Why a more resilient workforce helps the process of change.

The recent results of “Brexit” divided political parties, social and cultural classes, families and friendships. The one underlying feeling was an apprehension of the unknown. When the result was announced, the feeing remained. Pandora’s box has been opened and no one can be certain of what lies ahead.

Change is inevitable. History is steeped in change. Dramatic changes in technology and communication will reshape the workplace and the workforce, particularly the financial sector. Organisations need to be prepared for this and able to seamlessly respond to it.

A Harvard business review in 2000 found that 66% of change initiatives fail to achieve desired outcomes [1]. Change within a business can stir many emotions in employees, including fear, anger and suspicion. These negative emotions are typically observed in middle management and more junior employees in comparison to senior management who view change with excitement and identify it as an opportunity. Why is this?

A top down leadership style, where senior management dictate and direct an organisation through change can be a contributing factor. Here, middle level and junior employees are left out of decision making processes that have led to change thus announcements of change are often a complete surprise. This can lead to confusion and a feeling of betrayal which results in resistance to the change, distraction from current workload and ultimately an overall decrease in productivity.

Secondly, the culture of a company can significantly impact how its employees respond to change and therefore whether the change is a success or failure. One study[2] found that an organisation that moulds a culture where change is expected, accepted and well prepared for, will sail through changes such as re-structuring or down-sizing smoothly and successfully compared to an organisation where change is never mentioned and largely hidden from employees.

This raises two questions for Wellness London; 1. How can you prepare or change an organisation’s culture and approach around change? 2. How can you prepare an individual employee’s attitude and behaviour towards change and support them through the process?

Changing culture

Veering away from the top-down approach to leadership, to an inside-out structure will allow all levels of employee to feel informed, included and listened too, when the topic of change arises. We have had first hand experience attending meetings where representatives from all levels and departments of an organisation are present and actively contribute to the topic at hand. In terms of the services we offer, we found our consequent wellness programmes were a greater success. We were able to build a more bespoke programme based around the feedback we received, which better represented the organisation in its entirety, rather than the opinions of a select group and level of seniority.

When re-structure is to occur, early information sharing with employees from all levels of employment will start the process gently preparing them for the future changes, without scare-mongering or distracting them from their work. Asking for their feedback will make all employees across the organisation feel included in the process of change and help senior management make wiser, more thoughtful choices in implementing the change strategy.

Where down-sizing is necessary, early thought and feedback on redundancy can again reduce fear and allow employees who may be more amenable to this route, step forward and voice their interest.

Wellness London believes providing specific wellbeing services to employees going through redundancy can help them through the transition and is a key responsibility of employers implementing such change.

Preparing and Supporting Employees Individually

The more resilient and adventurous employees of a workforce are more likely to better cope with shifting priorities and landscapes at work[3]  Change will be seamless with only a  reasonable but momentary disruption in productivity.

Mindfulness, taught in-office, can improve psychological capital (hope, optimism and resilience) which is related to positive emotions and therefore attitudes and behaviours, relative to organisational change[4]

Resilience training, mindfulness, focus and memory courses for employees may help better prepare an organisation for change, leading to a more seamless transition phase with no loss in productivity. Combing these types of courses with other wellbeing services such as nutritional advice and postural / musculoskeletal education, a team can become resilient, focussed and able to cope through any change process.

Creating a culture where employees thrive on change rather than fearing it, involving all levels of employees in the process and providing them with the wellbeing tools to do this, will ultimately drive success in major organisational change.



[1]Abrahamson, E. (2000) Change Without Pain. Harvard Business Review, July-August 2000

[2]  https://stenden.com/en/why-stenden/research/leadership-and-change-management/

[3] Editorial team, 2014. Supporting employees through organisational change. Vitality by Homewood Health. Volume 4, no 4.

[4] Avey, 2008. Can Positive Employees Help Positive Organisational Change? Journal of Applied Behavioural Science. March 2008. Vol 44, no 1, 48-70

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