With the volume of change that is expected to press upon us in the coming months, it is hard not to feel unsure of the direction and pace of it. Change is often focused on the outcomes, the new future state and the benefits we can expect. However, we can often overlook the needs of the people who are impacted the most and the teams who are delivering the change.
Once the excitement of change has commenced, it can allow behaviours and environments that would not normally be tolerated under the premise of ‘change being hard’. We are all at sea right now, managing a combined volume of planned and unplanned change that is shaping much of the way we consider our future value.
The effects of these situations and behaviours on our employees can be very significant such as stress, anxiety, depression, lack of confidence and lowered job performance, which are counterintuitive to the very purpose that change sets out to accomplish.
We are at our best when our job includes some control over how we work, available organisational support and the right amount of pressure to be challenged, but not overwhelmed. Any type of organisational change can negatively shift the balance of these critical elements so it is important that we stay mindful of the hazards and risks that will come with it.
Safe Work Australia recognises Poor Organisational Change Management as a risk factor for psychological harm in the workplace and the recent disruption created by COVID-19, elevates the risk even further. They have identified the following hazards of poor organisational change management as:
- lack of planning as a result of the pace of the pandemic;
- continual restructures to address the effects of COVID-19 and a corresponding failure to provide information and training, consulting and communicating with or supporting workers (e.g. manufacturing companies making different products or redeploying staff to meet changes in demand);
- insufficient consideration of the potential WHS and performance impacts due to COVID-19.
When we see these types of hazards, we know that there will be unnecessary challenges that any change initiative will need to overcome for it to successful unless the organisation has effective controls in place of identification and management. The most common hazards that we see are;
- people are working longer hours for prolonged periods of time;
- the quality of work can be compromised;
- deadlines are often missed;
- people are unable to disconnect from work or are working very long days;
- people become withdrawn from situations when they would normally participate;
- people are actively seeking reassurance;
- people take more sick leave or come to work in a different state than normal;