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Dealing With Changes In The Workforce – 5 Common Mistakes You Should Avoid

The shifting dynamics of global workforces in the wake of the pandemic, the gig economy, and hybrid work models are forcing managers to stay on their toes. This is further aggravated by an aging population, and the great resignation in recent months, that saw millions of workers quitting their jobs.

In light of these events, it is clear that the balance of power is shifting from the employer to the employees. In order to remain competitive while accommodating a wide range of demands such as work-from-home, BYOD, or flexible scheduling, employers have to constantly revisit their human resource planning, with a wide range of new best practices to help deal with hybrid workers.

Tech workers are expected to stay nimble and keep up with the ever-changing nature of their work, but even here changes aren’t free from resistance. IT leaders have to constantly work with their teams to educate, persuade, and facilitate transitions in a smooth manner to win the cooperation of their employees. 

Given the complexities that come with such demands, coupled with the various different approaches to scheduling, tracking, and performance management, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are some common mistakes managers make while presiding over delicate transitions and workplace changes, to help you better understand what to avoid. 

Absence of Clear Workplace Culture

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. This famous quote by Peter Drucker points out the human factor that pervades every facet of an organization. In an ever-changing workplace, especially in the IT industry, culture plays a critical role in anchoring it to a common set of goals, visions, beliefs, and attitudes.

This isn’t about comfy or flashy interiors, themed parties, or happy hours in the office. Culture defines how your team works together, collaborates, takes key decisions, and responds to various challenges. Do they improvise and just get things done? Or do they wait for updates from higher-ups? 

Managers often make the mistake of trying to create a workplace culture, but in reality, culture can only be developed over time as people work and spend time together. As a manager, you can only get the ball rolling by aligning work with culture drivers such as leadership behavior, systems, and symbolism.

That’s more difficult when it comes to remote or distributed teams, and in such cases leaders can promote virtual breakrooms and watercooler conversations as safe spaces to build cultural cohesion in an organization. This also builds better rapport among team members, resulting in better engagement in virtual meetings

Two years into the pandemic, IT employees have started lamenting the lack of physical connection with co-workers, along with the absence of the plush environment and perks that have since defined culture at most tech firms. Companies like IBM have started addressing this with a ‘Work From Home Pledge’, specifying how employees should support one another in balancing work and life. Zapier has released a 180-page book on doing remote right, containing various tips to avoid burnout, and sustain a workplace culture without an actual workplace.

Lack of Communication & Collaboration

The frictions that arise when dealing with changes in the workforce almost always boil down to inadequate communication. Not keeping relevant individuals in the loop, or failing to address concerns will inadvertently result in failed transitions, along with the alienation of team members.

Managers should maintain clear lines of communication with their teams, and ensure everyone is aware of the future changes and how it affects them. The use of collaborative tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Flock can add plenty of value in this regard, keeping all key developments visible to related parties, while enabling and supercharging agile processes.  

Organizations are increasingly worried about losing touch with their teams, putting enormous pressure on systems, structures and processes, especially at times of substantial changes. However, despite the innumerable tools to facilitate communication and collaboration, it ultimately comes down to leadership.

Not Seeking Feedback or Ignoring Resistance

Resistance to change is inevitable, and the hallmark of leadership is acknowledging such apprehensions and getting people on board through persuasion. Not seeking feedback from the team or ignoring such resistance is one of the most common mistakes that only serve to derail transitions. 

In a vast majority of cases, employees resist change because they lack complete information about what to expect. They are fed with tids and bits of information through the grapevine, and the best way to take control of the situation is to keep them updated through official channels. Whether it is a shift to a new development environment or team restructuring, people are wired to resist and show discontent.

Recently, the adoption of RPAs or robotic process automation faced internal resistance across various organizations. However, by putting people at the center of automation, getting rid of the mundane to make way for the creative, along with upskilling efforts, workers were ultimately sold on the idea. 

Taking feedback from each and every individual, and addressing their concerns is proven to be highly effective in getting people on board. This also gives employees a sense of control over their work lives, and boosts morale, resulting in them being actively involved in making workforce changes a success.

Inconsistent Leadership

No matter how many tools, systems, and frameworks are at your disposal, dealing with workforce changes ultimately rests on the quality of leadership. Leaders have to remain hands-on to track issues, address concerns, and take corrective actions to ensure seamless transitions.

A common mistake in this regard is inconsistent leadership, when there is an absence of leadership presence or a lack of presence all through the transition process. Workforce changes cannot be dictated, they can only work with education and persuasion which is possible with a strong leadership presence.

An ideal leader should remain active and visible throughout the process, taking feedback, addressing concerns, and showing empathy to keep morale high. If workers get the feeling of abandonment, they will no longer feel vested in the process, giving rise to discontent. When transitioning from a legacy IT system or tech stack, managers need to take stock of utilization rates, variances, and downtimes at regular intervals, to stay involved and keep spirits up.

Oversimplifying, Downplaying, or Underestimating The Magnitude of Change

In the face of big changes in the workforce, managers often tend to oversimplify or downplay the magnitude of change to avoid resistance. This is often counterproductive, as it not only thwarts planning but also affects morale, creating distrust between managers and employees.

By underestimating the nature and impact of these changes, management remains unaware of the planning and training requirements for workers to execute on the ground. It’s also the reason why the plan has to be made in consultation with all relevant stakeholders. If your organization plans a change in its tech stack, leaders need to be aware of the learning curve and plan measures for a smooth transition without any substantial downtime.

Such oversimplification of changes can also result in frustration and anger, as it could be seen as negating or downplaying individual feelings. Such strategies may help you overcome resistance momentarily, but will result in employees viewing future changes with distrust and low regard for managers.

Final Verdict

If there is anything we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s this – the change is the only constant. Dealing with and adapting to changes in the workforce is the hallmark of effective executives, and by extension an organization.

Change management and workforce scheduling are specialized fields on their own, which managers can only pick up with extensive study or experience. These mistakes should provide a brief understanding of what executives commonly face when dealing with workforce changes in their organizations. 

About the author: 

Derek Jones  (VP Enterprise Strategy, Americas)

Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication.  With a focus on workforce, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.

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