Thursday, April 2, 2009

Change puts engagement and productivity at risk

More than one-third of employees are unable to adapt to workplace changes, decreasing their effectiveness on the job and suggesting that employee engagement and productivity are at high risk, according to a recent survey by Right Management.

Right Management asked more than 100 senior human resource professionals across North America: Is your workforce able to adapt to change and increase their effectiveness on the job?

  • 31% answered, “No, employee engagement and productivity are a major risk”
  • 43% answered, “Somewhat, our workforce gets the job done, but morale suffers”
  • 26% answered, “Yes, our workforce is very agile and responds to new challenges”

Among other changes, layoffs and organizational restructuring require leaders to make difficult decisions that many employees have trouble dealing with.

"As our poll results demonstrate—with only one in four employees having the agility to adapt to change—most organizations don’t prepare their employees to handle changes at work. As a result, change management strategies tend to fail, undermining the organization's ability to achieve the goals the change initiative was designed to produce," notes Right Management President and COO Douglas J. Matthews.

Matthews also commented that most hardships originate from a lack of planning, preparedness and skill in managing the change process. It is only through careful planning and with support at every level of an organization that employees will be able to manage change effectively.

Though the causes of workplace change can vary, there are a few basic concepts that every manager should review to help reduce its impact on engagement and productivity:

  • Communication. Keep communication lines open and inform your staff of upcoming changes as soon as possible. Having clear expectations is one of the most powerful ways to reduce workplace stress.

  • Participation. Involve employees in the decision-making process whenever you can. Involve your staff in managing the change and ask for their input when implementing new procedures or training programs.

  • Provide positive options. If a negative change, like a layoff, is unavoidable, offer employees something positive to balance out the situation. For example, implementing an employee development program for the remaining staff after a layoff can help improve productivity and relieve stress.

  • Monitor progress. Monitor the progress of your staff throughout the change. Keep an eye on productivity, attendance records, turnover rates, the use of sick leave - anything that may suggest your team is not adapting well.

Whether your organization is moving offices or has gone through a series of layoffs, communication is the key to making sure employees are managing stress effectively. Managers must listen, learn and take action to replace negative situations with positive experiences.

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