Employee influencers should be tapped to initiate online conversation around change efforts too, leveraging positive peer pressure to bring colleagues on board and creating a sense of virtual community around the initiative.

Embrace a “test-and-learn” approach.

Recent events have confirmed what many change leaders already knew — though your change vision is critical to driving alignment and buy-in, that picture will seldom stay the same from the start of a change project to its finish. 

Even projects on short timelines, like the ones many companies undertook to roll out collaboration technologies in the spring, will need to respond to ongoing volatility internally and externally.

Against this reality, change managers will need to:

  • Establish ongoing listening mechanisms that allow them to keep a pulse on employee and stakeholder sentiment.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in the process, and modify change initiatives, or even the change vision itself, to ensure the work continues to be relevant and will deliver value.
  • Lean more into the art of change management than the science, making determinations in the moment about which steps and tools are needed and which aren’t likely to add value that surpasses the lost value of delays.
  • Adopt agile practices, such as daily stand-ups, that enable continuous coordination and evaluation of new variables as they surface.
  • Use “fast-turn” and informal communications channels to update employees on strategy and what is needed from them.
  • Leverage “sprints” that result in minimally viable change management resources that can be tested and evolved for continued relevance.

The fact that many companies are bringing employees back to work in phases allows for the agile iteration and continuous learning. They should take advantage by piloting change tools and processes on early returners and improving them with each subsequent wave.

Shift from long-term to short-term accountability.

The virtues of the shift from annual performance reviews to frequent check-ins should be apparent to leaders looking to drive rapid behavior change. More frequent feedback enables real-time coaching and allows managers to place the emphasis on what is most needed from the employee in that moment. Managers should focus on behaviors that will be critical for the future of work and will support change objectives, such as working successfully on a hybrid team, supporting coworker inclusion, practicing compassion and empathy and, yes, becoming more agile.

Reward programs can also help drive swift behavior change. Retailers instituted hazard and overtime pay to support their change efforts at the onset of Covid-19, and many of their employees rose to the occasion, taking on tough assignments to keep the business humming. Non-financial rewards play an even larger role in more challenging economic times. Korn Ferry research indicates that these non-financial rewards (e.g., meaningful work, career development, training, recognition) are more instrumental in talent engagement and retention than base pay and variable pay programs.

While anyone who tells you there is a way to achieve change management objectives overnight would be lying, there are ways to accelerate change in an increasingly fast-paced and uncertain world. Indeed, many of the world’s most admired companies have figured it out. According to Korn Ferry research, they are more likely than their peers to anticipate change, to consistently capture the next opportunity, to quickly fill people capability gaps and to quickly deploy teams to solve the challenge at hand.

Formal adoption of agile may or may not be right for your organization but now is the time to consider how to make change management work faster and harder. If we know anything for certain in this moment, it’s that more change is coming.