How to engage employees through organisational change

How successful law firms embrace change

Change is a scary word for any business and I work with law firms daily who believe change is just too difficult, even when they know that change is more than likely going to benefit their business. So why is change so difficult? When we think of change on a personal level most would agree change has been a positive move, whether it’s been a new job, new home or the birth of a child. However, for some reason change in the workplace faces a lot more resistance and the legal industry is no exception.

ALPMA’s research into the legal industry indicates that it’s changing at a very fast pace. Competition is becoming fiercer; client-service expectations are increasing, and virtual offices and mobile lawyers are on the up. If our industry is changing so quickly then surely organisational change is inevitable to keep up with the market and our clients.

Often when a business owner decides on undertaking change, they are not prepared for resistance within their office. Resistance can disrupt the rollout of the change, with financial consequences.

How do business owners best manage change? The answer lies in strong leadership and clear scheduling.

I’ve listed five key areas which you need to consider and action before your organisational change is in full flight.

Be transparent with your staff to gain buy-in

Many staff can be resistant to change due to the unknown outcomes. They don’t know how the change will benefit them personally and the effect on their work load. You must be transparent with your staff and let them see the benefits of change and get them excited. Share the vision for the change and compare where your firm is now and where you will be when the change is completed. Keep an ear out for negative feedback or resistance and action this quickly to prevent this sentiment from spreading through your office.  Remind your staff to be open-minded and not make quick judgements. You can read more tips on buy-in here.

Set a schedule for implementation and training

Setting out a clear timeline for staff, including a course of training, will aid your firm to remain focused during the implementation phase. Project management skills will play a large part in the successful change, and as little disruption as possible to workflow will keep everyone in a positive frame of mind. Assign roles to staff who will be responsible for certain aspects and ensure that there is an understanding of who is accountable. All staff need to be informed of the schedule well in advance; set milestones can be shared, training times are indicated, and the benefits of each milestone reached is clear to all stakeholders. The process of change will then be an exciting time in the business. Read 8 steps for helping your employees accept change for more tips on planning.

Manage staff expectations

Managing your staff’s expectations through any change is very important. Having them feel involved in the decision-making process can assist greatly as they can be fully informed of what’s involved in the change. Once any change is planned, good communication with staff is key. Ensure that you provide frequent updates on the project and remind your staff that every person or team has a unique viewpoint that is valued. Inclusion will make your job easier and you’ll find that staff want to help.

Support your staff through the change

This article on Forbes shares how strong leaders support people through change and presents a well thought out plan which business owners can adapt.  Considering how the change will impact your staff is a good place to start; what will end for them, and what will start because of the change?

Check in with your staff

Whenever change is implemented, a follow-up plan is a must within any business. This is a good time to remind your staff that your firm invests in continuous improvement to benefit all employees as well as the business.  Getting feedback from your staff keeps the cycle of improvement moving forward and validates their participation in the successful business change. The Queensland Government provides online resources for business owners; read engaging employees through change, and developing staff through mentoring for sound advice.

Finally, remember that your role is to drive the change in your business.

Steve Wingert, Principal at Nesso Strategies, sums up the skill set required for shaping organisational change. He explains that management focused on change is an essential skill, along with “collaboration and culture development, laser sharp strategy formulation and implementation, the ability to be more agile and innovative, and thoughtful execution.”

Change doesn’t have to be scary for your staff if you drive organisational change through a robust plan.