ANY substantial organisational change, such as restructuring, mergers, or acquisitions, that is not well managed can produce a steep decline in employee morale, productivity and commitment.

When situations are not well-defined or seem chaotic, which is typically the case for employees when organisations introduce significant change, people tend to respond by turning inward and becoming preoccupied with their own needs. The effects of this preoccupation can have a significant impact on your organisation’s bottom line.

The challenge for senior managers during organisational change is to keep the decline in morale, productivity and commitment to a minimum. To do this, there are several issues that must be considered.

Communication

Clear, frequent, accurate and timely communication is critical to ensure a successful organisational change. All too often, the ability to maintain employee morale and productivity is undermined by poor communication or miscommunication.

Eventually the “gossip-chain” kicks in, and this can have disastrous effects on productivity and commitment from employees.

Like an effective advertising campaign, organisational communication efforts require simple, consistent messages that are communicated repeatedly.

A well-conceived communication programme goes a long way in easing the trauma associated with change, and in helping the company to achieve its goals.

Feedback

Few managers actually understand how change works. This lack of understanding often creates misperceptions associated with change, such as:

* Change is rapid;

* Survivors are thankful for their jobs;

* People who do not get on board quickly are “wrong”;

* People who seem “okay” are “okay”;

* Employees accept management communication at face value;

* By communicating the right way, management need only communicate once;

* During change, the behaviour of senior management is invisible to the rest of the organisation, and;

* People interpret the pressures and reasons for change rationally.

For employees affected by change, perception equals reality. It is not what is done or intended that matters, it is what people believe was done or intended.

It is important to develop a feedback system and standards to measure the success of transition, not only through the eyes of management, but also through the eyes of your employees.

Attitude

Organisations, whatever their size, industry or experience, generally have (or should have) strategies for accomplishing specific business objectives. The focus should be around four key areas:

* Products and services;

* Finance;

* Operations; and

* People.

These four strategies need to be balanced and work in harmony for a business to thrive. If personnel strategies in your organisation aren’t in place, the remaining three key areas fail.

Whether your organisation is experiencing growth or strategic restructuring — or anything in between — you need people to make it happen. You need the right people, in the right places, doing the right things.

For businesses to succeed and maximise productivity, it is critical that the skills, motivations and goals of individual employees are aligned with the business needs of the organisation.

There is considerable evidence to demonstrate that employees’ attitudes are directly linked to business results.

For instance, a survey of the relationship between employee attitudes and company results found that four attitudes correlate positively with profits:

* Workers feel that they are given the opportunity to do what they do best every day;

* They believe their opinions count;

* They sense that their co-workers are committed to quality; and

* They have made a direct connection between work and the company’s mission.

In preparing for change, organisations need to ask: Is this the case with our organisation? Is our investment in our people an appreciating asset? How can we ensure we get the most out of our people resources?

Mindset

The traditional employer/employee relationship — where people expected their employers to control and direct their careers — no longer applies. This has a far-reaching impact on employees’ roles.

While most employees probably acknowledge that their jobs are no longer secure, many feel betrayed by their employers. They seek job security and are uncertain about their value and the application of their skills.

Organisations need to help employees develop a mindset that enables them to remain flexible and responsive to the developing needs of business and the market.

In the current economic and competitive reality, the employee gives up any claim, real or assumed, to lifetime or even long-term employment.

If conditions or strategic directions change, the employee accepts the possibility that his services may no longer be required.

In return, the organisation agrees to support, assist, and encourage employees to perfect and maintain their “employability” throughout their tenure with the organisation.

As change continues unabated, organisations are beginning to understand the importance of preparing for change and developing clear change strategies.

The outcome is that these organisations can expect employee morale to be maintained throughout the change process, and are guaranteed improved profitability as a result.