Setting the Environment for Success

Five steps to energize your workforce for success in the new normal

In the coming months, it is likely that leaders and managers will be turning to Kotter’s change management theory to help them direct their employees and organization through a second or even third wave of unprecedented change.

Kotter’s 8 steps of change management begin with creating a sense of urgency, followed by building a guiding coalition, and forming a strategic vision and initiatives. The process then encompasses enlisting a volunteer army, removing barriers to enable action, generating short-term wins, and finally sustaining acceleration and changing the organization. 

But how do you do all of this with a workforce that is weary of change and fearful of the future?

Rallying your battle-weary troops

The experience of COVID-19 has forced organizations to change faster and more fluidly than ever before. As the economy reopens and people start to return to work, even greater change may be on the table. These are difficult times for all, and leaders must guide their people effectively to regroup morale, retain talented employees, and embed sustainable change in a highly motivated environment.

Emotionally, your people are likely to be bruised and battered. You’ll now be asking them to return to work, but your workplace will have changed. There will be new rules and regulations, new work practices, and regulations have evolved with the aim of keeping all safe at work.

Your people are likely to be exhausted at exactly the time you require them to put in more effort in a workplace that is not quite normal anymore. The most potent weapon in your organization’s armory is communication. 

Here are five steps to communicate a collective goal that will re-energize your employees and motivate them to succeed in the ‘new normal’ workplace, allowing you to accelerate through Kotter’s 8 steps of change management.

Step 1: Identify organizational Goals, together

The first step to setting a collective goal is to understand what that goal should be. Your people should be part of this conversation. It is critical that you understand their fears and concerns, and that you demonstrate that your organization remains committed to providing support where it is needed. 

Your people will be able to help you identify gaps in your planning, providing valuable insight into how they work best and helping to ideate to plug gaps where they now exist. Together, create goals that are achievable and that the whole workforce understand.

Step 2: Set milestone targets

Things will seem difficult now. Many employees will feel as if they are coming to work for the first time. Friendships and relationships that had been formed may be strained. While your primary business goal may be to return to your previous financial success, there is far more at stake. Such a target may feel too large and cumbersome to many employees.

Instead, break your goals into smaller, manageable milestones that enable your employees to taste success quickly and often. Make them measurable, and ensure that leaders recognize and reward achievement toward these goals, including the changed behaviors that all employees will be required to adopt.

Equip managers and supervisors to have meaningful conversations with their people by coaching them to be consistent in what they do, how they do it, and how they communicate.

Step 3: Team goals first, followed by individual goals

Set your team goals with your teams, ensuring that team members buy into those goals. Be clear and precise when communicating these goals, and provide a structure in which the team can collaborate effectively.

With team goals established and accepted, move toward having one-to-one conversations with employees to allow them to voice their individual fears in confidence. Where these exist, offer guidance and support to help them overcome them. Help them to understand their role, use their strengths, and determine the tasks that they must achieve toward the collective goal.

Step 4: Communicate in the omnichannel

Employ an omnichannel approach to communicating with your organization and all its stakeholders. Personalize messages to teams and individuals, and ensure that you use all the technology at your disposal: social, intranet, website, email, video, etc. To manage omni-channel communication effectively, your leaders must:

  • Understand how your employees prefer to communicate

  • Provide opportunities for employees to interact with your communications

  • Encourage employees to become engaged with the flow of communication

  • Measure effectiveness of communication constantly

Step 5: Rinse and repeat to reinforce

A communication strategy is not a one-off event. It must be monitored and maintained. Communication must be two-way, constant, and consistent. Any inconsistencies will be pounced on as proof that your organization is making things up as they go, and will build distrust and resistance.

In summary

Ensure that your employees are involved in strategic conversations. Let there be no surprises. Change is always difficult, but in today’s environment it is likely to be off the Richter scale. Remember, people don’t trash what they create. With your team on board, and with a collective goal to aim for, a shared future vision can be achieved.

How your organization, its leaders and managers communicate with your employees will be the primary determinant of your future success. Strong communication will ensure that your organization is prepared to progress rapidly through Kotter’s eight steps of change.

Additionally, effective communication strategies will shape a healthy organizational culture in which your employees feel a valuable part of something bigger, giving them renewed purpose in an environment set for success.

For more information and to learn how your organization can improve its communication skills in a world that is entering a critical stage of new normal, contact Forward Focus today.

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