Big PictureC-Suite Lifestyle

5 Components to Organizational Strategy and Change Management to Retain the Best Talent

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged business leaders in unique ways. As they shift processes and structures within their businesses to shore up weaknesses and overcome hurdles, they must have a solid strategy with a change management framework and best practices to limit disruption as much as possible. Shawn Miller of Morrison Co. outlines five strategies to set them on the path to success.

Some business leaders may be riding out this pandemic and hoping for the best when it’s over. However, that strategy is like an athlete getting injured a few weeks from a big game and just hoping the injury heals on its own in time. A true champion would double down and work to strengthen the injured area for the best chance of winning in a difficult circumstance.

The current environment just handed the C-suite the most innovative strength training equipment ever devised. You now have the opportunity to step forward and diligently endure all the pain associated with the heavy lifting that can ultimately strengthen an organization more than you ever imagined possible. It’s time to capitalize on difficult circumstances. Take this time to expose weaknesses and create opportunities to get stronger. It’s the only way to surpass the competition.

As you shift processes and structures within your business to address weaknesses and overcome this pandemic’s challenges, it’s important to have a solid strategy with a change management framework and best practices to limit disruption as much as possible. If organizational strategy and change management have been an afterthought for some time, now is the time to bring them front and center.

The following are a few strategies and best practices to set you on the path to success as you work through the challenge of managing through drastic change.

Focus on employee retention.

Focusing on how to improve employee retention is always important. Replacing team members costs time and money, and they take institutional knowledge, expertise, and momentum with them when they go. Now, the same strategies used to keep people on board can help companies bring employees back to work during COVID-19. Enhanced unemployment benefits during economic downturns may have the unintended consequence of incentivizing workers to stay home. Employers must offer more valuable incentives to get them back at work, and the best strategy goes beyond a monetary incentive.

An employer who’s already adopted programs to attract and retain employees is at a significant advantage when it comes to persuading workers to come back to work. Incentives may be financial, but they don’t need to be. In fact, nonmonetary incentives are likely to draw back better workers. The best people look for long-term benefits and career development opportunities. The financial aspect is just the baseline. Evaluate your cultural practices, career enhancement opportunities, and your ability to foster solid relationships. These are the things that will help you improve employee retention, get your best employees back on board, and stay ahead of the game through this crisis and the next.

Address the challenges of remote work.

The benefits of working from home should extend beyond taking your first meeting of the day in pajamas. If done properly, it can improve employee retention, morale, happiness, productivity, and loyalty — which increases the likelihood of gaining employee buy-in through any organizational changes during COVID-19. Developing a positive work-from-home environment can also help companies save on office space, utilities, and supplies — not to mention open up hiring opportunities from anywhere across the country.

If you want to reap the benefits of working from home, the first step is to address some major challenges. For one, a sense of isolation and loneliness can set in fast when all employees are remote, especially during crisis times. Schedule virtual hangouts to give employees time to connect, and perhaps even consider having properly distanced outdoor meet-ups.

Remote work also presents challenges in maintaining productivity. Numerous distractions in a home environment can make it difficult to stay on track, especially without the peer pressure and overall motivation to be busy and productive that comes from an office setting. Instead of telling employees to be more productive, which can create additional psychological pressure to perform and have the reverse impact, provide healthy, effective performance management plans for anyone who’s falling short.

Remember, those employees were valuable assets to your team before the pandemic hit. They’re likely just struggling to adapt, and it’s your job to help. In order for your company and employees to feel the benefits of working from home, you must be strategic in addressing the limitations.

Apply SWOT analysis to business strategies.

Though not as sexy as some of the repackaged approaches, SWOT analysis is a critical component to determining what makes a good business strategy to respond in challenging times. It’s one of the most effective methods for using external threats in the current environment to identify the weaknesses exposed by the pandemic. You can then better leverage any strengths that still exist to capitalize on opportunities.

After all, a crisis will create as many opportunities as it eliminates. You simply need to get creative to realize the potential in a difficult situation. That’s really what makes a good business strategy great. To do this, involve key people in the process to gain a more accurate view of the situation, allow for the sharing of diverse ideas, and set the stage for stronger buy-in. If employees see a plan and have the opportunity to contribute, they’ll be more likely to stick around and help make it happen.

Create a long-term people strategy.

A strong people strategy involves everything from cross-training and redundant backups for employees to comprehensive succession planning of critical positions. Take every opportunity to cross-train essential employees to perform key functions in a disruptive environment.

Encourage staff to share information with co-workers just a step or two away from an actual process in order to retain important intellectual capital. Otherwise, you may lose critical institutional knowledge when people leave. Beyond that, ensure your people strategy includes redundant relationships with customers, stakeholders, and other key parties to ensure the loss of an employee doesn’t cripple your organization.

Give people a sense of hope.

For some people, the changes brought about by this pandemic have created significant stress. Don’t discount this. Instead, provide compassionate, appropriate support for those struggling emotionally. Assure employees that the business can get through this crisis, but be realistic and transparent as well. Many businesses won’t survive, and careers will be disrupted. If you can craft and communicate a plan for the future, you’ll be one of the businesses left standing — and with the best people.

As with any organizational change management process, it all starts with people. You’re hoping to prepare and provide support for every individual in the organization from the top down to increase collaboration and maintain operational efficiency during times of change. That’s not an easy task — and it’s one that requires several elements to be successful — but when you start with the best people strategies, many of the other elements will fall into place.

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Shawn Miller
Shawn Miller leads the People Solutions Services practice area at Morrison, serving clients nationally in industries such as agribusiness, manufacturing and processing, distribution, healthcare, and nonprofit.

Shawn Miller is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.