Successful business change starts with engaged, supported and informed employees

As we continue our path out of lockdown, UK employers are facing very different challenges, which will inevitably result in some form of business change. Predominately these ‘drivers’ can be categorised as review and restructure and accelerated growth. Whilst these ‘drivers of business change’ are very different in their nature, the need to support, develop and engage employees across the organisation will be similar.

Review and restructure

For many organisations, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has seen and will continue to see a a ‘root and branch’ review of the organisation and its activities, combined with continued restructuring, uncertainty and, unsurprisingly, further change and redundancies.

Some sectors have been disproportionately impacted when compared to others and are unlikely ever to ‘get back to normal’. Too much has changed and the resultant ‘workarounds’ have changed the landscape for good. Whether that be a decline in high-street retail outlets, the likely reduction in business travel as companies successfully embraced virtual meetings or an accelerating adoption of digital banking at the expense of the traditional high street branch model.

Organisations operating in these environments have had to quickly reassess how they work as well as challenging their fundamental processes and procedures. For many the necessary change will have been too rapid and will result in cessation of activity – quite simply they will be unable to reinvent themselves quickly and will find that shutters drawn down in March 2020 will stay down.. For others the emergent future will take time to stabilise, however, as a result of a good product or service, demand will have be maintained and, through careful stewardship, successes will emerge.

Accelerating growth through M&A

In stark contrast, organisations that have been able to successfully weather the last 12 months due to strong performances through lockdown or a rapid ‘bounce-back’ alongside the easing of restrictions, are finding that significant new opportunities are emerging. With some organisations making record profits, dividends are back and the case, and appetite, for further investment is strong.

Merger and acquisition activity has been at near record levels in some sectors since the later part of 2020 and shows little sign of slowing up in 2021. Indeed, research by EY shows that 57% of UK executives stated an intent to pursue M&A over the coming 12 months with 65% focusing on international activity (EY – 2021) – that’s a lot of potential change coming down the track.

Different drivers, familiar people challenges

Despite the drivers for organisational change being driven from two contrasting standpoints – the impact on employees within organisations is likely to be similar. Uncertainty, change fatigue, an impact on resilience and a focus on the change itself as opposed to the employees role are common themes that emerge with any change. Unsurprisingly, organisation that fail to consider the personal impact of change frequently record large dips in productivity – something no business can afford, especially now. And coming so hard on the heels of the gradual return to work and the level of misgiving that many are feeling, these problems are easily compounded. This is where the leaders need to step in and use the power of story telling; outlining their vision for the future and engaging employees around it

As has been well documented, , the success or failure of any business change, regardless of the driver, is down to people; how they are led, managed, supported and engaged. Get it right and new organisations will evolve, with a workforce emboldened with a new sense of purpose, clear in their objectives and eager to build on the successes of the past.

Helping people Manage Uncertainty, supporting line-managers to Lead through Changing Times; helping maximise the potential of individuals through focused Coaching or Mentoring activity can both pay dividends and can dispel many of the myths and internally focused concerns that people will have. Upskilling individuals through training, and internal Career Development can address issues associated with a lack of clarity around personal career planning. And providing effective Outplacement support should there be a need to reduce overall numbers of job roles as the organisation adapts to its new structure,

Time, effort and resources spent getting individual employees to understand the vision, deal with the uncertainty that change causes and focus with confidence, engagement and enthusiasm on the real tasks that will lead to future success, should be at the top of any leaders agenda as the transformation unfolds.