Change is work's great constant

By Val Leveson

Remaining positive during restructuring is always a good idea.

As one door closes, another could be opening to a more optimistic future. Photo / Getty Images
As one door closes, another could be opening to a more optimistic future. Photo / Getty Images

We all know change is a constant in the business world and companies going through transformations have become more the norm so it's not a surprise to find such change can be challenging for employees and result in a loss of morale within the organisation.

Specialist recruitment company Robert Walters recently did a survey of more than 300 white-collar professionals to get an idea of how change and the way it was being managed affected their careers.

Robert Walters Auckland director James Dalrymple said the most interesting finding was that 65 per cent of the respondents felt the transformational activities in their company were not managed effectively. The most common complaint involved a lack of communication.

"Employees appreciate they can't always be made aware of the finer details of the transformation - but 65 per cent think communication can and should be better than it is. Lack of communication definitely affects the morale and the culture of the organisation," Dalrymple says.

Some of the other findings were:

80 per cent of respondents felt the fact that their organisation had brought in contractors to help with the transformation had helped. This was particularly so in cases where redundancies had created a heavy workload for the people who stayed.

76 per cent of respondents felt morale had decreased through the transition.

71 per cent said the transformation had resulted in an increase in workload.

Dalrymple says it's good to note that company transition is not always about reducing the head count.

"Change is inevitable and can actually open up new opportunities for people who are adaptable and flexible, but it can be confronting and upsetting for those who are not."

His advice to organisations is to put robust communication strategies in place and keep employees as up to date as possible.

"Transformation can take six months - that's a long time for employees to be unsure if they have a job or not." And they're more likely to stick around if they have an idea of what's going on.

"A major part of restructuring is due to the introduction of new technology - and this is why it will continue," he says.

Dalrymple's advice to employees is: "See transformation as a challenge and as a way to broaden your expertise. I have seen many instances of people being promoted during transformations or being moved into an area more suited to them. Transformation isn't always a bad thing."

He suggests employees communicate clearly too. "Ask your employers what is happening and get clarity when you can. Is your role going to be made redundant, should you be seeking employment elsewhere? If so, start talking to people in recruitment and get help when needed."

HR consultant John Butters, of John Butters and Associates, says transformation can bring up feelings of grief. "Most of us get quite attached to our jobs and the way we do things and often describe ourselves in terms of what we do or who we work for. So when there is change at work it can affect our identity and who we are.

"The sense of grief and loss can be profound - we don't necessarily show it to our employer but productivity is almost always affected in some way."

Butters says plenty of change is going on in businesses because of technical upgrading, decline in revenue, or the drive to be more effective and efficient "just in case".

"Change can be essential if an organisation is to grow and stay competitive."

Sean Brunner, the director of Robert Walters' Wellington office, says: "Organisations that manage change effectively will realise the benefits of those changes a lot more quickly and, hopefully, return to business as usual."

His message to employees is to embrace change. "Move with the times and continue to upskill - talk to your managers about what you need to do to improve or stay relevant.

"If there is a possibility that you may benefit from change and pick up extra responsibility, then make sure you are in a position that you know what your organisation is looking for.

"Don't take it personally and don't dwell on it if you are restructured. People can sense desperation and if you find yourself in the job market looking for a new role take a positive, constructive view of what has happened.

"Always speak respectfully of your previous organisation, be realistic about the current state of the economy and where you can find success. It's important to be optimistic about the future."

- NZ Herald

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