In, out, change is all it’s about
Post Brexit referendum, business leaders face the challenge of handling change in a positive manner. Whether you voted leave or remain, the current climate of uncertainty is a test of any organisation’s change management skills.
Of course, Brexit or no Brexit, change in business is inevitable. Arming staff with the skills to manage change effectively is a certain way of ensuring a good outcome. Middle management can play a key role here, communicating information and soothing anxieties.
Having a stakeholder communication strategy is not a nice to have but a business imperative that may be linked to organisation-wide risk analysis. In other words, a risk assessment of what will happen if you don’t communicate effectively with stakeholders is likely to highlight the pressing need to get this right.
Here are tips to help up your game when it comes to managing change and communicating with stakeholders in an era of Brexit turmoil:
- Make middle management the change agents of the organisation. Brief middle managers to reiterate expectations and plans for change constantly and consistently. Ring-fence time for them to do this. Employees need to know they can trust their managers, and that managers will not misinform or mislead them. Managers also need to listen to what employees are saying when they are expressing fears and concerns. Provide coaching in listening skills to support this. It is important that middle management acts with integrity.
- Develop the organisation’s change management skills base. Many managers may have undergone some training that touches on change management, the likes of PRINCE2 for project management, for example, but effective change management is broader than this. To address this need, APMG has developed Change Management Certification in partnership with the Change Management Institute (CMI). The certification is available at Foundation and Practitioner levels.
- Get stakeholder communications right. ‘Stakeholder communications’ is a critical success factor for change. All too often, however, communications is treated as an afterthought rather than the specialist skill it is, on a par with other technical and managerial skills. If employees do not know what is happening with the organisation, it is likely that they will become anxious and fearful. If partners and suppliers are left in the dark, they may start researching alternative arrangements. At a time of change, as well as just broadcasting information it is vital to foster two-way communication with everyone who may have important input and good ideas. It might be a good idea to tap into existing organisational communications resources to help with this. Marketing departments, for example, have deep expertise in customer segmentation and effective communications.
Organisations that fail to engage their stakeholders tend to generate only a lacklustre commitment to changes that need to happen, according to Project Management Institute research. So-called ‘recipients of change’ – stakeholders such as employees or customers – often will not commit to the change without additional support from the organisation.
In fact, the PMI research shows that only 25 per cent of employees in these organisations ever fully commit to a specific change, with the remaining 75 per cent simply accepting or resisting the change rather than embracing it wholeheartedly and driving it through.
Current economic forecasts appear to predict changeable and stormy conditions. Successful management of the changes ahead relies on getting communications right to build stakeholder engagement and keep everyone on-board as you navigate choppy waters.
About the author
Russell Kenrick is the Managing Director at ILX.
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