David Webb: Make the most of change

Employers should be used to the notion of change by now. Minor change happens constantly, and in organisations, major change seems to come round every few years or so.

David Webb

Yet mention change and often the initial reaction is hostile. We can still be locked into a primeval fear of the unknown.

Many employers recognise the need to manage change effectively to keep staff working at their best. Handling change badly can have a wider, damaging impact on how an employer emerges from the reorganisation.

Key steps in a successful transition firstly include planning well ahead. Some change can be unexpected, but much of it can be foreseen, with preparations made in good time. Successful planning reassures customers, too.

Keeping up to date with legislation is also key, so that any change concerning matters such as contracts of employment, redundancies and takeovers stays on the right side of the law.

Employers must take time to carefully explain proposals for the future to staff, so they understand the need for change. This is part of the process of starting to turn that opening hostility into accepting and welcoming the change.

Organisations also need to listen to staff, because they may have ideas that could aid or improve the way ahead, and make them feel involved.

Managers must demonstrate leadership in presenting a clear and realistic vision of the future, so each employee and team will know where their jobs and objectives fit in.

Finally, employers must remember that it is not just senior managers who have key parts to play.

Line managers are closest to employees, and have the biggest influence on how they perform, behave and view the organisation as an employer. They have an important role in helping to explain the future to their staff in one-to-ones.

David Webb is part of the team at workplace relations organisation Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)