4 change management strategies for the hybrid work era

After a tumultuous year, enterprises continue to shift their operations to accommodate hybrid work. Consider these best practices to minimize disruption
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In addition to expediting long-planned platform migrations and digital transformations, the pandemic forced most businesses to undergo involuntary changes, testing their abilities to deploy and manage these transitions quickly and effectively.

As the world adjusts to the next normal in 2021, business leaders can anticipate more change as they accommodate hybrid work. According to PwC’s U.S. Remote Work Survey, 75 percent of executives expect half of their employees to return to the office by July of this year. These business leaders view the in-person experience as essential to maintaining company culture: Only 5 percent of respondents believe that culture can be maintained without employees in the office.

4 change management best practices for hybrid work

With more change on the horizon, how can you prepare? The following four proven strategies will help leaders effectively adopt new approaches and solutions while maintaining clear and open communication throughout the organization.

1. Define the narrative

Like it or not, change is constant, and any enterprise that truly settles into a long-term routine will stagnate. However, change management requires a clear understanding of the change itself, defining transitions in terms of a beginning, a middle, and an end. Begin by clearly assessing the current situation to provide a benchmark for measuring future results. From there, identify and quantify the goals of your transformation, whether that’s improved time-to-market for products or services, enhanced customer experience (measured by net promoter score), or simply automating some manual processes.

The true challenge in defining the change management narrative is in the middle: spelling out exactly how your enterprise will get from Point A to Point B. This requires flexibility and forward-thinking in equal measure, which leads directly into the second essential strategy for change management.

[ Want more real-world advice? Read also: 4 ways CIOs can lead change management now. ] 

2. Anticipate consequences

No transformation is implemented without hiccups or unintended consequences. While modern change management often involves new technologies or machine learning tools, enterprises can best anticipate potential problems by analyzing the human element of the transition.

Put yourself in the shoes of those who will be on the front lines of managing the change to understand any fears, hesitations, and pain points that may surround the adoption of a new solution. To get a clear, unvarnished read of the situation, consider conducting anonymous employee surveys to gauge their opinions and understand what needs to be communicated to ensure positive results.

Consistent messaging of the goals and processes surrounding a migration or transformation – relying on the carefully crafted narrative – will minimize uncertainty and stress among those responsible for its success.

3. Reconsider scope and timeline

No longer does change management apply only to specific projects; for today’s enterprises, change is constant. With the rise of cloud technologies, containers, and microservices, companies are now undergoing non-stop pilots and platform migrations. 

Being change-ready in 2021 means understanding that there will never be a true stopping point for any individual initiative; new technology adoptions and AI deployments will fold into one another.

Being change-ready in 2021 means understanding that there will never be a true stopping point for any individual initiative; new technology adoptions and AI deployments will fold into one another. To best prepare for success, avoid getting too deep into a single project, keep an eye on the macro situation, and study how one technology could play with other planned implementations.

[ Want more advice on leading in the hybrid era? Read also: Hybrid work: 7 signs that meeting should be an email.]

4. Embrace continuous learning

The common theme to these four strategies is flux – a state of constant change or motion. Rather than worrying about the volatility surrounding today’s digital transformations, recognize an opportunity: Constant change enables your teams to continuously refine their processes and performance.

When implementing change, use the following approach: Try, evaluate, learn, and adjust. The learning is crucial: It’s not enough to simply assess and note the results of any single change; teams must analyze why a certain input led to a certain result, learn from that experience, and adjust processes accordingly. By developing a culture of continuous learning, your enterprise can foster an environment of innovation, stay ahead of the competition, and make stagnation a thing of the past.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Rajan Sethuraman is CEO of LatentView Analytics. His vision for the company is to maximize the value of AI and success for clients with a human understanding of their business needs, guided by expertise in CPG, financial services, technology, healthcare, retail and other core sectors.