Dr Mathew Donald: Managing employees through times of change

The business environment is full of ongoing change, characterised by uncertainty and risk. Employers may be wondering what will happen if Brexit occurs or not, or be concerned about latest trade wars; it is clear that disruption is not reducing.

My paper, Resistance to change forms and effects in Greater Western Sydney: A multi-dimensional approach, published in 2017, found that leadership and management may be key factors in implementing change.

Many influential academics now believe that change should be researched in a multi-faceted way. If they are correct, then there is no simple panacea. Managers may simply need to have broad skills in order to implement change.

One may well wonder how staff will cope with the ongoing change they face today, especially if they cannot predict or control it themselves. Staff stress may occur if they face ongoing uncertainty, especially if they are not prepared or briefed on the broader context.

Rather than explain one change at a time, managers would be better advised to explain that the new environment is one of unpredictable, constant change, informing employees that abrupt shifts in direction are likely. Management trust will still be required, so leaders should prepare and engage staff, despite the uncertainty or any lack of information.

Old style managers, preferring to make decisions in isolation, may find the transition difficult. Modern managers will need excellent skills as partners, communicators, listeners and negotiators, in order to influence staff and other stakeholders.

In order to be fully engaged in disruption, staff and customers may need to be considered as management confidants or partners, rather than being left outside of the decision-making circle.

Dr Mathew Donald, PHD, is a fellow at accounting body CPA Australia and a member of the Australian Institute of Project Management