In a busy and fast changing world, organisations need to adapt quickly, in order to remain competitive and profitable. And all too often this involves a period of change, which very often can impact directly on the businesses’ employees, causing uneasiness and discord, and in some cases redundancies. 

Change cannot simply be imposed; people and teams need to be empowered to find their own solutions and responses, combined with facilitation and support from managers, as well as tolerance and compassion from owners and leaders. Management and leadership style and behaviour are more important than clever policies and processes. In essence during periods of change, employees need to be able to trust the organisation where they work.

And in all areas of change, leaders must agree and work with these ideas, or change is likely to be very painful, and the best people may be lost in the process. So regardless of whether organisation change is related to new structures, systems, policies, targets, acquisitions, disposals, re-locations, etc., it needs to be explained as early as possible, so that people’s involvement in validating and refining the changes themselves can be obtained.

Remember, employees do not have a responsibility to manage change – the employee’s responsibility is merely to do their best to work with the results of the change. This is different for every person and depends on a wide variety of factors i.e. health, maturity, stability, experience, personality, motivation, etc. No, responsibility for managing change firmly lies with the management and leaders of the organisation – they must manage the change in such a way that employees can easily understand and then cope with it.

Essentially then, managers have a responsibility to facilitate and enable change. They also need to understand the situation from an objective standpoint, i.e. to ‘step back’, and be non-judgemental, and then be able to help people understand reasons, aims, and ways of responding positively according to the employees’ own situations and capabilities. Increasingly the manager’s role is to interpret, communicate and enable – not to instruct and impose, which let’s face it nobody really responds to well.

At the core of any successful business change is the need to remain positive and flexible and to treat it as an on-going business project. This can only be achieved through good planning and preparation, the effective allocation of resources, timely and targeted communications and a general openness throughout the organisation in order to enable everyone affected to have a say and feel involved.

Whenever an organisation imposes new things on people there will be difficulties, both of the small and the large kind. So, participation, involvement and full communication are the important factors to ensure complete success. And there are many ways to help with this including:

  • Workshops. These are very useful in developing collective understanding, approaches, policies, methods, systems, ideas, etc.
  • Staff surveys. These are a helpful way to repair damage and mistrust amongst staff, provided that they are completed anonymously, and that organisations publish and act on the findings.
  • Management training, coaching and counselling and information dissemination. All of these areas are essential in helping to enable, facilitate and deliver the process of change efficiently and effectively and with minimal conflict in organisations. In addition they can help to ensure that people’s expectations are managed realistically and that the results meet expectations.

If you are contemplating an organisational change and want to ensure that you gain the commitment of their people, both during and after implementation, it is advisable to make sure that you have help and support in place before you begin the process. Counselling is often be seen as a way of supporting employees as they try to cope with organisational change as well as bringing values, a sense of acceptance and realisation amongst employees of who they are and what they are capable of in the very dynamics of organisational life. It can also empower the troubled or distressed employees to learn to manage their lives, to take up social or professional responsibilities and also how important decisions can be made and executed.

Employers use counselling into the workplace for various reasons and their use is generally on the increase. Latest research suggests that 76% of employers see counselling as a caring facility; 70% employers think that counselling can help employees deal with workplace change; and 57% of employers take counselling as a way of managing stress. 

Miriam Bannnon, owner and director of All About People Ltd, a well-established private counselling practice in Leamington Spa said. “When people are confronted with the need or opportunity to change, especially when they see it as ‘enforced’, by the organisation, they can become emotional. So can the managers who are trying to manage the change. Diffusing the emotional feelings, taking a step back and encouraging objectivity are important to enabling sensible and constructive dialogue.”

Miriam Bannnon, owner and director of All About People Ltd