How to Cope With Instant Change at the Workplace

Majority of us expect gradual change at work but sometimes change can be imposed on us and we should be able to cope.

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Change is the law of life, and this also applies to change at the workplace. We normally are quick to assume that change is a gradual process and we should be well prepared for it. Which is true, sometimes. We prepare ourselves psychologically and physically and equip ourselves with the right tools to deal with change. But what if the change were not a slow process as we expect it to be? What if the change came instant? It’s here, its demanding all your time and attention in a very short timeline but you did not expect it at all. What to do?

How instant change at the workplace occurs

Some of the causes of instant change in the workplace include government regulations. Take the governments’ directives on coronavirus pandemic for instance. It caused a drastic and unprecedented shift on businesses and organisations, forcing companies to scale down operations. Learning institutions had to make instant switch to virtual campus while companies contented with telecommuting options such as remote working and working from home. Business travel became limited. All this occurred almost instantly.

New tech can also cause rapid change. Technological advancements have entirely reshaped organisations, making their business processes highly integrated, and more streamlined. It has resulted to smaller efficient working teams, and rise of new professions. On the downside it has led to restructuring and redundancies, all happening almost instantly.

New management comes with new management styles that employees were not used to. New workforce can also bring instant change since new work relationships have to be made in order for work to continue smoothly.

Organisations’ leaders should explain to employees what is going to happen to them and why the change is necessary.”

Natural calamities such as floods may lead to relocation of office immediately which brings about instant change. Personal issues can also cause rapid change in the work place. Think of an employee who has just been involved in an accident and lost his/her leg. He or she may need a new job description with change of roles and flexi hours.

Tech and instant change

Technology is advancing fast and it is a major organisational change driver. Organisations are being forced to join the digital world in order to remain competitive in the ever changing market. If the businesses fail to change with the times or keep up with the new technological introductions in its niche, the effects can be detrimental to the business.

Conversely, tech can also be used to manage change efficiently. According to Cindy Beck in the Houston Diaries, organisations have by far reduced costs by monitoring business processes and eliminating all actions that are not seen as valuable in the organisation.

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Through technology a company can make accurate predictions and therefore tell whether the intended change will be profitable or not, saving the company unnecessary risks. Where the company wants to decentralize operations, it can use technology to determine the best level of centralisation/decentralisation for specific business processes.

The company can be fully centralised to leverage a much general business function, for example purchasing or logistics; or decentralised to help provide more agile customer response to increase efficiency in service. Reviewing internal business processes through the whole company assists in the identification of functions shared by multiple departments. Business process automation has made companies to do away with duplication and outsource administrative functions.

However, organisations should put into consideration whether the cost of embracing new technology is worthwhile. Check if it will only benefit a few employees or the entire organisation. Information systems created and used in the organisations provides fast and efficient accurate data that is very specific and helps in decision making and therefore minimizes risk for the entire organisation.

Technology will in the future be causing instant change every now and then and companies will be forced to change rapidly to embrace the new technology or lose their competitive advantage and be faced out in a very short timeline. It is therefore important for businesses to train their employees and develop an instant change management strategy in order to ensure that the business survives in the future market.

Related: HR and Workplace Gender Inequality

Impact of rapid change at the workplace

Rapid change at the workplace has both positive and negative effects. Depending on the type of change experienced, the effects may vary. Instant change may lead to restructuring, employee turnover, contract review and renewal, adoption of new technology, new hires, and introduction of new policies etc. Change can also bring about different emotional effects in a person such as shock, denial and rejection. This emotions causes stress and may lead to depression in the long run if not dealt with. When properly handled it can lead to positive tolerance and commitment.

Helping employees deal with change in the workplace

Organisations’ leaders should explain to employees what is going to happen to them and why the change is necessary. Communicate with your employees, know their reactions and listen to their comments to know how exactly they feel about the change. Ask the employees for alternative ways to deal with the change so as to get more and better ideas and also solve problems that the instant change may cause.

Acknowledge every information provided even if it’s an objection and ensure that there are no misunderstandings. It is good to ask for support when needed and to involve many relevant people in idea formation and problem solving.

Provide effective training and the right tools to help deal with the change process. After all that is done, ensure that you follow through with the employees and monitor their reactions until the whole process of change is done with and the employees are well settled at work.

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Stephanie Grace writes on better Human Resource practices and employee growth and development. Email: stefannygrace95@gmail.com

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