Change Management

Change is hard. And in a crisis like COVID-19, it gets very complex. We see employees wrestling with personal challenges – from chaotic home working environments to unplanned career transitions. Leaders are faced with keeping their workforce engaged and productive, while keeping the business running and building for the future. As leaders, the key to addressing these challenges is to manage change and communicate with empathy. Organizations that take this approach will enable their people to succeed in the most unpredictable environments and build a stronger united workforce.

One-third of HR leaders say their biggest challenge currently is maintaining employee engagement and trust in leadership.

Our point of view

Maintaining engagement and productivity in this crisis isn't easy. But with a proven approach to communicating change, you can set employees up to succeed and even thrive in the new normal.

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Your questions

Every day, COVID-19 is raising new and complex questions for leaders and organizations to answer. Korn Ferry’s Joe Navarre shares his perspective and advice.

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How we can help you

There’s no such thing as overcommunicating right now. Things are changing rapidly, and leaders need to connect with their employees frequently, candidly, personally, and consistently. We coach and support leaders to build the right capabilities to lead in a crisis. We align them around a clear vision for the future and the actions, values, and behaviors that will enable the organization to succeed. We work with leaders to create an impactful communications plan that ensures effective workforce engagement. From crafting rapid response messages, to using new communication tools, to incorporating real-time feedback into your messaging and approach – we help you communicate to meet the moment.

We work with leaders to create an impactful communications plan that ensures effective workforce engagement.

Communication, by definition, isn’t a one-way street. Employees need to feel comfortable expressing and communicating openly in their workplace to find their voice amid the crisis, which requires a real and accessible channel to express what they think, feel, and experience. To ensure continual workforce productivity, frequent and rapid employee feedback is critical as the organization identify ways to operate efficiently in a crisis. We help organizations to achieve this objective; Korn Ferry Listen is a world-leading employee experience (EX) survey solution. With cutting-edge technology, market-leading research content, and one of the world’s largest normative databases of employee opinion, we enable our clients to survey employees as flexibly and frequently as required and provide real-time data and insights on what employees are thinking.

We enable our clients to survey employees as flexibly and frequently as required and provide real-time data and insights.

We know with effective change management principles you are six-times more likely to achieve success (Prosci Best Practices in Change Management 2018). We work with you to identify the right team to lead the change, map the change journey, and put in place the right supporting tools and networks. We then help you to execute on the plan and develop key messages to reach the right audiences at the right time, while empowering people with skills and behaviors to meet the change. Finally, we support you to track success, refine the plan, and maintain momentum. Whether you’re new to change management or a seasoned transformation leader, we can help you create or adapt your approach to change and build internal change sustainability capabilities.

We work with you to identify the right team to lead the change, map and execute the change journey, track success and maintain momentum.

We work with you take a pulse check on the capability gaps within your workforce and develop a program to effectively address them. We deliver virtual learning experiences that both engage participants and drive behavior change. We have a suite of ready-to-go programs that can be deployed rapidly to meet the immediate needs of your workforce. These include leadership development programs, leading virtual teams, programs to build inclusive behaviors; and skill-based programs such as project management, personal agility, and sales effectiveness. We can also work with you to build bespoke learning experiences to meet your organization’s specific needs.

We have a suite of ready-to-go programs that can be deployed rapidly to meet the immediate needs of your workforce.

While these events are unprecedented, dramatic, and rapid, change is becoming the norm for organizations in every industry. And this crisis will have likely raised questions for many organizations about how equipped they are to deal with change. We enable organizations to build people and organizational capabilities to continuously transform. We develop inclusive cultures that encourage new thinking; we design agile organizations; we find and develop self-disruptive leaders and learning agile employees; and put in place the reward structures to incentivize the right behaviors.

We enable organizations to build people and organizational capabilities to continuously transform.

With risk and uncertainty ahead, organizations need to maximize and quickly unlock the benefits of their most critical initiatives – the ones designed to address the challenges and opportunities brought by this crisis, along with key in-flight initiatives like digital transformation. We work with the leaders of your highest-priority initiatives to articulate a compelling business case and the value each initiative will deliver to the organization. We help leaders align their teams and the organization around what needs to be done, establish effective governance structures, set clear accountability, and manage execution through rigorous tracking and action planning. Additionally, we employ robust change management techniques to drive clarity and commitment throughout the organization.

We help leaders quickly unlock the benefits of the organization’s most critical initiatives.

Deep insights at your fingertips – at all times

In our hands it’s more than just data. We use it to build the DNA of outstanding leaders, effective organizations, high performance cultures and game-changing reward programs. In your hands it can continue to inform smarter decisions backed by more than 4 billion data points, including:
– Over 69 million assessment results
– 8 million employee engagement survey responses
– Rewards data for 20 million employees across 25,000 organizations and 150+ countries

Our thinking

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Change management is critical during the coronavirus crisis

The unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic requires organizations to pivot on a dime. The coronavirus has forced many employees to move their office into their homes and learn new ways to manage their work amid a host of other personal responsibilities: providing childcare, educating their kids, and maintaining their family’s safety and health while social distancing policies change their access to support systems. It’s a combination that contributes to anxiety, for workers and employers alike.

For organizations without a crisis management plan or change management processes in place, having to implement all of these sudden changes exacerbates a precarious situation. But all is not lost; organizations can find ways to maintain employee engagement and sustain productivity in the new normal.

To drive employee engagement, organizations should first focus on the health and safety of their employees

An organization’s most valuable resource is its people. Before planning any change management during the coronavirus crisis, organizations must first ensure that they have taken steps to protect their employees from physical harm, if they are still in the workplace, and to support employees who are working remotely with appropriate technical tools and mental and physical health resources.

To improve employee engagement in this stressful time, organizations have to fulfill their end of the bargain by valuing their employees as people and recognizing their needs. When organizations deliver on their promises to employees, employees will feel less anxiety and stress and, in turn, be able to step up and do and deliver more.

A coronavirus crisis management plan requires constant, clear, and candid communication

Overcommunication is a thing of the past: given the pace of change, it’s important that leaders frequently connect with their teams in real time. Authenticity and candor matter: false messages will turn off employees and cause them to disregard what leaders say. And, when leaders say nothing, people fill the vacuum of silence with their own messages, which can cause further harm and disruption.

Leaders must try to reach employees on their level, with emotion and the words that matter to them. The more empathic that leaders are, the more engaged that employees will feel. Give employees details about your organization’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and explain how you expect your strategy to shift. By sharing this information, you’ll build a greater consensus for moving forward together. During this time, organizations can also leverage tools like Korn Ferry Listen, our employee experience survey solution, to poll employees for real-time insights that can inform change management processes.

Korn Ferry can assist leaders who want to communicate an effective coronavirus change management process and vision. We have helped organizations use new digital communication tools, write response messages designed to drive employee engagement, and incorporate feedback to their crisis management plan into their approach.

Two-way communication is essential to managing change in the coronavirus outbreak

Communication is one of the keys to successful change management during the coronavirus. The communication must be two-way: use tools that encourage questions and feedback from your employees, so they are motivated to support the company’s strategy and are empowered to act in ways that will help the company recover from the crisis. Employees must feel as if they have a voice: they need a way they can share what they’re thinking, feeling, and experiencing during this crisis.

While some of this communication needs to be done formally, it’s more likely to occur informally, between managers and their direct reports and within smaller groups. These types of informal communications not only serve as an outlet for employees, but they may also generate useful ideas that can help the organization solve problems and move forward. In this way, employees will emerge as key leaders and innovators, becoming part of the talent pipeline that will support the future of the organization.

To foster these informal chats, organizations might consider scheduling informal meetings, such as virtual lunches or happy hours, but we’ve found that it’s better to dial back formal meetings to allow people to interact organically through calls, chats, emails, and texts. Whatever your approach, the key is to make sure employees feel heard and understood, which can improve employee engagement.

Include engaging employees with the right resources in your approach to crisis management

Research has shown that employees are more worried about how they’ll survive the coronavirus pandemic financially than about their health. And employees likely have a ton of questions about their benefits—and the stability of those benefits during the pandemic. Our research has shown that, even in ordinary times, a fifth of employees lack an adequate understanding of their benefits, and that uncertainty has only grown with the rise of the pandemic and the consequent economic downturn.

Be sure to communicate proactively with employees about how your organization can assist them, whether that’s about their options for health care with insurance and personal sick leave or family leave, an employee assistance program, or childcare. The more you share, the less stress there will be on your employees. And providing this type of help will go a long way to improve long-term employee engagement and loyalty as you implement change management during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Consider how technology can facilitate—and hinder—change management during coronavirus

Many of us are connecting through videoconferencing now that we’re out of the office. But, while virtual meetings and happy hours can foster connection and help boost productivity, they can also be annoying when they don’t work. Video connections may lag; wireless bandwidth may be insufficient.

Your organization may be implementing new tools to facilitate working from home, which may require employees to learn new skills. Be aware of these and other potential sources for employee frustration, which can hamper employee engagement.

In addition, set realistic expectations for how technology can help employees get work done and ask for candid feedback on how your digital platforms are functioning. It’s better to hear what’s going wrong than have employees silently—or not-so-silently—complain about their inability to accomplish tasks or workarounds that make their daily tasks even more daunting in an already stressful environment. Not only will hearing the feedback alleviate employee stress, but it will also drive real-time improvement.

Build flexibility into your organization’s crisis management plan for the coronavirus

The ways our organizations operated in the past won’t work right now—and one thing that has changed for many of your employees is the workday. Many people don’t even know where the workday begins and ends—or even what day it currently is—with days bleeding from one into another.

Ensure your crisis management process incorporates the idea that employees need flexibility to manage their workload with their personal obligations. Here are some ways to increase your flexibility as you implement your change management in the coronavirus:

  • Have open conversations with your team about their scheduling needs and how they prefer to manage their time.
  • Try to schedule work in blocks of time, so employees can have a chunk of time to attend to personal matters, if necessary.
  • Consolidate meetings and cancel them if possible; consider whether you can accomplish work as efficiently by other means, whether through a phone call or email.
  • Have employees focus on what’s important and eliminate nonessential tasks, so they can allocate their mental space to their prioritized activities.

With the chaos of the pandemic, giving employees more control over the time allows them to create a semblance of a work-life balance and may also improve their productivity and drive employee engagement. In the process, the organization may also learn time-management practices that yield better results in the future. It will also give the organization clarity on what needs to be done to push vital initiatives to completion and streamline work processes going forward.

Improve the implementation of crisis management plans during coronavirus

We’re all in this crisis together—but each of us is experiencing the crisis differently based on our work, family, geography, and many other variables. Some of us may find the challenges of working differently energizing, while others feel drained by having to balance work and personal demands. The best approach to any change management during the coronavirus is to make no assumptions about how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting your employees.

Acknowledge the differences in employee experiences as you outline your change management processes, so employees feel that you are valuing and treating them as individuals.

Maintain employee engagement by addressing rewards and performance metrics

An essential part of change management during coronavirus is to consider what success looks like—both during and after the crisis. During this challenge is when organizations need the energy and contributions of engaged employees, yet this is likely the most challenging time to offer rewards commensurate with employee effort.

Spend time considering how to show how much you value your people. Nonmonetary recognition may be an option that has a positive impact on morale. Carefully consider any adjustments to your performance plans and reward programs; you’ll likely need to address how you’ll tweak the metrics for performance in light of COVID-19. Once you’ve settled on your crisis management plan, communicate its impact on pay and benefits to eliminate compensation as a source of distraction and restore a sense of fairness.

Use your crisis management plan during the coronavirus to build organizational agility

The COVID-19 pandemic will show your organization how ready you are to handle change and will likely provide the impetus for transformation. To prepare for the new normal, you’ll need change management processes that enable your organization to adapt and develop your people so they can thrive through the recovery.

Korn Ferry can help your organization create change management processes that foster sustainability and growth:

  • We help organizations build new cultures and cultivate new ways of problem-solving and thinking.
  • We find gaps in your workforce and talent pipeline and devise strategies to address them.
  • We identify high potential employees and future leaders and offer courses to develop their skills.
  • We show organizations how to develop reward structures that deepen employee engagement.
  • We facilitate behavior changes and upskilling through virtual learning experiences.

Moving forward with change management after the coronavirus outbreak

The actions that organizations take now, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, will affect their employee engagement, productivity, and profitability for years to come. Organizations that take a formal approach to their crisis management plan, informed by effective change management principles, have the greatest opportunity for success.

Contact us for help protecting your organization and employee engagement now, so you can emerge armed with sustainable change management processes from the coronavirus to enable your organization’s recovery.