Change Ready Organisations: The importance of building resilience
What can we do as change professionals and change leaders to mitigate the impact of this, when increasingly there is a need to drive continuous change to thrive?
We’ll look at how important it is to assess and understand the scale and impact of this lack of resilience. And, once this is understood, what ‘levers’ are available when planning and implementing change to establish the conditions for success.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced organisations to change at an unprecedented pace, driven by high urgency and the need to adapt rapidly to new and often unexpected challenges. Many of these changes were born out of necessity and had unique characteristics such as:
- High Urgency: organisations had to respond quickly to keep their employees safe, maintain business operations, and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. This sense of urgency often fuelled rapid decision-making and implementation.
- Completely New Conditions: the pandemic introduced entirely new conditions that organisations had never faced before; remote work on a massive scale, supply chain disruptions, changing customer behaviours, and health and safety protocols. Organisations had to innovate and adapt to these novel challenges.
- No Time for Resistance: With the immediacy of the crisis, there was little room for resistance or hesitation. Employees and leaders had to embrace change and adapt to new ways of working, often without the luxury of time for extensive planning or deliberation.
What is happening now?
Post-COVID, while some of the urgency has subsided, organisations are now faced with the ongoing challenge of restructuring, strategic realignment, and adapting to the “new normal.” Organisations need to make continuous iterative improvements to keep up with their competitors, innovate and improve. But increasingly we hear from the organisations we work with, that workforces are overwhelmed with the amount of change. Or at the very least, they are passive resistors of change, which often shows up as apathy or disengagement from any change initiatives that impact them. In Capterra’s 2022 Change Fatigue Survey, of almost 1,000 U.S. employees, 71% said they are overwhelmed by the amount of change that has happened at their job during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, 83% of workers suffering from change fatigue say their employer has not provided enough tools or resources to help them adapt.
What can change leaders do about this?
The first thing to say is that it is worth investing in the development of resilience in your workforce. There are numerous benefits for both employees and the whole organisation. Resilience equips individuals with the ability to bounce back from adversity, adapt to change, and thrive in challenging circumstances. The results payoff: a change ready workforce, capable of adapting to changes, positively impacts your organisation’s ability to transform, be competitive and innovate. Measuring and assessing change capacity and resilience should be a critical component of your change strategy. It should be considered a condition for success, assessed in the same way as we usually measure organisational readiness. Here’s a few ideas on how you can measure and assess change capacity and resilience:
- Define key metrics – such as how engaged people are in their work, their preparedness for upcoming changes, leadership effectiveness, individual and team resilience
- Surveys and assessments – use these to gather data directly from employees on your key metrics, including specific leadership assessments
- Skills – evaluate the skills and competencies of your workforce in relation to managing change, adaptability and resilience
- Psychological safety – assess the level of psychological safety in the organisation. A safe environment encourages open communication, risk-taking, and sharing of concerns, all of which are critical for building resilience
- Change culture – evaluate your existing culture regarding change – does it encourage and support change, or is it resistant and averse to change? Culture plays a significant role in determining change capacity and resilience.
By systematically measuring and assessing change capacity and resilience, you can proactively identify areas that may require attention and develop action plans based on the results to address weaknesses, enhance strengths, and continuously improve your people’s readiness for change.
Levers available to change leaders:
So, you’ve assessed the resilience of your people and you’ve started to put some action plans in place. What other things can you do to help employees develop the resilience and coping mechanisms needed to navigate change effectively?
- Prioritise changes – prioritise the most critical changes and focus on a few key initiatives at a time, rather than overwhelming employees with numerous changes simultaneously. Give staff clear direction on which change initiatives to focus their precious time, effort and head space on.
- Use tools like organisational heatmaps to map when changes will be impacting different parts of the organisation and use this insight to plan and phase changes effectively to align with ‘business as usual’ priorities, peaks and troughs.
- Influence the pace, scope and scale of changes being delivered – can they be broken down or delivered in smaller chunks iteratively?
- Role-model adaptability and resilience through active listening, leading by example in adopting new practices and behaviours, prioritising well-being, sharing stories of overcoming setbacks and developing a feedback culture.
- Invest in resilience-building programmes for employees. Help them develop coping strategies, stress management skills, and a growth mindset.
- Empower employees with a sense of control and autonomy over certain aspects of the change process. When people have ownership over their work, it can significantly increase their resilience and adaptability.
- Promote a culture of continuous learning and adaptation, so that employees start to view change as an opportunity for growth and development.
As you can see, investing in resilience can take many forms. The return on investment in terms of employee performance, organisational agility, and competitiveness can be significant. Ultimately, resilient employees are better equipped to contribute positively, not only at work, but within their communities and personal lives, making it a win-win for everyone.
For more information on how to build-in resilience for your team, you can contact me directly or email email@example.com.
Veena Baggley – Principal Consultant