Change within a business is not only an inevitable step in the process of growth, but can also serve as a catalyst for further growth, if managed effectively. In today’s dynamic and fast-paced environment, businesses must adapt or risk becoming obsolete. However, managing change effectively must be viewed as an opportunity to improve rather than a chore.
This is according to Claire Simon, Consulting Psychologist at Work Dynamics – a leading HR consultancy in the country, who says that any change experienced by businesses, whether big or small, is often viewed as turbulent. “Therefore, it is important to shift focus from change management to change leadership – with a strong emphasis on change readiness. While implementing changes in business can come at a risk, it can come with great rewards too.”
These ‘risk changes’ can include mergers, acquisitions, Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), technological developments and changes in leadership, she says. “As unsettling as these events may sound, they are crucial for growth and becoming more accessible as an organisation.”
With regards to the nature of change within an organisation, Simon points to the recent fall of the highly respected and reputable mobile company, Nokia, as a prime example of how change effects business development. “Nokia did not necessarily make any grand mistakes, but did not make any grand leaps to adapt to the ever evolving mobile technologies either. As a result, their competitors indisputably became too powerful for them to compete with. This is a prime example of the importance of change for organisations to remain current and competitive.”
She adds that organisations going through a significant change should partner with a qualified HR consultancy that is able to provide guidance on the psychology of change, especially in terms of the impact on employees. “Change is inevitable and affects the employees the most, as they have to adapt their daily processes to accommodate the change. Many organisations tend to focus primarily on keeping up with their competitors and other commercial elements of business, meaning that the human factor may be neglected. This is problematic, because a dedicated and motivated team of workers forms the backbone of most organisations.”
When it comes to ensuring that change progresses efficiently and smoothly, communication is imperative, explains Simon. “Preparing for and transitioning through change can be overwhelming and organisations have to provide an open platform for employees to express their concerns prior to the changes.”
She suggests the following change communication model to ensure that staff members remain in the loop. “Firstly, employees must be informed timeously of change to ensure everyone is aware of the process. Secondly, a transparent approach to involve employees is required to stimulate engagement across all levels of the business. Finally, the change must be integrated into the organisation without hindering the commitment and attitudes of the employees.”
This can be accomplished if leaders within the organisation act as the change agents and assist with transparency and honesty during the progression of change, says Simon. “Sound leadership will demonstrate an inordinate level of care on the part of senior management, in turn resulting in high levels of trust and compliance from the employees.”
She explains that while there is no general rating system available to measure change readiness within an organisation, the level thereof can be assessed through a change readiness survey that is tailor-made to suit the unique attributes of the organisation.
“A continuous change readiness assessment plan must be implemented within organisations to measure and adapt existing processes, thereby ensuring the organisation is resilient and prepared enough to continue its growth during periods of change,” concludes Simon.