Our first annual Sustainability Report, detailing 2023 performance, is now available. View Here

Our 2023 Sustainability Report is now available. View Here

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7 Keys to Managing Change in the Workplace

Change is often necessary for growth. But in the workplace, employees and the leaders who oversee them tend to find comfort in routine. Learning new tasks, tools, approaches, and cultural norms can be stressful and even frustrating. So when the time comes for organizational change, it’s important to understand what it takes to manage change well.

Effectively managing change in the workplace takes planning, communication, empathy, and patience. Whether you’re launching a new product, implementing new policies, or taking your organization in a new direction, mastering change management will ensure the transition goes more smoothly, ruffles fewer feathers, and creates less disruption.

Here are seven keys to managing change in the workplace.

1. Connect the change to a goal

Change isn’t inherently good. And the more disruptive a change to your organization, the more critical it is to tie it to a larger goal, vision, or mission. It’s easy to take a “need to know” approach to telling people about changes, or to quip that a decision is “above someone’s pay grade.” But you want employees to embrace the change and trust that it matters—and keeping them in the dark creates resentment, not trust.

Rooting changes in a goal or larger purpose helps orient conversations around organizational needs and direction. It also shows employees that your values are not merely aspirational, but something you’re actively working toward.

2. Discuss the change with major stakeholders

You can’t adequately manage organizational change if you don’t understand the change’s implications for your operations and employees. While you may have a general understanding of how it will affect specific business units, departments, or processes, it’s important to discuss changes with the people overseeing the most affected areas. Managers, directors, and other leaders will have a more nuanced understanding of how your decisions will impact their teams, the processes they’re responsible for, and their own plans. They’ll also be able to help anticipate the kinds of resistance you’ll encounter, identify problems you’ll need to address, and raise points that resonate with their direct reports.

Bringing a range of leaders into the fold early on can also help increase buy-in. You’re discussing the change with them before it occurs and before others know about it, so they won’t be caught off guard or left to process it independently.

Want to keep up with changes to the modern workplace? Once a month, The Future of Work newsletter summarizes the latest studies, stories, and news about how the world is navigating the corporate office.

3. Create a plan for implementing the change

Depending on the scale and significance of the change to your workplace, you may need to prepare to roll it out in phases. At the very least, you’ll want to map out all the steps involved to ensure things happen in the ideal sequence.

For example, converting an open space into more workstations will likely involve coordinating with IT, administrative staff, and potentially a moving company or vendors. If your change requires construction, that will significantly impact your timeline and the order of events. With policy changes, you’ll need to consider the activities, behaviors, departments, and processes most impacted and the work involved in implementing the change. Does training need to happen? Are there new tools you’ll need to adopt? Does something need to be developed first? How much lead time do you need before you can get people to pivot from “the old way”?

4. Clearly communicate what’s changing and why

Communication is arguably the most crucial part of managing change in the workplace. This may mean scheduling a series of meetings, sending comprehensive emails, using signage, and/or leveraging other channels. Whatever form it takes, clear, meaningful communication can shape:

  • How people feel about the change
  • How much friction they’re willing to deal with
  • How cooperative they’ll be
  • How confident they are in your organization’s leadership
  • Whether they want to remain with the organization after the change is implemented

Many employees will want to understand why a change is taking place before they can embrace it. Asking why something is happening may come across as confrontational, but the change itself can be frustrating to the employees it affects the most. You’re not simply justifying your decisions to employees—you’re helping them justify the change to themselves so they can see it as a necessary part of their own growth.

If the change involves multiple phases or steps, maintaining clear communication helps people navigate and prepare for how each transition will impact their day-to-day and upcoming plans.

5. Prepare for pushback

With any change that affects people, you’ll inevitably encounter resistance. Not only should you be ready for this, but creating space for it to happen is probably a good idea. Give employees opportunities to provide feedback in person or anonymously so that everyone feels comfortable raising questions and sharing how the change will impact their role.

This is where it can be especially helpful to discuss the change with other leaders ahead of time. With a more thorough understanding of their teams and departments, they can put themselves in employees’ shoes and prepare for the most likely pain points, frustrations, and questions you’ll receive, as well as the responses that will be most relevant and meaningful.

Even when you feel like a change is necessary and beneficial, you have to anticipate that some people will take issue with it, particularly if they feel comfortable with the status quo.

6. Track progress on the change

Some changes are like flipping a switch, and they happen immediately. Others can take months or even years. Before you implement a change, consider what metrics you can use to measure progress, or what milestones you can track throughout the process.

Maybe you’re changing a policy due to complaints about a particular situation. Have there been fewer overall complaints, or did the change merely alter the type of complaint you receive? Are those complaints equally weighted? If people need to be trained, go through a course, or complete tasks, are you tracking the percentage of employees who are finished and following up with those who aren’t?

Let’s say you did reconfigure some of your office space, perhaps to create more unassigned workstations to accommodate your new hybrid work policy. Before the workstations are ready, you’ll want a centralized moves, adds, and changes (MAC) system to coordinate and monitor progress on the conversion. And once the change is complete, you’ll want to track space utilization metrics—are the new workstations being used frequently enough to justify the amount of space you’ve allocated? Should you make adjustments based on how employees are responding to the change?

Monitoring your progress is vital to managing changes in your workplace because it makes it harder for people and steps to fall through the cracks in the transition.

7. Empower employees to adapt

A major part of managing change in the workplace is helping others adjust. There may be particular roles or individuals who have a harder time changing how they work, their responsibilities, their environment, or how they interact with others. They may need accountability, more time to process, or more involved support.

For more significant changes, some employees may need opportunities to pivot to other roles. Even if you’d prefer they stay in their current position and learn new skills, showing them different paths may determine whether they stay.

Whether you’ve initiated the change to your workplace or you’re simply trying to help it go smoothly, empowering people to manage change on a personal level is essential. Leave everyone to adapt on their own, and some will be left to struggle.

Manage changes in your workplace with Tango Space

Office space is one of the parts of modern workplaces that changes most frequently. Whether an individual employee wants a new workstation or you need to move hundreds of people to a new building, leadership teams need a centralized system to track changes and coordinate them with IT, vendors, admin teams, and everyone else involved. And that’s where businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies alike turn to Tango.

For more than 20 years, enterprises have relied on Tango for Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) software. Our space management software, Tango Space, gives you tools and dashboards to plan and visualize changes to your workplace, monitor space utilization, and manage moves, adds, and changes (MAC).

Want to see how Tango Space helps you manage and optimize your workplace?

Request a demo today.

Tango 2023 Sustainability Report

We have released our first Sustainability Report for 2023, marking an important step in our sustainability journey. In the report, we announce our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, setting us apart as a pioneer in the larger ecosystem of real estate technology providers.