Change management in tumultuous times: Zoe Cunningham, Managing Director, Softwire
- 4 Min Read
HRD Connect sat down with Zoe Cunningham, Managing Director, Softwire, to explore the challenges and rewards of managing business changes in a tumultuous climate.
In a world of constant change, many businesses struggle to cope with regular transformations in the work landscape. If companies fail to transition well, it can heavily impact culture, engagement, and retention.
To find out more about managing change well within organisations, HRD Connect sat down with Zoe Cunningham, Managing Director, Softwire.
What are the biggest challenges for business leaders who are looking to manage change within their organisation?
Change is difficult because leaders spend a lot of time focusing on optimising their business to make it as good as possible. But once you’ve optimised for one situation, change brings in this curveball that throws everything out the window. Many businesses would like to deal with change by saying ‘let’s just pretend that change isn’t needed’, but that doesn’t work. The key to managing change is expecting that it will exist, and being flexible for any possibility, so if the world changes you can change too.
Can businesses go through too much change management?
It’s possible to have too much change and it’s also common to not change enough. Businesses need to recognise that not all change is good. You don’t want to add more change if there are already multiple projects happening. However, it’s good to highlight where improvements are needed and understand when it would be the best time to improve it.
How important are culture and feedback when managing change?
I believe in inclusive leadership, the belief that the CEO has all the answers is becoming less common. The people who know best about how change is going to affect them are the employees doing the job. As Managing Director, I have an overview of the whole business which is one perspective, although it’s also crucial to look at the whole workforce to hear their perspective about these changes.
Is AI a threat or an opportunity?
Technology allows you to improve and streamline processes, which can make a business more productive and efficient. However, loads of people think that technology is something you can just switch on which isn’t true in business. It’s crucial to manage the process of adoption and organise changes in technology especially before you move onto the next.
What advice would you give to businesses that are struggling with managing a flexible workforce?
If companies are struggling with their flexible workforce then employers need to understand why that is. At Softwire, we don’t have a completely remote workforce because we prefer people to be in the office, the work that we do in technology and engineering require people to come in and interact in person.
There are other reasons why companies may decide to not accommodate flexible working, it could be that people are simply unable to do their job as well from home. Companies need to be realistic about the jobs that can be done well while working flexibly, if you’re in a job that requires you to physically be there, you can’t do it remotely.
There are many benefits for companies who are completely remote, as they don’t have to pay for offices, they get an engaged workforce, and they have the opportunity to employ people who would otherwise be unavailable to them. However, to get to that stage you can’t just rock up to work one day and say “Hey, everyone, new policy, just work from home whenever you want”, it takes time to manage this shift to flexible working, and it’s important when adopting this new policy to ensure that this new working style is applicable for the workforce to do.
Will certain business struggle to change in this new world of work?
For us the change has been very constant, however, we were a new business in the year 2000 and we hit the ground running in terms of change. For businesses that were founded in 1960 – 1980 and had a very established way of working for many years, it would be a shock and a challenge to constantly look for ways to change in this new age of work. Although if you have consistently undertaken change, then you may not struggle as much.
Zoe is an award-winning executive-level technology professional with experience across sales and marketing, delivery and coaching as well as being a sought-after keynote speaker. Since starting work at Softwire in 2000, she has undertaken multiple roles across the business. HRD Connect spoke with Zoe about managing change in an organisation. Zoe is also a member of the Young Presidents’ Organisation. YPO is the largest global network of CEOs, founded on the belief that the world needs better leaders.