The past 1.5 years has been super challenging for most organisations. The constant stop and start interruptions of Covid has taken a toll on most employees. One minute we are going back to work the next minute we are not. One minute we have Covid cases under control, the next minute infection rates are out of control.
However, corporate initiatives are not in any way slowed down by Covid. If anything there is more organisational change resulting from Covid. Covid has not only resulted in ways of working changes, but also deep industry, economy, consumer and technology changes.
Now that most economies are starting to come out of lockdowns and opening up, what does this mean for initiatives? Well, amidst the atmosphere of the emotional and psycho-social turmoil that has been the journey for most employees as a result of COVID, the most important change approach can be summarised by one word ….
Why is it important to incorporate a sense of optimism within every change initiative?
After more than a year of being isolated and experiencing the various disruptions of not being able to have a normal life of shopping, visiting friends and travelling, we need to acknowledge and reset the mood. How we approach work is indeed affected by the overall mood around us. Resetting the mood and instilling a sense of positivity and optimism is absolutely critical.
Without optimism, employees may still be harbouring the lingering mood of dealing with Covid. Negativity will never help to transition people during the change process. It is hope and optimism that will carry energy and excitement which will then drive action.
Think of the last time you were feeling down and weary. What were some of your behaviours? Typical behaviours when you’re feeling down in the dumps include not connecting with family and friends, being socially withdrawn, disruptions in sleep, being less physically active, etc. You were also more likely to think negatively, such as “things won’t get better”, “there’s no point trying”, “might as well not try”. These are definitely not the thoughts and behaviours that will help people transition during the change process.
So how do we instil a sense of optimism within our change initiatives?
1. Celebrate the ‘return to normal’ (whatever normal looks like!). As companies start to gradually have employees return to work, initiatives must also support this by creating a sense of excitement and positivity. Think of approaches such as:
- Uplifting speeches by leaders
- Gift objects such as cupcakes and drinks as a part of the celebration theme
- Online events promoting positive discussions and sharing
- Social events fostering activity and excitement
2. Highlight new ideas and approaches to the initiative. To demonstrate that things are no longer just ‘ho-hum’ as was the case during Covid, adopt new engagement and communication approaches to liven up the initiative. Even better, ask impacted stakeholders to come up with bright ideas of how to generate a renewed sense of optimism
3. Leverage the power of communication to impart excitement and positivity. Incorporate bright and colourful images, quotes and graphic themes to instil positive energy.
4. Display consistent behaviour. There is nothing worse than having positive themes throughout, only to have initiative leads speak with monotone voice supplemented by lethargic behaviour. We are social animals. We can ‘smell’ low energy. You may need to proactive coach your leaders to ensure that they are displaying the right behaviours across all modalities …. The tone of voice, gestures, responses, reactions, etc. All aspects of behaviour can impart mood. And your job is to design and shape them to be one that is more positive.