The human race is going through unprecedented crisis due to COVID-19. The speed and impact of the virus was so widespread that it has surprised all governments, businesses, and the human race alike. The pandemic has completely transformed the ways an enterprise was working six months back and will have an everlasting impact on the ways organizations are going to work in the future. The organization change management is the key tool for organizations to manage this transformation, enabling employees adapt to the new normal.
COVID -19’s biggest impact is on ‘people’ and hence organizations have to focus on employee well-being and safety, first. The response of business leaders to this crisis has been as follows:
Stage 1: Employee safety first: Educate and support employees in managing the crisis through Central Response Centers, and create awareness about precautions, regulatory compliances etc.
Stage 2: Business continuity with employee safety: Remote working, empowered virtual teams, and customer support for emergency services.
Stage 3: Future state of organization: The COVID-19 situation offers both opportunities and challenges to business leaders and they are responding based on the culture and vision of the organization. The progressive organizations are looking to transform their business models and ways of working in place of merely reacting to the current situation.
This pandemic will drive multiple transformations in an organization’s ways of working and require a differentiated change management strategy focused on consistent communication, coaching, training, and learning to adopt new ways of working that were never envisaged earlier. Some of the key initiatives that will be enabled through effective change management in the post COVID-19 era are:
- Reimagine work practices: Remote working during the crisis has established that many processes and activities, that were never expected to be executed remotely, could be successfully completed using digital platforms. The leadership took many critical decisions over video conferencing while teams have collaborated effectively over digital platforms. The organizations now have the opportunity to reimagine processes and strategize them to clearly identify the parts of the process that really require in-person presence e.g. initial planning workshop may require limited duration office presence but remaining work can be done remotely through digital platforms. In addition, organizations will require looking at roles from a value delivery perspective and segment them as completely remote, hybrid remote, and onsite to staff them with suitable workforce.
All these initiatives are new and would require an effective change management strategy by understanding its impact on employees’ health and motivation.
- Reskill the workforce: The pandemic has created an everlasting impact on human kind. All workforces are going through the Kubler Ross Change Curve starting with the Denial phase- it will not affect me, my family, and my organization, to the Acceptance stage - it is a new reality and I may have to learn to live with this, for COVID-19 situation. Change management strategy has become critical to support employees and provide the right tools to manage these difficult times as well as motivate them to become productive and effective in the new normal. It is a paramount responsibility of the organization to train, coach, and motivate employees to adapt to remote working, learn the organizational culture, and align with the organizational goals.
- Reconstruct the workplace and organizational culture: One of the key changes from a people experience perspective would be a change in the office construct due to physical distancing norms. This will fundamentally change the way people interact, collaborate, and be productive within the office or from remote work places. Organizations will need to develop a work culture where no employee whether onsite or working remotely feels left out. Organizations must adopt best practices around collaboration, flexibility, inclusion, and accountability to develop a progressive work culture. This will require lot of coaching on soft skills and people centric interventions.
Managing Change Management
Even though current pandemic situation looks grim, the human race has crossed many such crises in the past and hence progressive organizations are optimistic about a better future. The transformation to new ways of working is a journey and it is a responsibility of business leaders to manage this journey effectively. Leaders can adopt some of the following best practices for effective change management:
- Set up a Transformation Management office including Change Management function
- Make change personal for leaders
- Mobilize influencers to develop network of change agents in the organization
- Adopt digital tools and collaborative platforms
- Use high-impact, two-way communications
- Connect and collaborate during remote coaching sessions
- Establish strong governance for visibility and to take effective actions
- Monitor progress and adjust the change program dynamically
Building a Sustainable Post-COVID 19 Future
During COVID-19, organizations have experienced a pause in their growth acceleration, though each one of them has adopted different strategies to survive in these tough times. For organizations, it is a moment to break from the past inertia, adapt to the new normal, and think of changes to be made in the current people, processes, and technology dimensions to make itself a healthy and resilient organization. The reinvention of the organizational DNA, driven by an effective change management program, should help build a sustainable future where employees work in a safer environment and collaborate effectively to deliver organizational goals.