Change in the workplace can come in many forms. An example of larger change is, for example, when a company is taken over and employees work from a new location, or under a new name. Employees of a company who reorganises its management structure may, whilst their employment remains with the same company, experience lots of changes in their daily working life. Even bringing in one new manager into a team to replace the previous long standing manager can present an upheaval for some people.
Reactions to change will vary greatly between employees and so employers must prepare themselves for a wide range of responses from employees. Sometimes, it can be those employees who employers would perceive as those to deal with change best who actually present the largest problem.
In some circumstances, change in the workplace must be done within legal parameters and so there are two aspects to managing change: the legal obligations and the ‘people’ part.
For example, a redundancy situation can mean significant change for employees. This process is very often an emotional one for employees, especially when the decision involves selecting employees who will lose their job while others will keep theirs. The legal position means that certain processes need to be put in place in order to avoid claims of unfair dismissal or discrimination, however, including a period of consultation.
The key with managing any kind of change is communication. Honesty is paramount to gaining your employees’ trust. The truth is the best option even if it may not be good news. A team of people should be chosen to be the ones who will spearhead the discussion with employees and to whom they can go with any queries. This team should keep in regular contact to ensure a consistent message is given to employees.
Although there are parts of consultation content which are guided by the law, it is important to consider the emotional side too. Employees going through a redundancy selection process will not know whether they will have a job or not and this can be extremely unsettling. Consider the wellbeing of employees during this time and get them constructive help where this may be necessary. Employee Assistance Programmes can be very useful in this situation by giving employees an impartial confidential method of talking through the personal side of change.
Reassurance, empathy and clear direction are vital elements of managing change. Although it may be easier to hide behind a steely corporate image when difficult change is happening, it may not lead to retaining loyalty and engagement from employees once the change has bedded in.