This content is part of the Change Management Profession series of articles, and explains the latest challenges that are currently being debated by those responsible for achieving organisational change around the world. Work down the page to see how these trends have evolved each year.
Key Trends in Change Management for 2022
If you scroll down you can see the trends I reviewed this time last year, where we were challenged by the emergence of hybrid working as the pandemic entered its second year.
As we enter the third year of Covid, there is a growing recognition that knowledge work has shifted and hybrid and working from home has become a key differentiator of organisational culture.
In this 2021 end of year review, change management practitioners and line managers responsible for leading themselves and their teams through change summarise where they feel we are now, and what we think the challenges will be in the next 12 months.
We consider the challenges will be:
• Exhaustion – a continued theme from 2021
• The great resignation year – are people starting to take control and change their jobs
• Impact of the unvaccinated – is this a new theme we expect given the differentiation we are seeing from the governments in how unvaccinated citizens are being treated and how do we address this in the workplace?
• Generation Z expectations – expectations for the purpose and value of the organisations they work for, and if the work they are doing is meaningful, more important than salary as a decider of which organisations they will work for
• B2C not B2B – are companies seeing the opportunity to cut out the middleman given the market is just a digital platform away
• Greater automation – a continued theme along with greater digitisation
This is just a continued trend with the impacts of Covid being felt by different groups in varying ways. People have tried new ways of working to overcome the challenges. The continued effort to avoid the one-hour meetings and replace them with shorter focussed sessions leaving gaps in between to allow time to do the actions arising from the meeting.
Getting to grips with the different platforms and features they provide, knowing that these digital platforms are no longer new, no longer part of a crisis response, but as we enter the third year impacted by Covid, we need to normalise their use.
The participants felt that the theme would move from exhaustion to building resilience. People are adapting and becoming more resilient, they are becoming less afraid to try the new tools.
The challenge we face is not one of increased support but driving people to be and feel accountable to do work in ways that supports them. Helping them to become more resilient. Hopefully this support will come before they decide to resign and move to other organisations.
Adapting to Change
The theme that was in our minds was less about exhaustion but more about adapting for 2022. In the past adapting to change was seen to be part of the role of leadership and only certain layers of leadership were the ones to spell out what needed to be done differently and how that would be achieved.
In 2022 we question if it will be more democratic, with a wider group innovating and creating new pathways to do things differently, to avoid exhaustion and make organisations successful.
Those that unleash this in their people are likely to be the more successful organisations, and the most recent global CEO surveys indicate how important the capacity and the capability for change is as a competitive advantage for organisations.
Year of the great resignation
People moving jobs has increased. There are lots of reports and statistics that suggest this is happening and anecdotally the groups confirmed this. Research suggests that females in the workforce have been disproportionately affected, as they have continued to take on the family caring role and have often had to sacrifice going into the office to home school children.
Many governments have tried to limit the impact of this, recognising key workers and putting greater support in place, but this may not have been enough. Some reports suggest that both male and female workers have dropped out of the workforce and maybe in 2022 this trend will continue.
The winners in this battle will be the ones who can create a flexible and purposeful environment for employees. We talked about having purpose and will talk in more detail about having purpose when we discuss Gen Z. It is clear from the conversations that many are missing the comradery of the workplace.
Impact on the unvaccinated
This may become the latest inclusion and diversity issue for organisations. Governments are spelling out the consequences of choosing not to receive the vaccines available now. Organisations are choosing to be quiet on the issue and watching it play out in their countries. However, 2022 could be the year when organisations need to start thinking about the implications of unvaccinated colleagues and set out HR policies to cover it.
The inclusion and diversity issues we could face include whether vaccinated staff are prepared to share physical space from those who are not vaccinated, and the impact that has on all company events.
We think this will lead to diversity in its widest sense being a conversation for 2022. This led us to a discussion of whether leaders at all levels are ready or equipped to hold the difficult conversations that these issues trigger, and we asked if 2022 could be the year of the avoidance of the difficult conversations.
Automation and Digitalisation
The changes in the systems and applications available to support the workforce has been growing at a phenomenal pace since the start of the pandemic. Organisations are now staring to react and restructure themselves to make the most out of the changes they have seen happening.
This aligns to the changes in the marketplace here we have seen several companies decide to set up platforms to sell their goods to the marketplace and avoid the middleman. (B2C not B2B). Whilst this may not yet have an impact on the Amazons of this world in the longer run it may remove their dominance in the market with companies reorganising themselves to make the most out of the digital platforms, they can now access.
Continuing the theme of digitisation and automation, we have seen technology change significantly but rather than the applications coming together to support people there is greater divergence of technology. Leading to the proliferation of tools in organisations.
2022 could see organisations start to focus on strategically planned collaboration tools and avoidance of crisis led proliferation of new tools.
In 2020 and 2021 what has not been disrupted? Every factor of the PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technical, Legal and Environmental) analysis has been affected. Organisations are struggling, in some cases, to cope with the levels of change. This will highlight good and bad management in different industries and it is clear there will be some winners and losers in 2022.
The range of change taking place directly correlates to the volume of change, and there were many concerns expressed about change fatigue and the lack of contingency available in organisations. Everyone is over-committed, there is no time to think through the implications of what is being done, the pressure is on to get things done. Will we come to regret this fast pace of change, when we realise that some changes directly compete with others, or that the range of things we are changing are tangential to each other and are not fully aligned to the strategic objectives of our organisation?
Generation Z expectations
We are starting to hear more discussion about Gen Z. The concept of “the millennials”, that came of age as we moved to the new millennium, is now outdated and there are newer employees coming to organisations. These new employees have expectations of their role and unless those expectations are met organisations are unlikely to recruit or retain them.
Where organisations do have a great purpose that the new generation can relate to it is important that leaders can sell this to people. Without the ability to sell employment to the candidates the organisation purpose may remain a secret. These expectations maybe anything from seeing the company meeting environmental needs to providing flexible working conditions. With working from home being not only a right but the new normal.
Developing emotional intelligence skills
Until people are confident about their skills in emotional intelligence the conversations will remain difficult and will be avoided. Giving leaders and managers new skills that will help equip them to have the challenging conversations then they may be stuck where they are today.
New skills will unlock potential for leaders to change the organisations fortunes and move to a more sustainable future but there was a lot of concern about a lack of leadership ability in emotional intelligence and how much more difficult these issues are to address when we are remote from each other and are losing informal connections and closeness. It is hard to be empathetic with someone if we are distant from them.
This started to lead the group to the second of the evening’s conversations. What is the impact of these changes on the Change Management profession?
Change Management Capability in the Organisation
The group felt having capability in change management is essential in 2022.
Whilst it is a profession that many are keen to join, finding professionals with significant experience is difficult and there is a competitive market for them.
We also discussed the importance of building on the experiences of change during the pandemic, using these experiences across all staff to trigger an interest in learning more skills and techniques in managing change to build this internal capacity and capability for change.
We recognise that the capability doesn’t match the volume of change, but addressing this is hard to get on the strategic agenda when too few executives appreciate the value of change management.
Capacity to Change
People in organisations are finding so much is going on that they are unable to adapt further to meet the new needs of the organisation. These people are overwhelmed trying to keep up with the day job. Trying to inspire these people to try new ways of working is difficult or impossible while employees are exhausted.
We have got to raise the profile of this issue, and ensure senior leaders put more emphasis on prioritising what is to change. There are far more options for changing things than there are resources available to make these changes, so 2022 will have to be the year of difficult decisions.
Prioritisation of changes
Prioritisation of change must come not only from being clear about the returns on the money and time invested in the project but also from people’s capacity to change. The group suggested that people ability to implement the changes must be considered ahead of the returns they will get if the change is successful. A lower return maybe more acceptable than a failed change programme.
Change professionals need to be more explicit about the expected impact of the change on already exhausted staff, as the true cost of a change programme is not understood. Changes are being commissioned on the basis of the expected benefits, without taking into account the human cost and risks of non-delivery. In common with the point above, we are going to need to create effective prioritisation mechanisms and encourage leaders to adopt this decision making behaviour.
Developing Leadership capability
A focus on developing leadership capability should be a focus for 2022. The scope of leadership will broaden and the successful future leader will be the one who can better understand the whole person and not just the person who turns up for work.
Leaders often didn’t know anything about peoples lives outside of work. They only saw groups of people in the office environment. Homeworking and collaboration tools have opened a window into people’s personal lives. This window will not be closed but the future leaders will need to empathise with these people and manage their whole environment not just the turning up for work one.
This made us question, with so much pressure on leaders, how they would find the time to consider all of these aspects of staff. We know that to consider the whole person requires curiosity and a real interest in people, which led us back to a recognition that hybrid and WFH structures demand much more emotional intelligence on the part of our leaders. Is this widely recognised? Do our leaders want these responsibilities?
The group reflected on impact assessments and their broadened scope in 2022. In the past change professionals have concentrated on that is the impact on the processes, the technology and the people working in their office locations.
In 2022 the question will be what the impact on people will be working in remote or hybrid situations. Without this being understood the risks on the project’s success will increase.
The Boards role in the success of change initiatives
If the change is to be successful, then there needs to be both an understanding and representation at the board level. They can no longer delegate to change professionals for change to be successful.
The change professionals reported that they are still being brought into the projects too late and are not seen as an essential service to the projects and programmes.
The future may be that change and corporate communications work together as part of the office of the chief executive and been seen as a strategic message for the organisation. Thus, avoiding the risk of change saturation.
Change is simple?
The threat that leaders still perceive change as simple continues. In the minds of many leaders, they saw the move to home working happen overnight and see it as simple and straightforward now. It is becoming clear now that making change, when there is no clear and imperative reason, is going to be difficult.
Many organisations are grappling with the challenge of if and when do we being people back into the office. As we have seen from the reactions of employees, they will want to take control of their future and will not necessarily comply with requests from leaders to change but make the great resignation real.
Finally, as the evening session drew to a close the teams wanted to ensure that we remembered that creating psychological safety will be essential to support the change experience. Implementing change where fear and distrust exists will not create an environment for collaboration and co-creation of change.
Key Trends in Change Management for 2021
The defining change initiative for 2021 is creating the “new normal” or hybrid working, to respond to the challenges we faced in 2020.
I work with an increasing number of executives who tell me how much they hate the phrase “hybrid working”. When we talk, the reasons for this strong emotion stem from their anger that things have changed, and this is another complex issue they must deal with. If you are facing a similar situation, I hope you find this guidance useful.
Whatever we want to call it, post pandemic working practices in the knowledge economy will be different. More than a year of working from home has put where and with whom we work on the agenda. Employees all have different needs, and there is a spectrum of desire for a return to the office and staying at home permanently.
Spectrum of choices for hybrid working
In my experience of running workshop to help organisations define the scope of their hybrid working, one conclusion we return to time and again is that you cannot please all the people. We need to have a grown-up conversation that considers factors other than what employees want. We must look at this through the needs of our customers, our suppliers, and our organisations.
Let us start by looking at customer need for connectivity, access to information and the ‘human touch’ of relationships with your staff that are consistent and stable. How much have customers done for themselves in the pandemic? How much access to information and services do they want online? Do they expect hours of service to have migrated more to 24/7 because their own working hours have changed?
How are our suppliers working, what innovations are they making, what points of connectivity will we have with them? Have their hours of operation changed, have they automated more processes, have they moved more things to “self-service” so that we must do more to access the supplies we need?
As an organisation we have statutory responsibilities for pay and conditions, and that includes health and safety and complying with taxation rules. How much equipment can we supply for working from home before we become liable for the health and safety of your home as a remote workspace? How much access to data are we happy to provide remotely, not knowing who else is in your workspace and the security of this data? Can we meet our strategic objectives if a large amount of management time is spent coordinating resources who don’t want to meet face to face with those who do, at different times and in different locations?
Defining our future
Whatever style of working we adopt, this is a cultural change, so I have found it important to get those involved to paint a detailed picture of their current values and beliefs, the glue that holds everyone together. Effectively we end up describing the magic of the organisation, the reasons everyone wants to work there in the first place.
We can use this to evaluate the attractiveness and the practicality of all the ideas that form our new approach. I have found the advantage of this approach is that by using our culture as the starting point, we move away from the singular issue of what works for each employee, and we keep “the greater good” on the agenda.
One this is for sure, an autocratic decision on future working practices does not work – just look at Apply Inc this week, and the reaction of their staff to the statement that they are expected back in the office at least 3 days a week.
Key Trends in Change Management for 2020
Obviously the pandemic changed all of our priorities. This summary is how our concerns and priorities played out, starting in March 2020 and moving through to the end of the year. The start times and duration for each of these three stages varied by organisation, but this table gives us a useful gauge of how people were feeling and how they approached their work:
Impact of Covid on organisational change
Key Trends in Change Management in 2019
The key trends discussed in this webinar are:
• More techniques to manage the high volumes of change organisations continue to experience.
• The impact of Agile approaches on change management activities.
• Identifying ways to standardise change activities to help broaden the number of roles that can undertake them.
These trends are going to impact those with existing change and transformation roles, and those working in project and programme roles and PMOs/CMOs.
Key Trends in Change Management for 2019 – my predictions!
It is December 2018, and these are my predictions for the issues and challenges that I think will shape our change management profession in 2019. A lot of the trends I am seeing now have a common theme: they are all driven by the impact of high volumes of change. This impact is felt by those leading individual initiatives as well as those in the business who are trying to develop new ways of working whilst maintaining acceptable levels of “business as usual”.
The challenges generated by increasingly high volumes of change include: • Increased awareness of the need for change management
- The need to accurately map the impact of all the changes on individual business units
- The need for effective sponsorship
- The need to build internal capacity for change management
In this paper I will explore the issues and share examples of how forward thinking organisations are addressing them.
Key trends in Change Management 2018 – mid year assessment!
It is July 2018 and I have been reviewing the paper I wrote about trends in Change Management for 2018. I think some of my predictions are coming true and some of them have evolved so thought you might enjoy this interim status report!
Explaining the value of change management
The measures to track if our change activities are working continues to develop. I am asked to develop a suite of measures to track awareness, participation and adoption prior to measuring the financial benefits of what has changed as a regular part of my assignments now.
This links to role of Sponsor, with increasing awareness from senior managers and executives that sponsoring a change initiative is different to sponsoring a project. The questions they have to ask to track progress and detect issues are more centred on how people feel about the new ways of working and how many are participating in creating them, practising and implementing them, rather than a simple review of a plan to see what has been ticked off.
Further integration with other disciplines
Probably the closest links are being forged with those responsible for Portfolio Management as there is increasing awareness that understanding the full scale of the all the change initiatives taking place is an essential tool in being able to manage the high volumes of change that organisations are committed to.
I think running a close second is the recognition that project management and change management need to collaborate, and the interest by forward thinking Project Managers that change management is an important skill for them. I am seeing an increased willingness by project teams to be involved in the identification and planning of the activities the business need to carry out if the project deliverables are to be successfully adopted.
Increasing maturity of change management
I chaired a session of change professionals recently, who identified that the role of central change teams needs to evolve. There is still a need to provide guidance on how to manage change, but these central teams of change experts need to concentrate on transferring their skills to the wider population within their organisation. They need to facilitate the planning of change activities by the business, so they are doing change to themselves and not having it done to them. The reasons for these changes link directly to the volume of change initiatives, and the impossibility of a central team controlling everything.
This links to other work I have done this year on democratising change management, where organisations are keen to build networks of volunteers to lead the change within their teams, and to build these networks early in the life of the transformation. Increasingly it is how these networks are supported and encouraged that forms the responsibilities of a central team of change managers.
Change Management is an evolving profession, we continue to develop our techniques and our approaches in a world where the pace of change is increasing in speed. Do you agree with these predictions/trends? I would love to hear your comments so please share your thoughts.
Key trends in Change Management in 2018
In this webinar I discuss how the change management profession is changing, and the impact this has on your career opportunities and personal development choices. Melanie will give us a tour through the key trends that will shape change management in the next 12 months including:
- More effort will be spent on explaining the value of change management
- Further integration with project management
- Greater recognition of the need for change management including:
- More demand for qualified/experienced change leaders
- Organisations will build stronger internal capability for change
These trends are going to impact those with existing change and transformation roles, and those working in project and programme roles and PMOs/CMOs.
Click here to listen to the recording
Change management is a young profession which continues to develop in scope, maturity and the number of those adopting it. In this paper I attempt to predict what I think will be the most impactful developments in business change management for 2018.
My thoughts are based on the demands I receive from clients in the private, public and not for profit sector, as well as a review of the latest insights from the big consultancies, universities and the professional body for change management, the Change Management Institute.
I think the key trends will include:
§ More effort will be spent on explaining the value of change management
§ Further integration with project management and links to Agile approaches
§ Increasing maturity of change management as a practice