Responding to the Human Energy Crisis by Managing Change Effectively

bring you Three actionable tips when dealing with change in your organization.

While it's always been true that "the only constant is change," the past few years have brought new meaning to that old adage.

Between the pandemic, technology innovations, and economic uncertainties, our experiences in and out of the workplace are changing at such a rapid rate that it can feel hard to keep up. The chronic stress of change and uncertainty has contributed to widespread burnout and mental health challenges, a phenomenon that my colleagues and I call "The Human Energy Crisis."

On the other hand, we have seen most businesses and HR leaders respond admirably, making critical adjustments along the way to ensure business survival while taking the best care of people possible. But change requires change management. How do we get new things done with the least disruption and impact?

I recently experienced an incredible example of well-executed change management while on a return trip from London with my wife.

As we entered the airport, we checked our bags and jumped into the United Kingdom's version of TSA Precheck. I found myself lost in thought, reflecting on our time spent there and how important it is to spend quality time with those you love. As we drew closer to the security checkpoint, with only moments to spare, my wife looks at me and says, "oh no." That's never a good sign when standing anywhere, especially at an airport security checkpoint. After a brief discussion, I learned in the United Kingdom, you must remove all liquids from your carry-on bag and put them into what looks like an oversized sandwich bag. Ok, no big deal, except all our liquids are spread throughout our densely packed bags and we're standing in a security-check line where space is extremely limited. We're about to hold up 50-plus people behind us all because we didn't think to look up carry-on requirements while we were packing at the hotel. 

In a scramble and with our stuff everywhere, we think we've gotten all our liquids placed in the oversized sandwich bag. Sure enough, we didn't. Now, standing on the other side of security with our bags being reviewed item by item, piece by piece, it was stressful in the moment. Once we received the all-clear, my energy was depleted.

But thinking about this now, I admire how efficient the security employees were and how well they communicated.  Someone along the way taught those security agents effective change management. They knew exactly how to deal with an exorbitant amount of ever-changing people dynamics and situations. How did they do it? How did they remain stress-free and efficient?

So, I sat down with my colleague and change mentor, David Ross, to bring you three actionable tips when dealing with change in your organization.


Responding to the Human Energy Crisis by Managing
Change Effectively


Tip 1: Team building


No matter the size of the organization, change requires more than one individual to plan, pursue, and execute. Change starts from one idea that develops into a strategic initiative. Small or large, change requires people to make it happen.

Often when a change is initiated, people put the what before the why. It is our belief that this approach is backward. Instead, we should approach change by putting the why before the what. This approach lets you set clear expectations about what is about to occur within your organization. This is the fundamental pillar to setting the foundation of team building.

For example, you're an employee who heard that “great new xyz initiative is coming, and this is what is changing.” How does that make you feel? Respond? Countless times this approach ends up creating a multitude of questions, like "How will this impact me? Who is leading it? Is my job safe?" and the list goes on. 

It would be better if we approached the impending change with "we're doing some great things with xyz initiative, here's the decision behind why we're doing it, and we need your help to execute." See the difference? It is rooted in the business concept of the greater good.

In the second approach, we eliminated the significant backlash that could become "do this thing because I said so" all because the human tendency is to simply ask "why?" Using the second approach, we set clear expectations within the organization, generated some excitement, and allowed our employees to feel valued as team members with a part in changing the organization for the good.


Tip 2: Equip managers to be effective


Businesses expect a lot from managers. They carry out the day-to-day functions, ensure employees have what they need, and maintain peak performance. Yet when change is inserted, I've witnessed countless times that no one prepared the managers or equipped them to be effective. How do we change that?

Prosci® is what we use at UKG. They recommend C-L-A-R-C. It’s an easy-to-follow methodology that's incredibly effective. Here are steps that managers can follow to help their people through any type of change.

1. Communicate – Talk to your people. And more importantly, listen. Tell them the WHY again and again until they understand it. What is the best way to know if they "get" it? Ask them to tell someone else why the organization is making the change. They are on their way to embracing the change if they can do that.

2. Liaison – Managers are the people closest to your largest asset: your employees. Managers can relay messages back to the change sponsor or project team. Want to know how things are going? Ask your people leaders.

3. Advocate – Managers advocate for and with their employees every day. So, ask them to advocate for important organizational changes. Managers are crucial to personalizing broader corporate messages to the audience's unique needs. They know their people.

4. Resistance – No one likes resistance, but it’s normal and to be expected when there’s a change. People leaders are the key to turning resistance around. Sometimes it’s just explaining the why again. Sometimes, it’s pointing out the WIIFM -- What’s In It For Me. Sometimes they just want a sympathetic ear. Empower managers by letting them know they don’t have to have all the answers. They are on the front line of resistance and they will see it long before senior leadership does.

5. Coach – Be the coach! Changing the way we work is hard. When we don’t know how to do something, we look for in-the-moment coaching, and managers are the front-line support. Help them understand that successful change is never a one-and-done event. It takes follow-up and coaching for a person to get good at something new. We want everyone to cross the finish line, and good coaching is a great way to improve our chances of success!


Tip 3: Adopt technology


Once your why is established and your people leaders are in place for execution, this is the time to focus on the what. Technology adoption in this scenario is "what do I do, when, and how." It’s directly tied to over-communication and often confused with "we’ll just send them to training.”  Countless times we’ve witnessed someone doing something “wrong” and the immediate response is, “they need more training.”  Instead, we must prepare and equip employees to learn what is expected and what their job is.

Technology can help with leveraging the over-communication tactic to ensure that when change is occurring, it’s not the first or second time they are hearing about it. Be specific in your communication and tech tools about what you want them to adopt. Prepare them with excellent messaging around the what. I like using marketing departments to help create some of this messaging, which should help employees feel open and ready for what is about to occur.


Sometimes if helps to take a step back and breathe


When was the last time you didn’t have to change something for an extended period of time in your organization? As stress within yourself and your organization grows, take a step back. Think. Breathe.  Evaluate how you can better adapt and manage change both personally and in the workplace.

Managing the "Human Energy Crisis" starts with managing your own stress levels and looking for opportunities to best support your people. By applying these three tips, we assure you that you will have a smoother transition because you acted with a change management plan in place. 

Oh, in case you were wondering, we didn't miss our flight home from London. And the next time we travel abroad, we will be familiar with carry-on bag regulations before arriving at the security gate. That is planning for change. 


For more information about the "Human Energy Crisis," download the UKG eBook 2023 Megatrends in HR