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Simon North

Position Ignition


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The art of change management

When an organisation has to effect fundamental change, it usually implements it from top to bottom.
Typically back room operations as well as the products and/or services that it offers will all be affected.
As a result, a 360 degree investigation and feedback process can be a good place from which to start.
The investigation should be conducted at all levels of the business and feedback gathered from members of the executive committee, non-executive directors as well as managers and staff from each department.
This process, which is sometimes known as ‘multi-rater feedback’, ‘multi-source feedback’ or ‘multi-source assessment’, is useful to build up a picture of how individuals view themselves, their colleagues and their managers.
It will also help to clarify where they see the company being now and where they believe it should be going in future.
The aim is to provide the organisation with a complete 360 degree view of itself and where it wants to go – and there is much high quality feedback software on the market to help.
Hard questions
After building this multi-layered, comprehensive picture of how things stand today and what requires changing, meanwhile, it becomes possible to start focusing on the individual decisions that will need to be taken.
This requires HR directors to start asking hard questions of themselves and the organisation. Such questions include:
  • Should the company start outsourcing more work and/or downsizing some of its traditional business activity?
  • What would the likely impact on the workforce be in terms of productivity, motivation and compensation packages if you outsourced some personnel, made others redundant and the like?
  • What do you need to take into consideration when reviewing the organisation’s rewards and benefits structure?
  • Is the recruitment process fit-for-purpose?
  • Do you have the correct policies, processes and procedures in place to minimise employment tribunal claims?
The answers to these questions will vary from business to business, but when discussing them with other decision-makers, HR directors should bear a couple of points in mind.
If they actively evaluate the number of people that they employ in different job categories across the company, they may well discover that staff numbers are likely to fall over the coming years – unless the firm is in major growth mode.
In order to boost profitability, it may be necessary to reduce labour costs as they tend to form the single biggest chunk of operational expenditure. The cost of everything from energy to raw materials is rising and the only feasible way to deal with the situation could be to cut headcount.
If so, you will need to enter into a formal redundancy process that follows the correct legal procedures. This approach will cost money and take time, however, so such considerations should be factored into your decision-making process.
An alternative, or even complementary, option though is to move new hires onto more ‘flexible’ employment contracts based on short-term or part-time working.
Managing reactions
In fact, it seems likely that this kind of approach, in which temps and contractors operate in conjunction with a small central core of permanent staff, will increasingly become the norm in future. In this scenario, workers on six-month contracts might be paid a 20% premium if they completed their full term of employment, for example.
But such a shift would undoubtedly require a fundamental change in policy towards renumeration and benefits, with employers needing to come up with innovative new ways to recognise and reward casual, if regular, workers in order to ensure engagement.
Ultimately, however, the idea is that change management is not simply about managing the act of change itself, but managing the reaction of individuals to that change too.
If you ask two different people for their definition of ‘change management’, they’ll give you two different answers. But in reality, it boils down to one thing – managing employee reactions to something that wasn’t there yesterday.
And communicating with people openly, honestly and transparently to let them know what’s going on and how it will impact them is crucial to getting the process right.
So, in a nutshell, handling change management effectively comes down to three core factors:
  1. Establish what needs to change and why by introducing a multi-layered feedback process
  2. Devise a people strategy based on these business imperatives
  3. Communicate clearly and honestly with staff about what form change will take and how it will affect them.

If you follow these steps, you won’t end up going too far wrong – I promise. 

Simon North is founder of career consultancy, Position Ignition.

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Simon North


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