In the current economic climate, businesses are experiencing increasing pressure to make changes to improve productivity and reduce costs as ever tougher market demands are being placed on them. The pressures are causing them to fundamentally rethink how they operate and hence embark on programmes of major change.

However with change can come a drop in organisational performance as people become concerned about what the changes might mean for then personally.  For example, how might their job change, or might they loose their job as a result of the changes taking place.  This can lead to confusion and frustration and de-motivated and disengaged employees.

These issues can be overcome but it requires strong leadership and collaboration between management teams and HR to ensure that a clear vision and common set of goals are in place and communicated to employees. This may also mean ‘changing the mindsets’ of employees as cultural changes may also require behavioural changes.

No matter how clear the imperative for change might be, for it to be successful there are a number of prerequisites that need to be in place.

  • There must be a clear vision for change and everyone must understand what it means for them personally.It needs to answer key questions for employees such has how will my job change?Will I still have a job?
  • Senior managers have to demonstrate their commitment to the change by regularly ‘walking the talk’.
  • Managers and staff must understand what is expected of them and are clear about what they need to deliver personally, for example changes to working practices, improvements in productivity.
  • Managers have the necessary change management skills, capability and confidence to manage the reaction to the change both in themselves and their teams.
  • The way that the performance and development are measured and managed need to be congruent with the changes.
  • Those impacted by the change have an opportunity to be involved in it and can help shape the outcomes within their areas of responsibility.
  • There are regular two way communications.Individuals are listened to and their concerns and expectations are proactively managed.
  • Everyone is encouraged to behave in line with the changes and consequential actions are taken when people don’t.
  • At a personal level, individuals have the personal capacity to implement the changes as well as doing their ‘day job’.
  • The changes needed to existing people and business policies, procedures and measures are know and made clear.

To address these issues, it is vital that the business identifies and plans the key interventions that are needed to ensure the implementation of the planned change is successful.

A key aspect of this that is often overlooked is the ability of managers to lead change and staff to absorb it. Managers and staff need to be given the appropriate training coaching and development to enable them to build and hone their confidence, skills and behaviour to successfully lead and manage change.

Leadership skills are therefore a critical element of any change management development programme. Too frequently, businesses do not put enough onus on leadership training and development and as a consequence executives and managers have found themselves lacking in the necessary skills to guide, manage and motivate their teams during periods of challenging change.  Providing them with the relevant coaching, development and training will enable them to keep staff engaged and mitigate against the risk of a drop in organisational performance.