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How to implement a successful business change process

Business change can be the innovation that your organisation needs, but change can often spark fear and uncertainty. It’s important to plan how to implement business change carefully in advance so that you comply with the requirements of employment law, as well as communicate the changes to bring your employees with you during the transition. Keeping your employees on-side can be challenging, but without their support the change will be much harder to implement.

‘Business change’ is a broad term, and can cover anything from restructuring to mergers and acquisitions. How senior leaders implement business change is crucial to its success. You will need to consider the process, tools and techniques you will use to manage the people side of the change you are seeking to implement.

Managing a successful change project is reliant on your ability to consider the impact that the change will have on all levels of the organisation.

Below, we’ve outlined some steps you can take to ensure that you manage the change process smoothly and achieve the results you are looking for to benefit your business.

Communication and keeping people informed

As you implement a business change, communicate carefully. Communication needs to be consistent, relevant and timely. All affected areas of the business should understand what is happening, how and why. Making sure that communication is clear and consistent is crucial for people to understand and commit to change.

First, identify the key groups that need to be communicated with about the change and what they need to know. Then consider how best to communicate with individual teams. For example, you may have a warehouse team who don’t use email during their day to day work. An email update is therefore not an effective way to make sure that this team receive the information they need about the change. Varying communication methods tailored to your workforce is a good way to ensure that everyone receives the message.

Employee inclusion when you implement business change

Isolation can lead to resistance. Employee fear is a key driver of change failure. Break down these barriers to make change much easier. Your workforce will appreciate the inclusion.

Include employees from as early a stage as possible to help them process and implement the changes more effectively. If employees feel they are considered when deciding the future of a business, they are more likely to be committed to it.

Involve the board and senior management teams early on, and ensure that they understand the change and the reasons behind it. This will make it easier to persuade the rest of the organisation. Your line managers should be well informed on the new changes, and understand why the change will benefit their teams. If applicable, consider training them on the new changes so that they are able to confidently answer questions from their teams about the proposed changes.

Put employees at ease by holding meetings, having an ‘open-door policy’ for employees to ask questions, and introducing an anonymous question box. As much as is possible, make the whole process transparent, and explain why the changes are taking place.

Inclusion is critical both early on and throughout the change programme in order for success. Communication should be a two way conversation, remember to listen to any queries and provide answers. A regularly updated Q&A document can be really useful to ensure responses to questions are consistent.

The legal guidelines to bear in mind

A common change project that we frequently support our clients with is the variation of employees’ terms and conditions of employment. This could include amending pay terms, hours or location of work, sickness and holiday benefits, and is often due to changing business needs.

It’s important to note that employers have a legal obligation to consult with employees when making changes to their terms and conditions of employment.  For more information on changing terms and conditions of employment, read our article: Changing employee terms and conditions: proceed with caution.

Redundancy situations

There is never a good time to make roles redundant. However, sometimes it is the only option, for example for cost reduction purposes or in a takeover scenario.

It may be difficult to be quite as transparent as stated above during a restructure, especially owing to legal requirements.

However, it is still important to dispel rumours and to reassure employees. Often rumours – and refusing to address the situation with employees – can be far more damaging to a business’ reputation than the redundancies themselves.

Explain, if you are able to, which areas of the business might be at risk, and explore transferring employees to other areas of the business if it is both feasible and what the employee wants.

Respecting employees and never underestimating or forgetting the ‘human’ cost involved in a redundancy situation will put employers in better stead with those who are being made redundant, and will reassure remaining employees that their senior leaders are respectable and thoughtful employers. This will pay dividends to employee retention and motivation in the long run.

We hope you found this article useful. If you’d like specific advice for managing your own business change, our team of HR consultants are available to provide specialist advice for your situation, contact us today at office@fitzgeraldhr.co.uk or call the team on 01271 859 267.

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Changing employee terms and conditions: Proceed with caution

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