There is a saying that there are two certainties in life – death and taxes. I would argue that there is a third – change.
No matter how big or small your business is, you will encounter change as part of your business journey. How you deal with or manage this change could really impact your business going forward. An organisation needs to evolve and adapt to stay in business, which means change is unavoidable, whether that is a staff re-structure, acquisition of a new business, or a new shift system being implemented.
Part of the problem is that organisations struggle to keep the motion of change management programmes going. Many focus on information and training, rather than inspiring and motivating teams. But, the more people are consulted when it comes to change, the simpler it is to adopt. It delivers a platform that encourages employee engagement and can lead to retention of staff with key skills and knowledge that will be required as part of the change process.
In fact, consultation with employees is a legal requirement when introducing a change that may impact on the terms and conditions of their employment contract, so failure to do so could result in unnecessary grievances, the loss of key skills or even tribunals.
So, how can you manage change effectively in an organisation?
A change should not be seen in isolation and communicating why a change is needed and how it will be implemented is key. Simply telling employees that something is changing and they must comply won’t work and brings a risk of grievances or claims through the failure to follow a correct process.
Here are some key points to consider when undergoing a change management programme to ensure it is successful:
- Put support in place for employees
- Consider the impact on employees and the business
- Be clear about timescales and keep people informed of these changes
- Create an opportunity for employees to get involved and have a say
- Communicate clearly about the process you are undertaking, do it regularly and ensure nobody is missed out
- Be willing to listen and consider alternatives – who knows… your team may have even better cost effective ideas?
- Deliver on what you promise or explain if you can’t
- Be as open and transparent as possible
Have a clear vision
It is important to have a strong vision and see how it will change your company for the better. You need people to connect with the change at an emotional level and show them what the future will look like once the change has happened, so they can relate to it and get behind it. When change impacts on someone’s role, it is essential to be clear about why the change is needed.
Communication is key
If managed well, any consultation process will not only fulfil legal obligations but can act as a great two-way communication forum leading up to the change and as a follow-up, allowing employers to deliver a smooth transition and evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
As employees go through changes at different paces, you need to ensure your people are supported and communicate with them as much as possible. Make sure communication doesn’t equate to just emails, but a variety of formats, such as newsletters, meetings, events, training and team building sessions, one-to-one talks, and formal consultations with team members if required. Too often, communication is an outbound process and inbound communication can be forgotten. Constructive discussion can trigger significant improvements for everyone and ensure that your employees feel heard and part of this process.
Consider the impact to colleagues
When undergoing major change in a business, there is a good chance that teams will be affected by arrangements made with other colleagues – for example a reduction in hours or someone being transferred to another business as part of a TUPE transfer (the Collective Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2014). Keeping staff informed early on can help raise important matters from teams which employers may not have considered. It can sometimes be difficult balancing between keeping employees informed early on and managing what can be an unsettling time for the team. A structured plan should be put in place following any required legal steps within required timescales, so management are aware of how to deal with any questions that may arise and how to handle potential fall outs.
There is so much more I could say with regards to change management and it is a subject I am hugely passionate about. In my 20+ years in HR, I have helped many private and public sector organisations to tackle change, preparing them for it and guiding them through the required employment legal process whilst keeping the workforce as engaged as possible. When done properly, it can signal a new, exciting chapter for a business with a workforce behind it that feel included and an integral part of shaping their organisation for the future.
If you are about to, or currently undergoing a massive change to your business and would like to gain more understanding about what steps you need to take as an employer to carry out your change lawfully, call me on 07540 543655 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.