Quick summary: These five change management trends are helping businesses keep pace with the evolving workplace as they approach organizational change in 2023 and beyond.
The past few years since the start of the pandemic have been a seemingly nonstop whirlwind of change. Now that the whirlwind has subsided (or at least slowed a bit), we have an opportunity to catch our breath, assess where we are today, and determine the change management strategies we need to move forward.
Some of the most significant impacts of the pandemic appeared in the workplace, and businesses are still adapting to the lasting effects:
• Working from home and hybrid work arrangements are the new normal.
• The “Great Resignation” demonstrated the extent to which people want to be engaged and valued as human beings.
• Both employees and employers have an increased awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness.
• The current trend of “quiet quitting” is highlighting the need for healthy boundaries and reasonable expectations.
As the workplace of 2023 and beyond takes shape, employers must adapt to these and other developments in their approaches to organizational change. In this article, we’ll explore five emerging change management trends that reflect the evolving work environment and the changing needs of both employees and employers.
Trend #1: Creating multi-modal change campaigns
With more people working from home, businesses can’t create the same level of buzz as when they were able to hold all-hands onsite town hall meetings. If everyone is to be engaged, creative solutions are necessary.
Consider also that Gen Z is on pace to make up 27 percent of the workforce by 2025. This generation of workers is much more likely than their older colleagues to communicate with images and video and to work across multiple screens.
To adapt to these developments, change management teams are collaborating with their colleagues in marketing—especially graphic designers and video creators—in creating more interactive communications. We don’t expect traditional methods such as emails to disappear entirely from change management strategies, but you will be seeing a more creative mix of channels, including short-form videos (à la TikTok), interactive infographics, competitive quiz games, and social media–inspired tools like Cerkl’s Broadcast.
Did you know …
• 81% of survey respondents said that interactive content is more effective than static content.
• The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
• After three days, users retain only 10–20% of written or spoken information but almost 65% of visual information.
• Get your marketing team involved in change initiatives or bring in a team of marketing creatives who can support your change management strategy.
• Brainstorm ways to make your change communications more visual and interactive.
• Create and leverage interactive visuals to communicate new ways of working and behavior changes to impacted roles.
• Get asynchronous! Recognize that many of your processes support people at different times and places, so your campaign needs to meet them in their asynchronicity.
Trend #2: Adopting a product launch mindset
This trend arose out of the shift to Agile methodologies across many industries, which started in IT teams and has gradually branched out into nearly every department. Agile transformation centers around a product mindset, which is grounded in a concrete connection between the product team and the customer.
A product mindset is a holistic approach to delivering value for customers. Teams with a product mindset are strategic, agile, and customer driven. In contrast to more traditional approaches (develop, launch, get feedback, plan the next launch, etc.), the product mindset gives rise to an iterative process: take action, collect customer feedback and review metrics, make adjustments, check in with customers, … rinse, repeat.
When change management teams view change initiatives along the same lines as product launches, they adopt a similarly iterative approach and build connections to their “customers” (impacted employees). Instead of building a strategy, implementing it end-to-end, and then taking stock of success, change managers are keeping their fingers on the pulse of the organization every step of the way, making tweaks as needed to keep the business on track towards its goals.
Incorporating product management strategies has the advantage of making stakeholder feedback a part of the process from Day One. Best practices to keep in mind include starting with the “why” of the change and communicating it continuously; being radically transparent; staying flexible enough to pivot when feedback calls for it; and being laser-focused on the user experience.
Did you know …
• Agile-driven initiatives are nearly 1.5 times more successful than traditionally managed projects.
• Involve stakeholders in the process as early as possible.
• Understand that there will be failures and continue to advance new ideas quickly, without wasting time.
• Learn by doing and focus on keeping the organization consistently moving forward.
• Layer the organizational change management mindset on top of Agile when teams are transitioning to a new way of working.
Trend #3: Focusing on people skills and empathy
The pandemic disrupted nearly every aspect of life—not just work but family, education, social life, finances, physical health, mental health, spiritual well-being, and that’s just the beginning.
Every single person in your organization, regardless of their demographic, has been through the wringer over the last two and a half years, and they’re still reeling from the effects. So when their employer approaches them with yet another change they’ll need to adapt to, they need to feel safe.
In the post-pandemic world, organizations that approach change management with humanity and empathy stand a better chance of keeping their best people and maintaining high levels of engagement.
Did you know …
• In an American Psychological Association survey, 59% of employees said they have suffered from work-related stress in the past month, and 87% said their employer could take actions to help their mental health.
• Among employees with highly empathetic senior leaders, 76% report “often” or “always” feeling engaged, compared to 32% of those with less-empathic leadership.
• Soft skills such as listening are in higher demand among employers than quantitative and technical skills.
• Maintain a culture of openness, where any employee can feel safe expressing concerns, fears, or anxieties at any time.
• Take employee concerns and morale into account when making all change-related decisions.
• Offer work flexibility and stress-mitigating resources such as employee assistance programs.
• Emphasize self-care and wellness and set aside time for social activities with colleagues.
• Make sure you close loops with compassion, letting people know they’re being heard and their feedback has driven actions and changes.
Trend #4: Encouraging a growth mindset
The concept of a growth mindset, developed by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, centers on the belief that one is constantly capable of learning and growing. People with a growth mindset have a greater tendency to
• Embrace disruption and change as positive opportunities to improve
• View setbacks as learning opportunities
• Accept that mistakes will be made as a natural part of the learning/growing process
This attitude stands in sharp contrast to what Dweck calls the “fixed mindset,” which arises from the belief that one is limited by inherent traits or abilities.
Neuroscience research has revealed that uncertainty affects the brain in much the same way that error does, so it’s no wonder that most people tend to view change in a negative light. Growth-oriented individuals, however, tend to view setbacks and mistakes as natural parts of a process that can still produce positive results.
By encouraging a growth mindset, organizations can take much of the fear factor out of change and help employees to begin seeing uncertainties—even mistakes—as positives that advance the organization towards its goals.
Did you know …
According to the Harvard Business Review, employees at companies with growth mindsets are 34% more likely to feel a strong sense of commitment to the organization.
• Acknowledge those who take risks resulting in wins and losses—it’s the practice at large that drives performance.
• Emphasize experimentation and continuous learning.
• Celebrate small improvements.
• Admit mistakes readily and highlight learning opportunities.
• Ensure that smart risks are encouraged and rewarded, whether they succeed or not.
Trend #5: Reinforcing the importance of integration
As the final phase of the change management process, successful integration is critical to the success of your strategy. When organizations neglect the necessary steps to reinforce and sustain the desired change, the risk of failure over the long term increases substantially.
Conversely, when new tools and processes become integrated in day-to-day business practices, they become “sticky.” Not only will it be difficult to go back to the old way of doing things, but if the change management team has done its job well, no one will want to go back.
Did you know …
Organizations that incorporate reinforcement and sustainment into their change management initiatives are 27% more likely to meet or exceed their objectives.
• Ensure that changes are reflected in all applicable systems, behavior changes, and processes (e.g. hiring, training, rewards and recognition, etc).
• Prioritize culture, promote cultural alignment, and be prepared to deal with competing cultures.
• Develop a competitive advantage by generating synergy and sharing resources, including human capital and knowledge.
• Clearly communicate early and often.
• Give it room to breathe! At the end of a major initiative, don’t jump directly into the next.
New year, new opportunities
As we look ahead to 2023, some uncertainties are already looming large—economic fluctuations, supply chain issues, and ongoing shifts in the workplace, just to name a few. By embracing the trends we’ve explored here, employers will be better prepared to tailor their change management strategies to the needs of today’s employees and the demands of an ever-evolving business environment.
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Fadi Salah is a manager in Logic20/20’s Strategy & Operations practice.
Beau Platte is a manager in Logic20/20’s Strategy & Operations practice.