4 Steps to Turn Workforce Change Into Workplace Strength

As the lasting impact of the pandemic reshapes workforces everywhere, it’s clear that hybrid work is here to stay. As a result, leaders must harness the power of this change and use it to drive workplace innovation. 

Moving to a permanent hybrid workforce means that previous workplace models are no longer relevant. This environment presents leaders with challenges they’ve faced before: building connections to company culture, maintaining health and wellbeing, providing opportunities for professional development, and achieving work goals. However, the playing field for many is completely different when developing programs to support both onsite and remote workers.

Skilled leaders understand that while change is a disruptive force, it’s also an opportunity. By knowing and understanding the predictable pattern of change, leaders can reframe hybrid work as a catalyst for growth and use its energy to move their people and their organizations through change to lasting success.

Let’s look at four steps leaders can take to turn the move to a hybrid workplace into an organizational strength.

Step 1: Understand The Process of Change

Be clear on what change is and how it works. 

While every change is unique, each one follows a predictable pattern of five stages:

  • Status quo: No change is present.
  • Disruption: Change occurs and affects our desired results.
  • Point of decision: We decide how to engage with change.
  • Adoption: We try new things within the change.
  • Innovation: We enable even greater opportunities because of the change.

Whatever the change, when leaders interact with individuals in any of these stages, their role is to help people think about and prepare for change. These change-centered conversations matter during a disruption like moving to a mix of in-person and remote work because they encourage people to consider which actions are appropriate in their current zone. When people view change as an opportunity instead of something to fear, they’re empowered to navigate change successfully.  

As a leader, understand your relationship to change. 

How do you feel when change happens in your own life? How do you typically react to change? When a leader knows their own default responses to change, they better understand how their people experience it.

The five common reactions to change include: 

  • Move: You’re ready to go forward with the change.
  • Minimize: You’re only changing the bare minimum.
  • Wait: You’re waiting for someone else to change first.
  • Resist: You’re actively against the change.
  • Quit: You’re disengaging with or opting out of change.

When leaders know where their people are coming from, they can address uncertainty in the specific ways people need most. Moving your workforce to a hybrid model is undoubtedly a situation of uncertainty. However, when leaders have built a practice of empathy on an organizational culture of trust and communication, they can lean on it to support people during periods of disruption and encourage them to find opportunities in the change.

Step 2: Analyze The Change You Face

Once you understand the predictable, learnable pattern of change, you can start examining the change at hand—in this case, moving to a new model of work. A leader’s responsibility in change requires careful attention to detail that can only come from asking evaluative questions about it:

  • What is changing?
  • Why is the change happening?
  • What short-term and long-term opportunities could come from this change?
  • What will happen if we don’t make this change?
  • What are the costs of failing at this change?
  • What obstacles surround this change?
  • What resources can we invest in to make this change succeed?

Which questions you dig into deepest depend on the needs of your organization. For example, if your organization is eager to embrace hybrid work, you may spend more time exploring which resources you need to support remote or partially remote workers. If your organization is resistant, you may spend more time considering how to frame opportunities and overcome obstacles. Thinking about how to help people meet change allows them to prepare for it in ways that pay off for them individually and for the organization as a whole.

Step 3: Define Actions You Can Take to Move Forward

Once you understand the change, you can decide how to move through it. In order to make this forward momentum happen, however, it’s important to take a deliberate pause to let people label their feelings. Making space for reflection lets people focus on what they can do rather than what their fears want them to do. 

When talking to your people about your organization’s move to a new way of working, try using these questions in both one-on-one and team settings to gauge where people might be having hang-ups:

  • What’s on your mind related to hybrid work?
  • Which of these things can you influence?
  • Which of these things are out of your control?
  • What can our team influence in this change?
  • What should we stop focusing on?

As you help your people focus on what actions they can take as you move toward hybrid work, your organization increases its ability to turn uncertainty into opportunity. Change isn’t just about results—it’s about creating new possibilities. When people know how they can move through change, they use that momentum to achieve newer and greater outcomes.

Step 4: Create a Persistence Strategy

For a change like hybrid work to be successful, your people and organization need to do more than bounce back to the status quo. You want to take advantage of the opportunity this new approach to work presents to do more and be more. To achieve these desired results, you need to develop a persistence strategy that helps people find their way through to a new (and better) normal.

Make a compelling case for change.

Start by communicating a clear vision of hybrid work for your people and your organization. Help teams and individuals understand their role in the change and see the benefits they’ll gain from it, such as work flexibility and a broader talent pool for recruiting. Also, establish which actions the organization will take to support things like team culture, collaboration, and goal-setting as you roll out hybrid work options.

Outline what you’re moving from and toward.

As you roll out new changes, be specific about which actions people need to leave behind and which they need to adopt in order to be successful. For example, explain how your organization’s productivity metrics worked in your previous setup and how they will work in your new environment. Clearly defining the difference between previous results or responsibilities and new ones gives people the confidence to move forward empowered to succeed.

Foster engagement by providing support.

Because change is disruptive, complexities will pop up along the way. Help your organization navigate the challenges of hybrid work by showing up for people throughout the change journey. Acknowledge obstacles as they arise by talking about them and addressing them with awareness and collaboration. As new obstacles arise, help people prioritize them so they can make progress by knowing where to focus. And celebrate persistence and wins on an individual and organizational level as they happen. When people feel encouraged and supported through the tricky parts of change, they’ll stay engaged and persist in finding new solutions and better results. 

Change Is Opportunity

While change can feel unsettling, knowing its pattern and human reactions to it lets you unlock its power. With the right plan for moving to a permanent hybrid workforce, you can prepare people for transitions that work, develop processes that address challenges, and get the buy-in that allows your organization to achieve breakthrough results as people embrace new ways of working.

A skilled leader can turn disruption into an opportunity for innovation and growth, helping their teams prepare, persist, and gain a new perspective that leads to better processes and outcomes.

Download the tool to learn how to lead your team through periods of organizational disruption by crafting effective change-based communication.

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