Business transformation doesn’t have to mean job losses

All companies must evolve to stay in the race. However, if you do it wrong you could end up hurting your business

Business transformation doesn’t have to mean job losses

Business transformation and culture change are terms which are often associated with insecurity, upheaval and job losses. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. With a positive, honest and structured approach, businesses can ensure that they stay ahead of the curve while also improving office morale and culture. So how can this be achieved?

Transformation and change are vital to a business, both internally and in terms of remaining externally competitive. Changes in the market, technology and customer behaviour can all happen incredibly quickly, and really affect the performance of businesses that aren’t willing to change with them. Plenty of high-profile brands are currently struggling to stay relevant in today’s climate, a reminder that all companies must keep on top of market developments, no matter their size.

However, when undertaking a change, there are a number of factors that business leaders need to consider, as well as steps that they should take. For instance, early and effective communication with employees is vital. In the past decade, business transformation became something of a buzzword, used to force an aggressive restructure with efficiency savings and cost-cutting at the top of the agenda. This has unsurprisingly led to a level of negativity around the change process.

The truth is that as long as management ensure that they are clear on a change programme’s end goal, which is often to improve the business rather than cut it down, then change should not be something to fear. This is something that business leaders must communicate to all staff members in order to ensure that there are no misconceptions.

If management fail to engage the entire organisation early, then this could have serious knock-on effects on the day-to-day running of the business. If staff members have been through a particularly cutthroat or ill-conceived business transformation programme before, they may end up concerned about their jobs and not embracing the change. This dip in morale can lead to negativity, lower productivity or even resignations from employees who lose their sense of investment in the organisation and feel undervalued. These effects would completely negate any positive changes before the process has even begun, therefore they should be avoided wherever possible.

Engaging people at all levels and from all areas of the business allows employers to reap the benefits of a collaborative atmosphere, where everyone is encouraged to contribute and input suggestions. In areas where further support is needed, specialists should be used and blended delivery teams should be created. Even if an individual’s specialism is only needed for a short period within the scope of the overall transformation, it is still wise to keep them informed for the duration, to ensure that they remain advocates of the project.

It is also advisable to set up a series of achievable, yet constructive deliverables which can quickly be achieved at the start of the transformation programme, giving employees a taste of the potential benefits of the change. If the transformation is IT heavy, this might include solving some immediate issues with software, data or suppliers which have been blocking efficiencies. Enhancing just one element of an employee or a team’s daily activity can make a world of difference to their morale, boost the momentum of the change process and free up time to contribute to other improvements or project activities.

Of course, there is no way to avoid the challenges of a transformation process, even when the management team and the employees are both lined up at the start. There are going to be difficult times ahead and periods where visible progress is minimal to the wider organisation. It is important to effectively communicate this to employees ahead of time in order to manage expectations, as failing to be clear up-front could be highly detrimental to employee trust further down the line. Promising benefits which can’t be delivered can breed contempt not only for the process, but also for the entire organisation. Similarly, if job losses are unavoidable, employers should be honest about this and explain the rationale behind them.

From a practical standpoint, having the wider infrastructure to support transformation can be hugely advantageous in increasing visibility and assurance around business change. A project management office (PMO) can aid co-ordination across projects, where multiple elements of the transformation may be going on at once. By being able to see exactly what’s going on, as well as when and where, business leaders can be assured that they are directing their efforts into the most appropriate department or project at any given time.

The only constant in the business world is change and failing to recognise this would be dangerous. Business transformation may initially seem an overwhelming and concerning prospect, but as long as employers dispel misconceptions and maintain honest and clear communication throughout the process, it can be a hugely positive endeavour, reigniting enthusiasm and excitement in the culture and future productivity of any organisation. 

Tamara Pleasant
Tamara Pleasant

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