In this economic climate, it's not unheard of for organisations to be sold off, retrenching, restructuring, reducing working hours, cutting pay or selling off non-core businesses - anything to keep afloat. In the worst-case scenario, the entire company ceases operations.

Make a change

Change management is a structured approach to moving individuals, teams and organisations from a current to a desired future state. Although the changes may have an outward appearance like new working hours or job scopes, an invisible change process takes place first - in the minds of employees.

If the entire exercise of change is not handled well, dissatisfied employees will form a negative impression of the organisation and will not hesitate to make their feelings widely known. It is crucial for HR to set the stage right and establish a sense of calm and order from the start, and make the transition as smooth as possible.

How to implement change

Although there are many theories on change management, any one particular model may not be perfect for your organisation. You can pick out individual practices and techniques from the various schools of thought and adapt them to suit your needs.

Here are some broad guidelines HR practitioners can use to form a systematic and comprehensive framework to manage change.

Start at the top

All eyes will be on the top guy and his senior management team to lead by example. They must be the first to embrace the new directions, and motivate the rest of the organisation to do likewise. It cannot be seen to have only the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder bearing the brunt of changes while the upper echelons remain unscathed.

Acknowledge the "human side" of change

Decisions made on paper ultimately affect real people and involve their feelings. Employees may feel unhappy and resist changes if they think they are being victimised.

Top management should be open and honest about the facts and the reasons why change is necessary for the survival of the organisation, and is not about penalising any individual.

Make the case formal

Nothing is worse for employee morale than to hear bad news through the grapevine. HR should make a formal announcement about changes that are going to take place, and issue a written statement.

Communicate the message

HR should plan a communication strategy that ensures information is disseminated efficiently and comprehensively to everyone. Not every employee is going to read the memo sent out via e-mail or the sheet of paper pasted on the notice board.

It is best to address staff as a large group at the same time to communicate the issues and set the new direction. Details should be given on what changes are going to take place and how they will be implemented.

Speak to the individual

Give people time to digest the news and an avenue to express their views. Provide support, coaching, counselling or information as appropriate, to help them through the change. If necessary, HR can follow up with any individuals who have concerns on a one-to-one or departmental level.