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How to help your people through times of great change

By Shandel McAuliffe | |6 minute read
How to help your people through times of great change

The CSIRO’s recently released report, Our Future World, highlights the seven megatrends that will likely transform how we work, play and live. It’s a stark reminder that change is all around us, and is continual.

Effective leaders recognise this and are adept at helping their organisation and team be equipped to respond to whatever the changing world sends their way.

Here are six fundamental principles to adopt.


Look ahead

The skills and competencies employees require now and into the future continue to evolve.

Consequently, always keep your finger on the pulse of change as it applies to your profession and industry, and consider the potential impacts on your team in terms of what they do and how they do it.

For example, the World Economic Forum shared its perspective on the critical skills needed in a post-COVID-19 world. There are four: future literacy, systems thinking, anticipation and strategic foresight. Leaders can use those categories to consider what it means for the work they and their team do now and could do in the future.

With knowledge and insights, leaders can plan better.

Continually upskill your team

As part of this planning, identify strengths and gaps for your required future capabilities and how those elements will hinder or enable your organisation's progress.

Once you've identified those gaps, you are ready to develop your capability program to close those gaps. Your work program may include short courses, online discussion forums, leadership programs, and other development activities.

As part of this process, create opportunities for your team members to practice and embed their learning. For example, through on-the-job practice, volunteering, online demonstrations, or practising with a colleague.

Work with your team’s strengths

Change provokes uncertainty, so you want to focus on efforts that help alleviate tension and build your team’s confidence that they will successfully navigate the transition.

Research over the last 30 years shows that a strengths-based approach leads to greater work satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. This is evidenced in Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s book, Strengths Based Leadership, which details how working with strengths helps people be more effective.

Leaders play a crucial role in helping their team members appreciate the strengths they bring to their role and recognise and value the strengths their colleagues bring, too.

Set realistic goals

Many leaders underestimate the time required to adapt successfully. Instead, ambitious agendas are pitched with tight timeframes, resources, and costs. Unfortunately, it’s rare that a change program delivers on time, within budget and to the required scope and quality level.

When there is a mismatch between the goals and the elements supplied to achieve them, stress levels rise, and so does the likelihood of fractured relationships and poor outcomes.

Care for your team

During times of change, leaders need to spend more time, not less, caring for their team’s needs.

Everyone wants to feel they matter and be acknowledged, and as a leader, there are many small steps you can take every day to build connection and engagement with your team.

Don't forget the simple things. For example, take an interest in your team, their work, and career development and find out what concerns them. Take the time to check in on them. Be supportive and responsive. Ask them what they need from you and how you can help.

Prioritise wellbeing

When leaders care about the wellbeing of their team, they have compassion when they are struggling and are committed to helping them thrive through change.

Be open with your team about how crucial self-care is, and create a safe environment for your team to share their feelings and seek support.

As part of this, be alert to the warning signs of elevated stress in yourself and your team. This may include feeling ineffective, more cynical, and having reduced energy. As a team, agree on how you will work together and help each other succeed as the workplace changes.

Creating a team that is future-fit and ready for whatever comes their way is essential if you want your leadership to succeed in an ever-changing world.

Michelle Gibbings is the author of: 'Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one'.

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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