Change may be a constant in business, and especially in high-growth businesses but, it can also drive employee burnout. Most people need stability to feel safe. So, even though the changes your company undergoes during periods of growth are positive, it is still a stressful time.
If you’re a leader at a growing company, it’s important to understand the effects of ongoing organizational change so you can make plans to pursue your goals in ways that are sympathetic to your team’s needs.
Here are five ways to implement change programs that allow you to scale your business while keeping your employees happy.
1) Let Your Company’s Soul Guide Your Organizational Change
Common sense would argue that upcoming opportunities for raises, promotions, and other perks of working for a rapidly scaling company would be enough to motivate employees to step up to the challenges that growth periods create.
The problem is that people are far more than simple, rational actors. Though we’d like to think we’re motivated by objective incentives, it’s the emotional part of our brain that makes decisions. To get your team on board with your growth goals, you must appeal to the emotional connections they have with your organization. The easiest way to do that is to let your company’s soul guide the process.
- Remind your employees that the company’s core values will continue to drive them forward. Many of your employees feel deeply connected to the organization’s values, and it’s psychologically reassuring for them to know those will stay the same.
- Emphasize team growth instead of metrics. It’s important to hold people accountable for the numbers but, when you’re first trying to gain buy-in, it’s best to state the goals and move on to how everyone is going to work together to achieve them collectively. People will be more committed if you remind them that they are part of something bigger.
- Share stories about your company’s impact on society. Often when people are working to meet ongoing deadlines, they forget why their work matters. No matter what industry you’re in, you’re creating value. There’s no better time to remind employees of the ways their work makes an impact than during growth periods when you’re working to drastically expand your company’s positive influence.
Keeping your founding values central to everything you do is key to holding onto your startup magic as your company scales.
2) Be Abundantly Transparent and Understanding
One of the biggest objections that people have to change is that they don’t know how it will affect them. This fear has been rightfully exacerbated since the 2008/09 recession because, in the decade since, the majority of shifts in large organizations have been shrinking and restructuring organizations, shattering many people’s sense of job security.
As the leader of a growing organization, you intend for your changes to inspire excitement about new opportunities, not fears about being undervalued and let go. However, you must acknowledge that the latter concerns may exist even among employees who are passionate about your company.
The easiest way to reduce people’s fears is to keep them informed about exactly what changes are going to implemented and how.
Here are some best practices for being transparent.
- Store your update-to-date change plans in the cloud. Making as much of your process available as possible gives your employees the peace of mind of knowing what’s coming next.
- Meet with individual teams - and employees if relevant - to discuss the specifics of what they need to do to meet their growth goals.
- Host meetings to discuss progress, team satisfaction, and ideas for improvements.
Keeping your employees knowledgeable improves their attitude towards your long-term vision and enables you to use their insights to make strategic pivots your leadership team might not have considered.
3) Involve Influential Employees in the Decision-Making Process
Research shows that social proof is one of the most potent drivers of organizational change. When people see that their peers - whether they’re close with them or not - are on board with something, they’re more likely to be as well.
Before making announcements, have a meeting with the most sociable and well-liked people on the teams affected. In the session:
- Tell them what the change is
- Why it’s happening
- Get their opinions on it
- Enlist their help in telling the rest of the organization
Sometimes your team members will argue against your proposed goals and changes. Take their objections seriously. Often, the concerns they raise are the same that many others in your organization will have so, this is an opportunity to explore ways to resolve some issues before releasing your change plan.
Listening to their opinions also makes them feel empowered and more likely to become an advocate for the upcoming changes. After you unveil your plan, they’ll provide more information to their colleagues through the conversations that spark afterward.
4) Empower Your Teams to Pivot
Your initial change plan should guide your way forward but, it should not definitively decide how your teams pursue their goals. As they gain a better understanding of your vision, some of your employees may have suggestions to alter their projects. Give them an open floor to share why their ideas are better. If there are no major indicators that the employee’s suggestions will fail, let them try it.
Empowering your employees to pivot their projects is likely to have a substantial impact on their productivity and morale because it gives them a sense of ownership.
If employees don’t go to their leaders with suggestions, solicit opinions in meetings. The more input employees give, the greater buy-in they’ll have in reaching goals, and the easier it’ll be to identify and resolve setbacks before they become major issues.
5) Invest in Activities that Boost Morale
A study found that if the presence of common workplace stressors such as an overwhelming workload, interpersonal conflicts, dysfunctional communication channels, and others are left unchecked, they be exacerbated by change and cause employees to have more negative attitudes toward it.
Understand that growth periods are an exciting but stressful time for employees. To maintain morale, you need to make them feel supported through this process.
Here are some simple ways to lower stress levels:
- If possible, offer extended deadlines on projects that had to be adjusted. This reduces the likelihood that people will feel overwhelmed by their work and give them time to adapt to their new processes.
- Arrange informal team bonding activities. Simple things like sharing lunch together, going to happy hour, or playing games during breaks can lighten the mood and make it easier for your team to interact positively with one another.
- Frequently check in to ensure everyone is on the same page. Let your team know you don’t want them to feel like you’re watching them but, you’re available for questions. This lets you resolve miscommunications before they turn into major issues.
Taking actions like these will make your team happier, more productive, and more committed to your team’s growth goals.
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About the Author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.