The IN Group is delighted to sponsor the Change Awards, an annual, global awards programme that honours the best examples of change leadership and innovation. As we count down to the 2024 ceremony on Thursday 25th April, Change Awards founder and leading change manager Margo Waldorf looks at the major trends in change management and how the profession will develop in 2024 and beyond.

The world of change management is more exciting than ever. With an unstable market bringing a diverse spectrum of change, the field is rapidly evolving. As another big year in change management gets into full swing, I reflect on some of the key trends and the impact these will inevitably bring to the discipline itself and to the world of work as a whole.

With many intertwining societal, economic, environmental, geopolitical, and technical factors all at play, the global risk landscape is particularly challenging. Gearing up for an economic slowdown, many organisations are preparing largescale change initiatives and transformations aimed at scaling down, reorganising their business model or improving their technology.

Agility, resilience, and adaptability are critical factors behind those changes, and there’s an increasing pressure to implement a culture of continuous improvement. More and more organisations are investing in fixed change management skills, fixed resources, and internal change management capabilities in a bid to strengthen their organisational agility. It’s encouraging that business leaders are continuing to seek advice from specialists to unlock human potential and, therefore, create positive outcomes for their investments.

The psychological impact of change on employees and, therefore, on their ability to adapt and perform, is a big subject of conversation at all levels of an organisation. However, change itself is everchanging, which means the profession of change management must keep evolving too. As we continue to see new change management trends and directions of travel, I would like to share my predictions for 2024 and beyond.

Emerging technologies: AI and augmented reality vs humans at work

One of the most common trends we’re seeing is an overwhelming focus on largescale technology change initiatives and transformations. With all the possible applications of AI and other emerging technologies not yet fully grasped, enterprises are focusing on enhanced productivity and the commercial benefits it brings. Organisations have high hopes for digitalised business processes that will increase individuals’ efficiency and productivity. Yet, organisations can’t make decisions about technology in silo or impose them on the workforce without consulting them first.

For this reason, it’s hardly surprising that change adoption and employee resilience have become key considerations for leadership. The organisation’s ability to be agile, resolve problems, and continuously adapt to change are once again at the forefront of management thinking, as is ensuring that technology embraces the human aspect of change.

Advocacy for change skills at the leadership levels

Post-pandemic layoffs and the ‘great resignation’ signal that largescale change management programmes are underway. Along with these programmes there’s the danger of change fatigue, whilst the need to sustain successful operations puts additional pressure on the management.

Making sure employees understand the ‘why’ behind the change is not enough, and smart leaders know that they need to be at the forefront of change and create psychological safety for their people. We’re seeing more leaders connect with their employees and become passionate advocates for improvement programmes – and this is reflected in the increase of senior leader nominations for the Change Awards. We will continue to see board-level change management advisory and personal change advocacy plans being developed.

Innovative companies will create change management hubs

In the age of transformation, organisations need to be able to access experienced resource when they need it so they can keep evolving. More organisations are looking for change management expertise at the early stages of portfolio planning. A change management office, or a hub working with the project management office to continuously support organisational performance, is becoming increasingly common. Fixed skills, fixed cost, budgeted fixed resources, and change-enhancing capability help to offset change fatigue whilst delivering organisational agility and employee resilience. We’ll continue to see organisations develop internal change management capabilities, giving them a sustained commercial advantage.

Embracing specialisation in response to growing complexity

As the complexity of change increases, we’re seeing an exciting and natural development within the change management practice itself. Organisations are rarely adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to change management, and practitioners’ own experiences are driving the localised change in line with the programme’s objectives. While there’s a foundational standard that drives the overall change approach, there’s an increasing trend towards more specialised assistance. Organisations are realising that not all change initiatives are created equal, and a dynamic, bespoke strategy is often essential.

Change management is changing, and we’re seeing further specialisms develop within the discipline. Whether it’s a technological transformation, operating model change, cultural shift, M&A activity, or a broader people-centric strategy driven top-down, this move towards specialisation marks a significant and positive trajectory for the discipline.

The evolution of change management: closing the gap to chartered status

As change management continues to gain momentum and we see greater uptake across all sectors, we could see it become formalised with a chartered status. As it continues evolve and become more mature as a profession, how will change management professionals collectively shape the narrative to steer it towards chartered status? This presents a unique opportunity for unity within the profession and it should not be overlooked.

Conclusion: change management is coming of age

Change management will always face its share of internal and external challenges. Digitalisation and the need for continuous organisational agility are pushing the boundaries of the change approach and testing the skills of change management professionals. As for the trends – these continue to evolve along with the nature and complexity of the business environment. The future is bright, for this critical discipline is here to stay as organisations look to implement strategic initiatives successfully. Welcome to the age of strategic partnership between the organisation and its employees.

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