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2 PM How to embed Change

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
To ensure your business transformation initiative doesn’t 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 union’s 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
doesn’t 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
Don’t 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 doesn’t
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 company’s 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.
- Don’t assume managers will be effective without support.
- Help staff who want to leave to move on.
Source: People Management July 2010,
http://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/pm/articles/2010/07/how-to-successfully-embedchange.htm, Accessed 26/06/11