Handling the New Face of Change Management with a Remote Workforce

I’m not going to revisit the “changes” our world has recently gone through- we’re all aware. What we may not all be considering, however, is how these current changes may coalesce into the future and become the new realities of business.

The trend of working remote has come and gone before, but this pandemic is essentially forcing the majority of businesses into this model. Those that come out of this ahead will be the ones who have successfully adapted to this “new world.”

For example, the coronavirus has impacted manufacturing and ERP in unique ways as it has the rest of the world as well. In addition, HCM software has a prominent role in helping navigate a post-Covid-19 world and supply chain management transformations of the future will look much different. These are just a few examples of our digital transformation predictions for the 2020s.

Much of the discussions surrounding remote workforce to date have centered on process modifications and the technology to actually make working from home feasible. And these issues absolutely need to be figured out; if you haven’t faced internet issues in the past week you are among a lucky few.

The other component that can’t be ignored is the human impact. Whether this change is temporary or permanent, people who have spent their entire careers coming into an office, grabbing coffee with the boss or shooting you know what around the water cooler can no longer do these things. This level of change can’t be taken for granted and dramatically increases the need for effective organizational change management.

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Following are a few considerations in effectively managing a remote workforce:

What is easy for some is not easy for all

Talking about the adoption of new technologies, be it setting up on a laptop, dialing into a system remotely or hosting a web-conference from their living room, for people who have never done this before it will probably be difficult. This needs to be understood and accepted. It’s one of the many mays that effective organizational change management strategies can help.

We cannot have the same performance expectations immediately

While some people may be excited to work from home and pick things up quickly, in general people will need time to adapt. Don’t be surprised if efficiency takes a hit initially. It is critical that expectations are set regarding working hours, etc., but putting undue pressure on people who are adapting to a new work environment will not work.

Training and support are critical

Unusual help-desk tickets will come in from people who have never been responsible for managing their own technology. Most of us take web-conference and document management for granted, however, we need to consider those that have not had to use these toolsets in the past. Also consider multiple medium for contact, including phone. If someone cannot get a computer running, requesting they email a help-desk ticket is pointless.

Communication is key

One of the biggest potential impacts on people’s lives will be an overwhelming sense of loneliness. For those that are stuck at home with families, there may be frustration and an inability to focus. As leaders, it is our responsibility to communicate to people to let them know we understand and appreciate what they are going through and most importantly that they are not alone.

Increase the frequency of team calls, use video communication when available and appreciate that we all may be working longer hours than usual as we get accustomed to our new home-office environment. Email will be even more essential than it ever has been, but keep in mind that people need to hear each other and that voice calls may be making a comeback.

Key takeaway: stay positive

The final message is to stay positive – both as members of an organization as well as participants in a global ecosystem. As frustrated as we may get, the fact is we are all in this together. Negativity spurs negative results, and positivity keeps people engaged and productive.

Consider tying in some messaging surrounding how we are all helping the environment by not driving to work every day, or how we now actually talk to our neighbors who’s name we never knew before. We are no longer hiding the screaming kids or the fact that we didn’t shower today (although that is still recommended) in our video meetings, and this is all okay. Embrace this as a team and as a company and as a global workforce and see where it can take us in this great new world.

Please contact us if you would like some ideas on how to structure and manage your teams of the future. Our team is happy to be an informal sounding board as you navigate the new realities of digital transformation and remote workforces!

Brian Potts

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