Change is inevitable in the modern workplace. As businesses become more connected to the fast-paced digital world, teams and workflows are shifting faster than ever before. Perhaps the biggest change is happening right now as the Great Resignation occurs. In December 2021, over four million Americans quit their jobs, creating imbalances in companies across the country.

Paired with accelerating moves toward remote work, the frequent turnover experienced during this employment crisis is putting a lot of pressure on company executives and change management professionals. As companies strategize ways to make long-term workplace improvements and incentivize employees to stay through organizational shifts, change management tactics are changing, too.

Here’s how change management professionals are dealing with employees leaving en masse.

Focus on the Employee Experience

The Great Resignation is forcing many companies to make changes to their organizational structures, which often means employees who stay must pick up the slack. This is why many people who are quitting their jobs are doing so to find more fulfilling work and improve their work-life balance.

While it may be inevitable that your team members need to take on extra tasks as their coworkers quit, effective change management can prevent employee burnout. In fact, focusing on creating a positive employee experience through changes can help them thrive more than before.

Change management professionals increasingly need to focus on building a culture where employee wellness matters — one in which managers are empathetic and offer support. Make sure they’re regularly offering positive feedback and encouragement to boost employee morale.

Additionally, since so many employees are seeking greater fulfillment, your change management tactics should take into account employees’ needs for purposeful work that aligns with their values. Demonstrate how the changes they’re making are contributing to the company and emphasize the importance of their work. Another one of the greatest contributors to retention, engagement, and productivity is aligning an employee’s work with their sense of purpose. Often, doing so can be achieved in the same role or the same department by shifting responsibilities, assignments, etc. At other times they can be retained in the organization by enabling “latticework” career paths.

Increase Flexibility for Team Members

Money doesn’t talk as loudly as it used to. Since the Great Resignation has led many companies to increase salaries and wages to attract skilled workers, employees know they have leverage no matter which company they choose. Plus, with more resources ever to help employees mitigate the financial risks of transitioning jobs, they’re no longer as worried about filling healthcare coverage gaps or adjusting their budgets.

When you’re creating a change management plan, you need to incentivize employees to stay with perks beyond higher salaries and traditional perks. Consider what positive changes you can make for employees to balance out the new responsibilities and team structures they may not look forward to. For instance, since employees are increasingly seeking flexibility in their careers, you can brainstorm ways that you can restructure to give employees more creative freedom. Benefits like flexible work schedules and unlimited PTO may also be enticing for modern employees.

Offer Ongoing Support and Communication

Highly supportive management is incredibly important in change management, especially since many workplace changes are now happening virtually. Without constant support and overt communication, it’s easy for employees to feel isolated as their company goes through major developments.

Turning onboarding into a continual experience, which involves dedicated training sessions and consistent support over time, is key to reducing turnover. Employees don’t always adapt to change right away, especially when they’re not surrounded by team members eight hours per day. It’s important to think of change management as a long-term process that doesn’t end after a strategy is executed. Regularly promote the benefits of your shifting culture and offer skill-building and educational opportunities to help team members adapt to new responsibilities.

The Great Resignation is also inspiring more change management professionals to focus on workplace relationships. When employees feel highly connected to their teams and appreciate their manager (even if it’s a new one), they may have more incentive to stay with your company.

Prepare a Plan B

Though updating your change management tactics is the best way to help your team succeed through the effects of the Great Resignation, it’s difficult to prevent team members from leaving if they’re set on looking for something different. In case your team is faced with a major employee shortage, it’s always best to have a crisis management plan prepared on top of your change management plan.

Develop a plan for succession that outlines how your organization will shift if critical employees leave. Then, build a change management plan that addresses how you’ll communicate those changes and their impact on your employees.

Build a Team That’s Here to Stay

As turnover rises in companies across the U.S., it’s important to manage the organizational changes that come with this trend to prevent further resignations. To encourage employees to stay through disruptive trends (like changing responsibilities and remote work), change management professionals must focus on developing positive, supportive company cultures. Enhancing communication is also necessary for guiding employees through the change. And for the turnover that you can’t prevent, it’s critical to prepare a Plan B for your organization.

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