Ben Bierman, managing director of Business Partners Limited. File photo.
Ben Bierman, managing director of Business Partners Limited. File photo.

Managing and supporting staff during change

By Opinion Time of article published May 16, 2021

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By: Ben Bierman

ONE thing the past 12 months has taught businesses is the importance of being adaptable, and if necessary, pivoting in another direction in order to continue on a growth trajectory, or in some cases, to survive.

The inability to be flexible to meet changing customer needs can have catastrophic consequences for a business, particularly during a tough and ever-changing economic climate.

Of course, as businesses adapt, so must its people. In times of change, employees are often required to take on additional responsibilities and tasks, or may find themselves in an entirely new role. This change in routine, particularly if the change is relatively sudden or drastic, can bring its own set of challenges.

Even if great care has been taken to ease the transition, employees who struggle to adapt may become frustrated and experience a loss of morale.

However, there are tactics that can be applied to help manage transition within a business smoothly. These include:

Don’t let promising employees slip into a comfort zone

One of the biggest contributors to an employee’s resistance to change is complacency. Regardless of how promising an employee is, spending years in the same position without being challenged makes it increasingly unlikely that they will transition into a new role easily. It’s important to challenge employees who show potential, and keep them accustomed to performing tasks outside of their comfort zone.

Acknowledge their difficulties Few things dishearten people undergoing change more than the feeling they are in it alone. Show compassion and let them know you understand what they are going through. Rather than handing out instructions for new tasks and responsibilities as if nothing has changed, speak to your employees about the challenges they may be facing and see what you can do to help.

Regular progress reports

Overly negative feedback is naturally very discouraging for any person attempting to settle into a new role. On the other hand, overly positive feedback and praise when an employee is struggling to meet their performance target doesn’t help either. The key is to have regular, honest feedback sessions which focus on analysing the specific issues and challenges encountered, and assessing how to improve going forward. Always remember to keep these sessions focused on the performance and challenges, and not the person.

Know when to give them space

Understand the difference between being a hands-on, supportive boss, and hovering. While guidance is very important in the first stages of an employee’s new role, one should also know when to step back and allow them to find their own rhythm.

Recognise when the new appointment is not a good fit

This is by far the most difficult situation to navigate, but there will inevitably be times when a candidate seemed perfect for a position, and it turns out that they cannot meet set targets. In these incidences, it is crucial to be able to have an open, no-fault conversation with the employee and work out a plan to place them back in the role they are best suited to. A good strategy for managing this situation is to have the conversation before the person starts in their new role. Figure out what they expect, let them know what is expected of them, and how to handle a scenario where the criteria cannot be met.

Whether you like it or not, part of being a small business owner will always be to adapt and pivot when needed and manage people as well as their emotions. Do this well, and your company has a good chance of thriving.

* Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.


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