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8 Ways to Make Your SME More Change-ready

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change” 

– Charles Darwin

In the past year, we have seen unprecedented changes in social, political and organisational realms. From Brexit to the rise of the Trump presidency, and the ransomware attacks that hit companies around the world, unpredicted events have the power to disrupt and derail the current state of being and doing, and have devastating consequences for those unequipped to handle it.

Change, however, is a constant in organisations, even in small-to-medium enterprises. It doesn’t have to be on the political or global level to be disruptive to your company; it can be as simple as a shift in processes or an unexpected staff turnover. Small events can have big consequences for the way you do things in your organisation.

We can view change and the impact of change as a positive force or a negative force – it all depends on how we react to it. If your company has a change-culture, it’ll be ahead of the pack and ready to react quickly and competently. Like a shark, keep moving, or face the consequences. Here are some ways to grow a change-culture in your organisation.

1. Be Proactive, not Reactive.

If you have to spend time rallying the troops and holding meeting after meeting to discuss a major disruption, your company is already dying. Instead, have plans in place about how you deal with disruptive changes.

Most of these can be gathered under the traditional headings of Operations, Products, HR and Marketing. Having mechanisms in place will future-proof your company. For example – what if a key person on your team is leaving? Succession-planning can be done in advance to ensure a smooth transition. A product has started to fail unexpectedly? A team can be put in place before any product launches to keep track of the situation, and have up-to-date theories and figures about what happened.

Change will happen: whether you like it or not, plan for it or not. Preparing individuals and organisations for changes is vital. List out all the changes you can foresee happening, and discuss with your team about how you’ll address them. You can’t plan for everything, but at least you’ll be ahead of the curve.

2. Numbers, Dates and Figures are Always Suggestions.

Change isn’t always an external force – it can sometimes come from within the company – for example, if a senior figure decides a new course of action, or decides to continue the same course of action for longer than expected, which requires managing others through workplace changes. Trust their experience, and allow them the free rein to make these changes. One way of doing this is to make numerical targets soft.

For example, if a new product is selling well as a result of a marketing blitz, it might be helpful to draw the campaign out to its natural end, rather than a predetermined end-date. An employee whose role has suddenly expanded as a result of their initiative should be rewarded with a longer contract. Making employees aware that numbers, dates and figures are always a suggestion, rather than a hard fact, minimises their resistance, encourages an on-your-toes culture in the organisation, and can help your company practice handling continual change.

3. Have the Funds Ready.

That being said, change isn’t cheap. If you decide to keep that marketing campaign going longer than expected, or wish to hire a new employee to care of an unexpected issue, you better have the money to do so.

The existence of a contingency fund – kept specifically to manage, promote, and allow change – not only will allow more change to happen, but will act as a reminder to everyone in the organisation that the impact of change is a way of life.

4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

Much of the emotional difficulties that come from change arise from a lack of knowledge, uncertainty about responsibilities, and stress over an unknown future. Constant communication back and forth will ensure that everyone knows what their role is, what the current priority is, and what the plan for the future looks like, and consequently help when dealing with resistance.

The task of communication isn’t just on the leader, however; communication is the key to great teamwork throughout a company. To allow change to happen (and to stick), encourage your staff or your team members to keep everyone in the loop.

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5. Remember That Everybody is a Stakeholder

It may not be the ground-level staff that is making the changes happen, but they’ll be affected by it as much (and sometimes more) than everyone else. Keep this in mind when planning and executing change, as it will also help with getting buy-in.

Town-hall meetings, anonymous suggestion boxes, and employee networks are relatively inexpensive mechanisms to ensure that everyone’s voice can be heard. Ask for opinions and suggestions about changes that are going on in your company, act on them (or explain why you decided not to), and reward those that contribute a lot, which will encourage increased confidence and motivation among employees.

6. Change can be Personal; Help your Employees.

Change and the disruption that it brings can be damaging to the organisation if it’s not prepared. On top of that, however, the employees who make up that organisation can also face personal difficulties when confronted with change. Changes in roles, tasks and team structure have emotional consequences, can lead to stress, burnout and increased turnover, and can stop the company in its tracks.

However, like with the organisation itself, change can either be seen as chaotic and destructive or seen as an opportunity for growth. A new role is a chance to learn new skills and network with new people, and possibly uncover talents you didn’t know you had. A good employer should highlight this, but also give employees a chance to train for their new role – this will reduce anxiety over new responsibilities and tasks.

This doesn’t have to be expensive; a mentoring scheme can work as well in an SME as in a multinational company, building and maintaining good working relationships. Have your employee shadow another who does a similar task, or send them to a training course in the vicinity. By showing your employee that you care about their growth, and by investing in it, you will achieve a much stronger relationship, and a much better employee, as a result.

7. Show why Change is Important for the Organisation and the Employee

If someone is stressed out about the changes affecting them, you need to give them a good reason why it’s needed. Tie the change in with their own objectives, show them the room for personal development that it allows, and give them ownership of it through the suggestions listed above, when managing individuals through challenging change.

Communicate your vision for the future – what will your company look like in five years time? In sharing this vision, you allow your employees to picture themselves and how they themselves will develop in the future and crucially, the company’s role in this.

8. Above all, target incremental change over revolutionary change

The vision of a leader coming in on a white horse and saving the company is a romantic one, if not very realistic. Real change is embedded in the culture of the organisation and affects not only the big picture but also the minuscule processes and choices that are made every day by each member of staff. Incremental change trumps a revolution any day, because each person is in control.

A leader can’t supervise all of this, so encouraging staff to make small incremental changes to their own role where required, and rewarding positive results, will mitigate the need for that white horse.

If you would like to become more effective when dealing with organisational change, you can learn practically by discussing your needs with an Expert Lecturer to respond with creativity and change solutions.

Places on the upcoming Change Management course are limited, so if you would like to attend please get in touch as soon as possible.

(part-funding is available)

Please visit: or call a member of the training team on (UK) 0131 623 1938 or email [email protected]