Managing reaction to constant change

Constant change is now a workplace reality for most organisations, fuelling the need for new products, new working practices, new customers, new processes and new colleagues.

The accelerating pace of change can have a potentially damaging impact on people’s effectiveness. Evidence of this can be seen in mergers and acquisitions when employees from one side "bury their babies" rather than submit them to the new organisation. Usually, change weariness and risk aversion can set in – if the next change is just around the corner, why bother seeing anything through? Change can also result in increased political behaviour as individuals jockey for position in the new regime.

Given that individual behaviours affect organisational performance, there is now a growing recognition that organisations need to increase their capacity to cope with constant change. How do they do this? By creating the right mindset, culture and operating environment.

Several aspects need to be considered, including the following:

Communication People need a sense of purpose and direction – they need to understand and buy into the need for constant change. Developers should work closely with leaders to set and model the organisational values and they use communications and training to embed a customer-focused approach.

Recognition People need to sense that their labours are recognised. Organisations should set clear milestones and celebrate successes to help revitalise people.

Stability Not everything will need to change. Managers need to stabilise what does not need to change and inform people that what’s working well will be left alone.

Learning Developers need to map the ways in which people can develop across the organisation. Vehicles for capturing that learning should be created, so the organisation can make full use of its talent pool.

Balance HR needs to devote time and energy into making work-life balance policies truly effective. People are fed up with the constant demands of organisations. It is in the organisation’s interests to redress this balance.

Self-management People themselves need to become more self-managing and not see themselves as victims. They need to increase their self-awareness and develop career resilience.

Ergonomics Pay attention to the physical space and conditions. People need to feel good about these aspects of their work if they are to be productive over time.

To develop a positive attitude towards ongoing change, individuals need tangible proof that their work will become more rewarding as a result of the transition.

By Linda Holbeche, Director of research at Roffey Park

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