Organizational change – a joint effort of the whole team
From the commercial worker to the university professor, from the civil servant to the corporate director, we have all spent a paradoxical pandemic year: while many external freedoms have been highly restricted, our inner changes and adaptation to a new working style have been accelerated.
Now that things seem to be gradually moving on to a more predictable path, many organizations are preparing or already implementing their employees’ return to the office. Most managers are taking into consideration some adjustments in the HR policies in order to make this coming back as smooth as possible. Other companies seem to be trying to preserve pre-pandemic procedures: their plan is having the whole team back to a fixed office, with a fixed work schedule and fixed rules. However, a reality that no employer can ignore is that every employee on the organization chart is, at the moment, irreversibly transformed by the events of the last year, by the experience of remote work or by the revelations of a more flexible working style.
Even if your list with employees contains exactly the same names as a year ago, those people that you expect back at the office have changed a lot during past months. And if you intend to implement some changes in the light of recent events, here’s a useful detail: change is already largely implemented within your company. Change is happening right now, when you read these lines. It is comprised of all the new perspectives acquired by all of your employees in the unique context in which they have been working for more than a year.
Before you rush into developing theories and interminable documents with strategies for change, before you draw up long checklists for team leaders, pay attention to all the people in the organization and involve them in the process! We all know how it feels like to have changes imposed on us at work without being consulted. Although everything looked good on paper and seemed well planned, some sort of split usually happened during the implementation process. Why? Because first-line workers gradually ceased to do their best as they received extended to-do lists that they could not comment on. You don’t put as much soul into something that’s dictated to you. Frequently, resistance to change, disengagement and weaker results occur.
That old scenario with closed meetings at the top-management level, followed by final decisions imposed on those who had to implement the changes is obsolete. During last year we learned how to work autonomously from home or in smaller teams from the office. This has made us better aware of our role and importance within the company’s structure.
So do you want to know what can be improved in your organization, what processes need to be adjusted and how to expand your activity? Listen to your employees! Besides team-leaders and managers, listen carefully to those at the bottom level of the organization chart, including the entry-level positions, those people who have direct contact with clients and deal with routine activities. Not only are they the ones who know the details of all processes, the recurrent problems and first feedback from customers, but they are usually the youngest or newer members of the team. Creative, enthusiastic, with the flexible thinking of those at the beginning of their careers, they are key elements in any organizational change.
Usually, they are also most strongly impacted by these transformations. If their total involvement is expected, shouldn’t they be consulted before determining what and how will change? Of course, this does not mean diminishing the role of those in coordination positions, but it is important to understand that change in an organization is a phenomenon involving all employees equally.
Some constant conclusions seem to emerge from the different forms of change taking place in today’s organizations:
- Change is a continuous process, and it begins from within. We can set fixed release dates for new products and different deadlines, but we cannot stop the permanent change of our employees’ personal and professional life visions. These people are the ones who create the organization and transform it into a living, ever-changing being.
- If we want successful changes, we must carry them out in a decentralized way, with equal involvement of the whole team. In a healthy organization, first-line workers are not willing to execute rigid orders without making their opinion heard, while managers truly listen to these recommendations
- Implementing changes in a mechanical way is no longer working. If we want effective changes, we need to act in a humane and flexible fashion. That is, to really listen to our employees before, during and after implementing any major changes in the company and to adjust our strategy according to their suggestions.
Is your organization preparing changes following the relaxation of pandemic restrictions? Have you given every employee the chance to express their opinion on their personal work experience over the past year? Under which circumstances are they comfortable to return to the office?