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How to... successfully embed change

With many change initiatives failing to achieve their objectives and the government set to step up the pace of change in the public sector even further, employees are now at risk of becoming resistant to change.

To ensure your business transformation initiative doesnt become undermined by falling morale, lost productivity or industrial action, follow these steps.

1 Set clear people, as well as business, objectives

Most organisations assume that once the business objectives have been met, the project is a success. The reality is that, in order to create long-term sustainable benefits, measurable objectives for both the business and employees must be set from the outset. Rather than, say, merely planning to merge two departments, the objective must be to do so in a way that actually enhances productivity and engagement levels. This requires properly thinking through any restructuring activity and redefining roles in a way that genuinely eliminates wastage.

2 Engage unions from outset

Clearly communicate the business case for change and invite union representatives to help create the solution, rather than simply telling them how employees working terms and conditions will have to change. Enlist the unions support in creating clear people objectives for the change, such as securing funded support to help individuals facing redundancy find new employment. Train union representatives to help them explain the need for change and deal with any emotional reactions or concerns from employees.

3 Help staff embrace change

Employees have to be helped to embrace change. At the most fundamental level, this is about helping them to redefine their value in terms of the skills and experience they can bring to the organisation, rather than their role or the particular part of the organisation they work for. The employee who describes themselves as doing role A at desk B, will naturally come unstuck should they be relocated or have their job description changed. The employee who defines themselves as a great communicator or craft worker will feel much more inclined to embrace opportunities to apply these skills in new ways as required.

4 Listen to employees

If your organisation is struggling to realise the value of a change initiative, the chances are that management considered it a success before it was fully embedded. To ensure survivors resentment doesnt result in staff turnover or diminished productivity, give staff a chance to vent frustrations. Listen to their concerns and think creatively about how to act on them.

5 Support managers

Dont assume that managers who were effective before will automatically have the leadership skills required to deliver the change initiative, build new teams and maintain morale. Career transition coaching costs less than 25 per cent of the cost of replacing a disillusioned manager and will help managers to meet the new demands placed upon them. Ensure any coaching provided doesnt amount to an esoteric exercise, but is instead closely linked to the needs of the organisation.

6 Support those who leave

For those employees that feel they have no part to play in the changed organisation, providing career transition support to help them identify other employers and roles where they can add value will ensure they feel supported in moving on, protect the companys reputation and prevent them from become unproductive or disruptive.

Key points

- Set measurable people objectives from the outset.
- Invite union representatives to help create the solution.
- Help employees redefine their value in terms of their skills.
- Give employees an opportunity to vent their frustrations.
- Dont assume managers will be effective without support.
- Help staff who want to leave to move on.