Managing Change in the Workplace

Managing Change in the Workplace

“Managing and changing organisations appears to be getting more rather than less difficult and more rather than less important” Burnes [1996]

Critically evaluate and debate this statement, highlighting the potential challenges organisations face in managing change effectively

Over the last 20 years new products, processes and services have appeared at an increasing rate. Local markets have become global markets due to the advance of technology (the internet) and protected or semi- protected markets have been opened to competition. Monopolies have been transferred to the private sector (e.g. British rail, BT, & utility companies) or they have adopted more market-orientated practices. To keep abreast of competition organisations are restructuring, introducing new products and services, changing information systems and introducing new work practices. Organisations that fail to change cannot survive in the competition and will fail to make a profit. (Burnes, 2004)

The aim of managing change in organisations is to guide the people in the change process so they can adapt, change behaviour and cope with the new change that is happening in the organisation. Sometimes people in the organisation find it difficult to cope with change as the old responsibilities, roles and behaviour and attitudes are not easily forgotten. In organisations people are the most important asset in the business if people cannot change, processes and systems cannot change. Careful strategic planning must take place involving the people so they can understand what is needed to change as the behaviours, personality, values and all work for and against organisational change (Blake & Bush, 2009)

According to (Blake & Bush, 2009 p3) “Change management is the process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of business change to achieve the most successful business outcome”

Organisations are constantly assessing their efficiency and performance therefore managing change is important. Persuading stakeholders to change can be difficult yet if it is successful organisations can survive and thrive to gain a competitive advantage. According to (Blake and Bush, 2009) organisations have to meet four conditions to convince their employees, these are:-

1. Give an insight to why their organisation wants to change and how it will benefit them and make then agree

2. Make sure structure, processes and reward systems must be put in place to support change

3. Employees obtain the right skills for the new change

4. Ensure employees update their roles and responsibility and model them to the new change.

The need for change can be difficult, costly and sometimes disappointing. Expensive new information systems, policies and organisational structure attract most attention but organisations forget their talent workforce and how they are affected by change. Sometimes it is a difficult process depending on how old or new, large or small the organisation is. (Buchanan& Huczynski, 2004)

The need for change is initiated by two categories, internal factors and external factors within the macro and micro environment. External triggers for change can include:

* Economic fluctuations – This may develop or hinder the development of new products or processes. For example, in times of recession customers may not have money to spend on ‘luxury’ items and will concentrate on basic everyday essential items. New products will not come into the market due to lack of funds.

* Social – For example, the size, age and sex distribution of the population can affect the demand for a product. An ageing population will make organisations target products / services to suit them to increase sales and market share.

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* The development of new technology has made it possible to develop a whole range of new products.

* Changes in customer requirements and tastes require organisations to cater for their needs.

* Competitors are continually developing new products

* The EU has opened new markets in new countries

* Global trading via the internet increases pressure for organisations to change its design and become globalised but in order for the organisation to do so it must transform their processes, systems and cultures to become internationally known.

* Changes in social and cultural values

Internal triggers for change can include:

* High absenteeism and staff turnover

* Inadequate skill or training

* New design of product /service

(Buchanan& Huczynski, 2004)

Generally, a high proportion of change efforts end in failure (Beer and Nohria,2000; Burnes, 2003; Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001). Change projects fail because not enough planning or thought has taken place to achieve the desired objectives. Sometimes change takes place not for the interest of the organisation but for personal or sectional interests. (Burnes, 2004)

The value of the HR function is very important when an organisation is going through the process of change. A lot of companies are giving more responsibility to senior and line managers. Senior managers and the HR function can work together to ensure that the business can change to meet the needs of customers, build good relationships with its stakeholders and ensure employee talent is retained and developed in changing situations. (Hennessy & McCartney, 2008)

HR can also help ensure that organisational culture is open to change by ensuring change agents handle sensitive emotions and the correct management policies are in place. For example the right people are recruited, trained or developed and the appropriate pay and reward policies are in place to keep staff motivated. HR also ensures that change is gradual across the whole of the organisation.

HR change agents should find out whether part of the change is supported or resisted. It also gives people a chance to discuss and sort out their concerns with the “change agents” and to feel satisfied with the change. Communication is important such as face to face and team briefings are beneficial in the change process (Armstrong, 2006)

However, there will always be some resistance to change. “People resist change because it is seen as a threat to familiar patterns of behaviour as well as to status and financial rewards.” (Armstrong. 2006, p345). The main reasons of resisting change are as follows:

* Change to established routines, methods of working or conditions of employment will be seen as a threat to job security and loss of potential earnings such as overtime etc.

* The workforce may view management as having ulterior motives to introduce change making the organisation ready for merger or takeover.

* Change can be worrying for the workforce as there is a lot of uncertainty about the impact of the change.

* In some organisations change can cause inconvenience to the workforce. For example any changes in starting and finishing work shifts may require new arrangements for child minding etc.

* Loss of a parking space or office may be viewed as a loss of status or importance in the organisation and therefore cause resistance to change

* Disruption to customary social relationships and standards of the group will be resisted as this will be seen as a threat to interpersonal relationships.

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* Learning new skills and coping with new demands may raise concern for some of the workforce as they will not be certain if they can cope with the new change. (Armstrong, 2006)

Process of change

According to Jain, 2005 the following steps are considered in the change process and these are:

* Develop new goals or objectives to replace goals or objectives having a negative impact.

* A manager must be appointed to overlook the change and control the resistance

* Diagnose the problem – gather issues surrounding the problem where the change is needed.

* Methodology – Use a methodology for change so that everyone can agree too and to try and avoid any resistance. All members emotions should be considered when drawing up the methodology

* Develop plan/strategies on what changes need to be done

* Strategy for implementing the plan – correct timing and communication channels need to be done. Members should be briefed up on the changes using one to one meetings as often as possible.

* Allow for natural resistance problems to be sorted during the change process. (Jain, 2005)

For change to take place successfully the main objective is to change people’s behaviour and attitudes and improve the ability for the organisation to cope with changes to the environment.

Nadler and Tushman (1980) cited in (Armstrong, 2006) suggested some guidelines on how change should be implemented. Motivate individuals to achieve change by:

* Communicating a clear image of the future

* All concerned to support the change rather than block it

* Stable structures and processes will help change and reduce uncertainty and instability.

Another model of change was invented by Kurt Lewin which was an effective process for achieving behavioural changes in groups. Lewin’s model involves a three stage process:-

1. Unfreezing the status quo -looking at old processes and what change needs to be done

2. Changing- Bring about the change by reorganising the resources

3. Refreezing – Embedding the new changes of working (Mullins, 2002)

According to Burnes, 1996 cited in the (Langer, J et al, 2005) claims that the problem with Lewins assumption is that the stability of the external environment is always changing therefore the three stage changing process is not quite straightforward and is only gradual and continuous not revolutionary. (Langer, J et al, 2005)

Beers “6 steps model” looks at the complexity of change and how an organisation deals with responses to the effectiveness of change. Beers model concentrates’ on “task alignment” (employee’s roles, responsibility and relationships) as the key to alter new ways of thinking, attitudes and behaviour. Beers uses this model as a way of changing people’s behaviour and attitudes with their roles and responsibility in order to adapt to change. The 6 steps are:-

Stage 1- Act and commit to change through diagnoses

Stage 2- Develop the organisations shared vision

Stage 3- learn the roles and responsibilities to the shared vision

Stage 4- Spread the word about change

Stage 5- Make the change institutionalised through policies.

Stage 6 – Monitor and adjust as needed (Blake & Bush, 2009)

There are many models of change but different organisations will need to choose a model that best suits their culture and values. A simple model would be to investigate changes that are needed and look at individual responses to change.

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* Plan the change

* Implement the change

* Manage the people side of change

* Manage the organisational side of change

The world is changing rapidly to keep up with global competition, technological innovation; de- regulation, privatisation of public sector organisations and much more managers face complex and challenging pressures and opportunities. Changing organisations is a complex process with more opportunity for failure than success. Good managers and leaders are important to an organisation as they can create the conditions for growth and prosperity. Managers should gather and be more open to a wide variety of information. Any decision to implement change should be to the benefit for all concerned and not just for themselves. Organisations must ensure the efficient use of resources and offer the right products and services, to use the appropriate technologies as well as recruit and retain people with the best skills. (Carnal, 2009)

The organisation also needs to have strategies, accountabilities, information systems and resources to improve or sustain performance against the organisations objectives. The efficient organisation focuses on internal efficiency and control. Maintaining internal systems includes activities such as performance appraisal, training, development and reward system. The ability to attract and retain high quality staff at all level is a useful indicator of effectiveness. The effective organisation adapts to the external environment and includes marketing, public and community relations. For change to be successful an organisation need to be customer focused. More interfacing skills, negotiation skill and networking skills will also be needed when a change is needed (Carnal, 2009)


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