17 September 2009

The Necessity for Investing in Employees in the UK in this Downturn Economy : Part 2 of 3

The dilemma of change management.

We previously spoke of the effect the current downturn is having on employees. We discussed that management need to take action in this environment rather than waiting for governments to act upon it. After all it is the management that employees trust in the normal operations of the company. There is no better time than the present to cement the trust and bonds between employees and use the current environment to drive change through team building. Team building within the company enables employees to face the downturn as a unit - a functioning powerful unit of people rather than scattered individuals.

As people we tend to learn from our environment. We know that a hot cup of coffee could burn you when spilled. We know that a barking dog is not the safest to pet. We know that we should not trust Bernard Madoff with our life investments. We also know who we can trust when we are in times of need; that shoulder we can always rely on. This current downturn is real live experiential learning. Any Human Resource Development Manager should be quick to jump on the current opportunities to ensure that their staff learn from these times. This is a time of great change. Change management is essential.

During the good times most corporations are greater change evangelists than are the Christian Reinhard Bonke's of the world. With the downturn we seem to have forgotten our own gospel of change champions, consulting with employees, appointing change agents and harnessing charismatic / transformational leadership capabilities. These are possibly some of the most significant times heralding some of the largest changes in corporate history. Are you going to be part of the team that went with the flow and caused more harm than good? Or are you going to be the change and gather your employees around you to drive forth these dramatic changes? Irrespective of the outcome of your company i.e. if it goes into liquidation, manages to survive or thrives beyond, it is the people who worked for you that will remember you the most whilst the balance sheets decay in the chronicles of history.

Change management begins with answering the questions. That is the questions raised by employees. Management need to ensure that change (ideally being driven from the top) involves educating all employees with absolute transparency what is currently going on in the company. This could detail financial information, business strategy information and the challenges / predicaments ahead of us. Transparency and information are vital. It does not help in anyway to have your CEO locked away in his room racking his brain out while everyone else is assuming it is over. Transparency ensures that everyone is aware of the true picture. It is a waste of time to try to fool employees with strategy and positioning pep talks. They are well aware of the truth! It is up to management to be honest, transparent and clear. Questions should be answered truthfully e.g. why there are salary delays. The management should be clear on what their strategy moving forward is. They need to detail what is the plan to get us out of the rut or to survive. Explanations should be given prior to making requests of employees to work longer hours and take on more work loads. This consultative process makes employees feel important as they rightfully are. It musters support and motivation. A transformational leader is required to reitereate the changes and ensure that his/her charisma, consultative mannerism and overall concern for employees builds confidence and trust.

Managers would need to take on the role of counselors. Being transformational leaders they would be expected to show concern over (in confidentiality) how employees are getting on outside the work place, ask them what there concerns are and do there utmost to ensure the well being of employees are looked into. Employees need a voice now more than ever before. A voice often ignored but is critical. A voice that must tweet at the top.

We hear a lot of quotes and see a lot of posters denoting team building. e.g. Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM), alone we can't but together we can, etc. If in the past we could foster team spirit and team building to face multifunctional projects using cross functional teams which operate under immense pressure then perhaps team building is the best suited model to work with employees during the truly difficult moments. It is sad to see the reverse i.e. breaking up of teams with lay offs and adding job insecurity to bonded team environments.

Leadership training, leadership development, change management, HRD, team learning, team building skills and management training are worthwhile investments in any downturn. Their necessity is similar to teaching paramedics First Aid.

How do we harness these team attributes? Next section.

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