Managing Change in the Workplace: Strategies for the Post-COVID Era

Managing change in the workplace has always been challenging, but those challenges have escalated significantly with the arrival of COVID-19.

Before 2020, the economy was stable and growing, and business leaders more or less had a solid grasp of the market’s future trajectory.

Once the novel coronavirus hit, however, economic stability was replaced with volatility and certainty was replaced with uncertainty.

As a consequence of these global shifts, organizational transformation and change management have become top priorities for many companies.

Below, we’ll explore a few strategies and tactics that can help companies manage change more effectively during after after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Managing Change in the Workplace: A Guide for the Post-COVID Age

Many experts have predicted that the world will be permanently changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and instead of returning to the same world we knew before 2020, we will enter a new normal – or, as McKinsey calls it, the “next normal.”

Since the world and the economy will change so significantly, the first order of business is actually understanding that change and planning for it.

Reimagine the workplace for the post-COVID “next normal”

The future of work has always been digital, but COVID-19 has vastly accelerated digital transformation and adoption at every level of the economy.

After the COVID-19 pandemic ends, in other words, we can expect to see an acceleration of many trends that already existed before 2020, such as:

  • Remote working
  • A digital-first workplace
  • A more diverse workforce

In addition to these trends, many work environments will be subject to more stringent public health requirements, such as social distancing.

The more that change managers understand what the future of work looks like, the easier it will be to plan for that era and manage change projects effectively.

Build processes that are more agile and data-driven

Agile business processes are designed to be flexible and adaptable.

This methodology was born in software development, partly out of the need to build processes and products that can keep up with the fast-paced nature of the market.

In the digital age, after all, customer expectations can change rapidly, and businesses must be able to adapt just as quickly in order to keep up with those shifts.

Applying agile principles across the organization means:

  • Putting customers’ and users’ needs at the center of business processes
  • Increasing collaboration between teams, customers, and business leaders
  • Focusing on working products and processes rather than rules, documentation, or predetermined plans

Organizational agility will become more crucial in the years ahead, since many researchers predict that market volatility will continue even after the pandemic ends. Also, and most importantly, agile practices such as these will make it easier to manage and implement change.

Foster a culture that is pro-learning and open to change

Mindsets, beliefs, and values also directly affect an organization’s ability to implement change.

Cultures that are more open to change, learning, and new ideas, for instance, will be more likely to support organizational changes and drive them forward successfully.

On the other hand, if employees are resistant to change and unwilling to learn new things, change managers will have many more obstacles to overcome when implementing change. In a worst case scenario, cultures that are resistant to change can even halt a change project completely and cause it to fail.

In such situations, it may be useful to implement an organizational culture change program.

Culture change programs can include techniques such as selective hiring, strategic communications, employee training, and talent management.

Though radical culture changes can be psychologically taxing for workers, a properly implemented program implemented over a long time span can significantly improve the performance and costs of organizational changes.

Use technology to its fullest extent

Managers who are involved in change programs rightly focus on the human side of change, since people are the ones who must support a change project for it to succeed.

However, in the modern workplace, it is equally important to emphasize technology and data-driven business practices.

Here are a few examples of how technology can make it easier to manage change in the workplace:

  • Digital adoption platforms can be used to streamline software onboarding and training, which are becoming more and more important in today’s digital workplace
  • HR tools, such as HCM platforms, can make it easier to manage human capital, communications, and resources
  • Data and analytics can offer insights into a wide number of areas, including the workforce, the digital side of change projects, the performance of change programs, and more

This is not to say that change managers need to become IT specialists.

However, the ability to use technology is becoming more and more crucial in the modern workplace. After all, the modern workplace is built upon technology.

Ultimately, those who can innovate with digital tools and use them to their fullest extent will have a competitive advantage over those who cannot.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.