Businesses today face more challenges than ever before; global competition, creating unique business models, and changing technologies all must be addressed if companies wish to continue their growth and success. Sustainable and long-lasting organizational change is the essential tool businesses must rely on to meet and exceed these challenges. 

With that said, introducing new methods and strategies to an organization can be anywhere from fruitful to disastrous. I have been apart of this, both in my corporate career as well as now. It’s a delicate balance that requires keen insight, lasting patience, and confidence. That is why creating and implementing strategies for successful organizational change is such an essential component of keeping your business running smoothly. 

In the best of situations, organizational change leads to greater productivity, higher work quality, fewer redundant tasks, and larger profit margins. In the worst of circumstances, organizational change can be stressful, confusing, and harmful to your business. Your team might feel unfit to adjust to new processes and mind-sets, and sometimes, they cannot achieve the desired result. 

Fifty years after organizational change was established as a field, 70% of initiatives still fail. Remarkably this statistic has remained unchanged since the 1970s, but it speaks to how persistent this issue has been. More than that, it demonstrates an undeniable issue in organizational change processes: many people blame the foundational theories of organizational change, but theories of the field are seldom to blame. Recently, I was in an executive team planning session where some of the leaders were entrenched in the opinion that the coming transformation for their company did not need any type of “organizational change” focus. I wholly disagreed. 

The Four Secrets of Organizational Change

Sometimes, organizational change failure results from an unrealistic goal or unreasonable expectations. Other times, the business leadership team is ill-equipped to implement and sustain organizational change. In most cases, though, HR professionals overlook simple principles of organizational change. These principles can make the change process simpler, less stressful, and more successful.

Businesses seeking real, long-lasting success through a shifting organizational structure need to understand these pivotal HR consulting secrets.

Focus on Continuous Improvement

One-off efforts to change the processes and structure of an organization rarely succeed. One-time changes usually come unexpectedly and inorganically. In most cases, managers and their employees revert to their old ways soon after the pressure to change is lifted.

Continuous improvement encourages constant incremental change. It is far less difficult to require businesses to improve efficiency and alter processes by tiny increments in the short-term than a single massive increment in the long-term. Businesses are more adaptive to change when they have experienced it previously and witnessed positive results. This works because, in my experience, it becomes part of everyday work.

Involve Your Team at All Levels

Leaders, managers, and entry-level employees will feel more committed and equipped to adjust to organizational change if they are involved throughout the overall processes. Every team member has excellent ideas and insight, so it’s always valuable to keep an open mind and listen to their opinions.

Organizational change efforts must also work from the top down. CEOs and other business leaders should show to the rest of the team that change is possible and that everybody and every process can be improved, including C-level leadership. I like to say this is a ground-up effort, not, believe it or not, top-down.

Communicate with Empathy

Organizational change is surprisingly more swift and successful when each team member feels appreciated and involved. HR consultants and business executives must communicate with empathy, expressing each employee’s value to the organization and the value of change to each employee. Don’t be shy. Express that you, too, feel challenged by the changes required.

According to a recent Duarte survey, out of 138 leading business executives that plan to start or are amid organizational change, only 69 are considering their team’s sentiment about the change. Being transparent and open about your plans’ goals encourages team cohesion and assures everyone is on the same page. We all know change is hard, personally and professionally; don’t underestimate the time needed to bring people along. Communicate, communicate, and communicate again through a multi-channel approach. It matters, it really does.

Perform Skill Building and Capacity Building Within the Organization

Change does not facilitate itself automatically. HR consultants and business leaders should first clarify that change is difficult and then train and coach each team member. As a result, often you will see individuals feel empowered to improve their skills and capacities.

On the other hand, team members will feel demotivated if you assign them a new task or role and then walk away. Change will be most successful when the organization follows through on each step of the training and skill-building process. It cannot be emphasized enough how essential consistency and dedication are to your efforts. 

Put simply, every business should welcome organizational change. Faulty business practices, unsympathetic leaders, lack of training, and sudden, rigid goals can all hinder attempts to evolve and improve an organization. But if you eliminate those barriers and see the effort through, ultimately you will look back on the challenges of organizational change and see how much they improved the company and your teammates. Again, this is where taking time and effort upfront and throughout the change pays off big time. In my experience, getting more people on the change bus will help cement the way forward.

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