When organisations contemplate change programs, great thought is given to the redesign of processes, the financial impact, and – one would hope – the human impact. However, often overlooked is the impact change will have on an organisation’s reputation, especially when surrounded by the negative commentary of affected stakeholders.
The media has highlighted this issue in recent weeks, as disgruntled employees flocked to social media channels with tweets and posts relating to their lack of engagement with the organisations and managers who employ them. It seems reasonable to assume that this activity is not wise; as Leigh Johns Australia’s Fair Work Commissioner stated ‘using social media to telegraph to the world your dissatisfaction is #dumbbehaviour’. But why do some employees deem it necessary to express their feelings to the world? The answer – uncertainty.
So, is no news really good news?
No. In our experience, none of us like uncertainty. Even if the news is going to be unpleasant, we want to know what will happen, and how it will affect us. We can then use this information to make decisions as to the appropriate course(s) of action; making our lives more certain, and allowing us to feel more in control of our situation. It is not surprising, therefore, the annual cost of ‘uncertainty’ to the Australian economy is $10 billion.
The importance of viewing change from the eye of those affected is often overlooked by management when planning and implementing change programs – we can easily forget what it feels like ‘not to know’.
In our experience, when planning change activities, we strongly recommend the need for a complete stakeholder analysis to be thoroughly undertaken. Look through the eyes of the stakeholder and try and best understand what their concerns may be, and the plans and activities you could implement or introduce to more effectively manage them. Programs such as outplacement, career management and resilience can be readily provided and will go some way to assisting employees manage change.
Sadly, we don’t see enough of this basic analysis by management about to undergo change events. Changes are announced, but insufficient attention is placed on the detail which affects stakeholders and their potential reactions. With little or no information, it is not surprising that these announcements breed insecurity and confusion, and result in some employees expressing their feelings about their organisations and managers via social media channels.
To ensure your own organisation does not fall into this trap, remember that some relatively simple analysis followed by clear communication and supported support strategies / programs would go a considerable way to reducing the cost of ‘uncertainty’. These steps are also key in building greater organisational engagement with stakeholders – ultimately assisting in maintaining organisational reputation.