As human resource professionals we deal with change all of the time. We add and lose employees, change the assignment of duties, assist with altering the strategic direction of the organization, as well as deal with daily challenges. The ability to plan for change, manage change, and get the most out of change has become key competencies for human resource professionals over the last few decades. The current economic challenges have required considerable change in most organizations.
Recently, there has been considerable formal and informal discussion among employees and leaders alike on what human resource changes are next. A recent survey by the HR Leadership Council identified three key changes in the near term:
- 25 percent of high performers plan to leave in the next year;
- 75 percent of organizations plan to restructure in the next six months; and
- 75 percent of companies plan to reduce costs in the next year.
Each of these changes will alter the composition and morale of the workforce. The combination of high performers leaving, restructuring of current duties again in a short period of time, and efforts to revisit the reduction of costs will cause another wave of change in most organizations. How will employees respond to more change?
A 2012 HCS survey examined where the average employee is on a spectrum of acceptance of additional change. Almost 80 percent of respondents have a low acceptance of new changes (see Figure 1). Although most employees do not readily embrace change, this is higher than the average benchmark of 55 percent from the 2002-2008 time period. In other words, employees are fatigued from recent changes and are not looking forward to more uncertainty, instability, and change. What has been the legacy of change since 2008? The same group of 1,200 employees was asked about how change had impacted them individually and as a team. The responses appear in Figure 2. Almost 80 percent indicated that morale is lower than before while more than 70 percent felt that resources had decreased. Reduced productivity is a close third at 68 percent. Customer service and commitment scored the lowest
overall, but still was impacted in approximately 40 percent of organizations.
In most organizations, there is a fatigue from near constant change during the economic downturn. As new changes near, it will be harder to deal with the personal and professional cost of transition. The best thing for us to do is to:
- Understand the type and nature of changes;
- Plan for the change; and
- Communicate at all levels about the change.