to a Hybrid Working model might be really positive, and another’s might be one of hesitancy or resistance, it’s important to understand the ‘why’ and adapt your approach accordingly.

For more information on the model, have a listen to Lucinda’s podcast episode from last year which covers it in more detail: Episode 55 of the HR Uprising Podcast.

3. Deliver Change, don’t just tell people the change

According to John Kotter, to deliver effective change, it needs to be communicated 10 times more than you think you need to. What this means in real terms is that if an organisation were to announce that they will be offering staff the ability to choose for themselves when they visit the office, this needs to be followed up by a series of activities or ‘quick wins’ to explain how this way of working will work.

For example, showing examples of where staff with quick buy-in have found the right balance for them or by offering clarify or guidance on when it would be preferable for staff to visit the office so that there is no ambiguity. The key here is that announcing the new way of working will be unlikely to produce successful buy-in on its own.

 4. Understanding preferences for Change

When change is being delivered, it’s important to be alert as to the personalities involved in implementing the change. You want to be sure that those involved will continue to drive the change to ensure it sticks. The Change Leader might, for example, want to follow up with staff members personally to ask them how they are finding the transition to a Hybrid Working Model. The important point is to ensure that whoever is implementing the change is able to run with it and ensure it sticks.

5. Use influencing language when communicating change

Often when change is communicated, particularly in larger organisations, it can be shared in quite a generic way, lacking as Lucinda describes it, ‘colour’. With little adaptation you can use some influencing language – for example to appeal to authority by referencing other companies that have adopted the same approach to hybrid working and seen positive results already. This technique of using practical persuasion strategies is outlined in more details in Episode 65 of The HR Uprising Podcast: Listen here

The other consideration should be the format system for communicating the change. It’s important to explain the ‘why’ ‘how’ and ‘what if we do/don’t’ questions to staff so that they have complete clarity of the situation and are more likely to buy-in to it. So for example: why could be – ‘to allow for greater collaboration amongst teams’, the ‘how’ could be - ‘via office meetings in the newly designed office space’ and the ‘what if we do/don’t’ could be - ‘to boost idea generation, morale and creativity vs potential burnout and low productivity’.

For more on this topic listen to podcast episode 58: format system for influential communication

Discover more resources on Managing Change

In this blog we have outlined some key areas to focus on when looking at managing change in an uncertain workplace. Whilst we have had had little control over the change that has been done to us in the last 18 months, we do have control as to how we react to and deal with the change If we respond and influence change in a positive way, we are more likely engage, retain and attract talented employees into our business.

For more on the topic of change, why not download our free Change Superhero Toolkit taken from Lucinda Carney’s Business Book: ‘How to be a change Superhero’.

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