Creating the change...
1. Recognition and preparation
Breaking the news is the critical first step and HR must be fully engaged with their leadership’s plans for initiating the process. For instance, is the announcement to be made individually or at a group meeting? It’s also important to anticipate that employees’ reactions are likely to vary – and be ready to respond to them. Good preparation, underpinned by clear, consistent communication, will stand a business in good stead and help to avoid an information vacuum where speculation or panic can spiral out of control.
Once the initial announcement has been made, the next key step is to help employees gain a sense of control of their situation. This will help them to come to terms with the change. When explaining the need for change, it is important to try to avoid uncertainty by clearly setting out what it means and how it will affect people throughout the organisation and customers/key stakeholders alike. Making this clear for each individual will help them to fully understand the situation and, in turn, begin to accept, adapt and respond in a positive way.
In times of change, employees value the counsel of those they trust and it is therefore important for HR professionals to do their utmost to maintain employees’ trust at this time. This should include making themselves available for confidential discussions to provide employees with the information they need to gain control of their situation and begin to address any issues they may be facing. Employee assistance programmes can be employed to good effect at such a time to provide confidential, professional counselling to support employees and help them to deal with the pressures they’re experiencing.
4. Encourage resilience
Resilience is a desirable quality for any workforce and should, ideally, be championed by HR as a matter of course – for example, by introducing awareness raising programmes that bolster wellbeing and confidence – and not just during times of change. Resilient people are generally optimistic, sociable and seem to have an inner strength that enables them to cope more effectively with life’s challenges.
Being the great communicator, HR’s role during a time of change should also include fostering awareness and understanding of employers’ and employees’ respective needs. Achieving an acceptable resolution of competing interests is never simple and may not be wholly practicable but it’s important to remember that mutual awareness and understanding can go a long way to maintaining goodwill and morale and help to ensure the process is managed effectively.
Change, however large or small, has the potential to disrupt any business. People accept and embrace it at different speeds so patience – and clear, consistent communication – are key to maintaining morale and momentum at what, for many, will be a difficult time. By being attentive to the needs of all stakeholders, HR is well placed to manage it effectively. Remember, change is inevitable – but an unsuccessful outcome is not.