Most businesses have undergone organisational change in some form over the last 18 months, as the world grappled with a global pandemic, social tensions, political discord and economic uncertainty.
In October 2020, Gartner revealed that the amount of change the average employee can absorb without becoming fatigued in 2020 had been cut in half compared to 2019. Worries surrounding the economy, job security, health, and the health of their loved ones profoundly affected an employee’s capacity to take on change in the workplace. In its report, Gartner stated that to increase employees’ ability to absorb change, organisations need to transform how they lead it.
What has followed in 2021 is a greater emphasis and renewed approach to change management. Leaders now understand that it isn’t a one-time event but an ongoing process that requires stakeholder communication at every step. Here, we look at the four key trends shaping change and how it gets delivered in 2021.
1. Digital-first workplaces
The pandemic reinforced the crucial role of technology in ensuring operations could continue, even when workplaces were forced to close. Digital transformation plans that were five or ten years in the making were rapidly accelerated, with many businesses successfully pivoting overnight to meet the challenge.
In 2021, digital workplaces, which embed the latest technology, are the new normal. To transform into a digital enterprise, people within the business must adopt a digital-first mindset that explores, adapts and applies new technology. Such a transition has required leaders to invest in tools that enable speedier operations and facilitate real-time collaboration, as well as lead digital transformation initiatives to embed a digital-first culture.
2. Remote working
While some employees have returned to physical workplaces, there are plenty of signs that remote work could become permanent within many companies. When teams are dispersed, it’s not only harder to manage change, it’s harder for people to feel included and secure. As such, leaders are ensuring that any strategies take remote workers into account as well as co-located employees. Actions that help remote employees deal with change include:
- Making change more personal by implementing the right tools and processes that keep remote workers involved and engaged while also ensuring no momentum is lost.
- More frequent and thorough communication to help avoid wrong assumptions or misunderstandings and encourage any questions and concerns to be shared.
- Increased emphasis on the unique coaching, support and learning requirements of a remote team to help them deal with change and build resilience.
Whereas change management was previously more people-focused, honing in on the attitudes and behaviours of employees, leaders are increasingly turning their attention towards the benefits that data can unlock.
Not only does being data-driven enable leaders to get a real-time check on change initiatives and how they are being received across different teams and functions, it also allows them to react and pivot in the face of challenges. Of course, organisations have always carried valuable data, whether on spreadsheets, stored on shared drives or saved onto desktops, but 2021 has reinforced the need to centralise such data and use it to make better decisions in real-time.
4. New priorities
The pandemic has reinforced the importance of effective change management strategies and processes. It’s risen to the top of the business agenda for the first time since the 2008 recession and has seen companies invest heavily in the technology and key personnel that will enable them to manage change successfully.
It has led to change management becoming one of the most sought after skills in today’s organisations. In addition, more businesses are establishing dedicated internal or external change management divisions, proving its critical role in ensuring smooth transitions and facilitating overall success and growth.
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Omni Search combines extensive industry knowledge and expert consultancy to help organisations find permanent or interim leaders who will facilitate people and people process change and growth.
Our team aligns with the unique strategy and goals of your business to gain an in-depth understanding of your organisation design, internal culture and change management requirements. From our extensive network, Omni Search secures the experts you need to transform your organisation and place you on the road to long-term success.