How to lead your remote team through change

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Written by Jon Kennard on 12 May 2021 in Features
Features

Struggling with the change process? Simki Dutta has ideas for you.

There are two universal truths about change:

  1. No one likes change.
  2. Change is inevitable.

Whether it’s a change in leadership, a merger and acquisition, or a change in company culture and process, every kind of change, big or small, requires careful planning, communication, and implementation.

But it’s not always plain sailing. When not managed well, organisational change can lead to anxiety, panic, and decreased employee morale. This gets even more challenging when you’re dealing with a distributed workforce.

So, how do you effectively communicate change, overcome resistance, and gain buy-in - while being miles away? Here are five steps to help you lead your remote team through change.

Create a change management plan

It’s alarming to note that 70% of organisational change programs fail to achieve their goals. The biggest cause of failure is believed to be the lack of a clear vision. 

What you communicate and how you do it plays a vital role in the way your employees perceive the change.

You can’t introduce changes overnight and expect your remote employees to follow suit. For your initiatives to succeed, it’s important to get your employees on board by selling them on why those changes matter.

The first step is to create a change management plan. Treat it as a roadmap for the change initiative and map out essential elements such as:

  • What is the high-level goal and why is it important or beneficial for the company?
  • What is the core message you want to communicate to your employees?
  • What are the communication channels you will use?
  • How will you deal with resistance or objections from employees?
  • Who is part of the change management team?
  • How will you measure results?

Appoint change agents 

Organisational change management is a herculean task. It’s not a project that can be managed by one person alone.

This is why it’s a good idea to appoint a team of change agents who can be responsible for initiating and facilitating the change in the organization. These change agents can be internal employees or external consultants hired to offer a fresh perspective.

According to global leadership advisory firm, Egon Zehnder, these are some traits you can look for while identifying change agents:

  • Curiosity
  • Insight
  • Engagement
  • Determination

 

Communicate with clarity

If your idea of communicating change comprises of sending a company-wide email to your remote employees (and moving on), you’re making a colossal leadership mistakeWhat you communicate and how you do it plays a vital role in the way your employees perceive the change. The key is to maintain transparency and communicate with clarity.

Make sure you elaborate on the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) aspect while drafting the communication. When you explain how the change will benefit or impact your employees, it becomes easier to get their buy-in and initiate the transition.

Remember: you’re managing a remote team. You need to take conscious efforts to be clear while communicating. Instead of sending lengthy paragraphs of text, use visuals to support your change management plan.

Not only do they capture and retain attention but they also communicate complex information in a manner that’s easy to understand and digest.

Here are some visuals you can create to communicate your strategy:

  • Infographics
  • Job aids
  • Posters
  • Decision trees
  • Checklists
  • Timelines

Develop training programs 

You’ve created a change management plan and communicated it to the team. But how do you see to it that it translates into action? By training your remote employees. Start with evaluating the impact of the change and assess training needs to bridge those gaps. 

Developing learning and development programmes and creating training materials will support your employees through the changing times and pave the way for a smoother transition. It also demonstrates why the change is necessary, thereby minimising barriers and earning your employees’ trust.

Establish regular check-ins

While working remotely, out of sight doesn’t have to be out of mind. 

Managers should schedule one-on-ones with their team members to regularly check in with them to see how they’re feeling about the changes and how they are handling them.

It’s also important to make way for two-way communication where employees can be encouraged to ask questions about the recent changes. 

The takeaway

Change management doesn’t end with implementing the change. Make sure you close the loop by getting employee feedback on the company’s change management process. This will help you evaluate the effectiveness and understand what you can do to improve.

Change is unnerving but with a clear vision and the right communication tactics, it is possible to lead your remote team through change without causing disruption.

 

About the author

Simki Dutta is a content marketer at Venngage, a free infographic maker and design platform. She writes about all things marketing and communications. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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