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Surviving change


In the current climate of global and economic uncertainty, the stresses and anxieties of individuals within the workplace are often overlooked with dire consequences for business. Julie Heavens, director of Sages and Wise Women explains how to minimise the damage to employees and to the employee relationship.

Companies which are downsizing and restructuring may find it harder to re-group and move forward if they haven’t addressed the fears and concerns of their staff in the process.

While individuals react differently to change, it is well documented that many people suffer bereavement symptoms when colleagues have been made redundant or during periods of major organisational restructuring. The change or bereavement response typically follows three stages – denial, re-adjustment and finally acceptance. It is crucial that companies tackle the anxieties of their employees head-on during this process and communicate effectively with their teams if they want their business to succeed. Failure to do so will result in a fall in productivity, motivation and customer-focus and a potential rise in absenteeism.

It is estimated that at least 10 to15 per cent of staff will be feeling hostile towards a company following major organisational change, while between 70 and 80 per cent will be in ‘wait-and-see’ mode and ineffective without good motivation. This can be detrimental to business in both the short and long term.

Some principles to help businesses through periods of organisational change:

- Prior to and during any form of change, communication is paramount. Rumours will be rife, so make sure you introduce a means of regular communication, such as update meetings, email bulletins or newsletters to build trust and confidence. This communication should contain factual information about future business plans

- Be aware that after any major change there will be a drop in production, effectiveness and efficiency. This period can be shortened, however, with careful leadership. Plan to have more visible leaders to help inspire and motivate the team

- Consider the range of emotions people may be experiencing – guilt, mistrust, bitterness and loss. Listening is key as the ‘just do it’ approach to management will fall on deaf ears

- Encourage teams to regroup by setting clear objectives and goals within reasonable time frames

- Ensure that all employees feel valued and understand their role in the future success of the business

- Recognise and reward successes

- Encourage the more motivated and positive members of the team to act as mentors for others

- Provide realistic timeframes and adequate training to staff who have been given new responsibilities or increased duties

- Arrange Away Days off-site which are centred around team building, new roles, responsibilities and dynamics


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