Key Change Management trends (and our hopes) for 2023

Posted by Audra Proctor

Each year around this time (if not before) I really enjoy reading about the possibilities and predictions of what the future holds for Change and Transformation in organisations.  

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For me, it is this process of looking forward with hope that is so energy-giving. Rather than looking back with any sense of regret.  I’ve even had my own attempts at being an “oracle” for change over recent years. However, this year, perhaps you’ll indulge me as I lay out my hopes for what looks to be another tumultuous year of Change and Transformation

So, I hope for Change Management in 2023 to be front and centre of three big challenges facing organisations in the next 12 months.  

Tackling the impact of inflation and recession

Bloomberg reports that ‘advanced’ economies are expected to endure a year of slowdown in 2023. With outright recessions in the US and UK and stagnation in the Euro area’. 

I hope leaders will dedicate time to build the social & emotional skills (through their organisation’s hierarchy) that are needed to lead business Change and Transformation with empathy and kindness. In particular, this is a time where: 

  • economic anxieties and the pressures of life, health and family will affect people’s focus, productivity and well-being at work 
  • change is more so now than ever intensely personal. It is about individuals learning, thinking, feeling and doing things differently. In turn, this calls for supportive relationships with managers who: 
    • know when an ear and a caring presence are all that are needed
    • know when it’s the right time to coach and mentor people to develop their own solutions
    • are effective role-models for self-care - and managing their own emotions during change and turbulence 

I couldn’t agree more with Charles Handy who said - ‘Whereas the heroic manager of the past knew all, and could do and could solve every problem. The post heroic manager asks how every problem could be solved in a way that develops other people’s capacity to handle it’. 

I hope for leaders to see value in consistently providing the skills, tools and organisation-wide approach for agile business change and transformation.  This is at a time when the way people work has changed markedly. With different drivers of employee motivation and engagement - and technology re-shaping the work experience. In an environment like this, organisations need to: 

  • quickly assemble teams around a change issue, with the right people from different parts of the organisation - wherever they are located geographically  
  • access learning and resources effortlessly – and on demand – to collaborate, plan and deliver change solutions  
  • grow Change and Transformation teams and onboard contractors quickly 

I hope leaders will help their people to accelerate the use of digital skills and processes for Change Management. And rally against any resistance that can prevent adoption and usage of people data for business change and transformation. All of this also needs to happen in a fast-changing landscape where: 

  • managers and their teams need to be able to think strategically for themselves, delivering data-driven quick-wins and stronger competitive responses  
  • organisations need to be able to gather and codify change data quickly. Data which enables them to manage - and act on - a steady stream of insights that can influence and benefit how they operate

Supporting the drive for sustainability 

2 years ago, research from Frontiers in Sustainability highlighted that more than 90% of organisations had been working on integrating and institutionalising environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals for over 5 years.   

People determine the success of organisations and their initiatives. And while many of us are conceptually aligned to the values underpinning sustainability and ESG – so, listening to customer demands for transparency in sustainability practices as well as more eco-friendly products and services – the reality is that there are valid concerns about how it impacts the way we do our work. 

I hope in 2023 that Change Management (and supportive people-processes) will become an integral part of what is a  radical business culture change. One that is needed to implement sustainability goals alongside profitability goals and that includes: 

  • clear visioning of attainable sustainability and hard trade-offs
  • consistent communication from committed cross-boundary leaders
  • powerful engagement of people in designing and delivering the right operating model and workflows
  • sustainability imperatives that are stronger than any learning anxiety
  • role-models, champions and clear accountability to help build commitment
  • encouragement, rewards and recognition of early results in order to help sustain commitment to change 

And to be effective agile change of this nature needs an agile Change Management culture.

Being an active contributor to diversity, equity and inclusion 

Organisations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets’, according to research from Deloitte.  If diverse and inclusive companies are more productive, innovative and perform better financially, then why do less than 20% of companies around the world have a mature inclusion, equity and diversity model? 

Middle managers – the custodians of an organisation’s culture – are the tipping point for effective business Change and Transformation.  They are the ones that can make or break the delivery of a business-critical Change solution. This is even more relevant in the context of diversity, equity and inclusion. As it is the interaction with an immediate boss that determines how inclusive the workplace feels.  

I hope for focused investment, resources and time focused on middle managers when designing and planning change including: 

  • engaging them and their collective experience in creating strategy
  • equipping them with the know-how to encourage people from different backgrounds and create an environment for diverse people to succeed
  • developing their change skills to ensure they are critical role models, active allies and agents of change able to: 
    • transform organisational strategy into practical and highly relevant local actions
    • support their teams through personal transitions often associated with organisation change 

So, the focus needs to be on developing these type of Change Management skills in your middle managers.

And the thing about hope, for me is that it is active and audacious. It is about daring to take a hard look at these realities and choosing to apply resources and time. To create pathways and provide agency for Change.   

We look forward to continuing to support and enable you to plan and deliver these big challenges throughout 2023. And wish you all the best for a successful year.   

Regards 

Audra 

Audra Proctor, CEO Changefirst 

Tags: CEO Viewpoint, Organisational Change

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