How Company Changes Can Affect Your Employees

01 May 2018

Your company may be growing or shrinking, and with that comes some changes. More staff recruitment, a merger or partnership with another company, a major effort at restructuring, all of these might happen to an expanding business. While it will eventually affect everyone working for the company, those in front line roles tend to get hit the hardest with these changes.

Some will take it in their stride, doubling down on good work. Others may view the changes as bad for themselves or the company, and the typical behaviour you see ranges from passively resisting or ignoring changes to outright attempts at sabotaging or leaving the company.
Obviously, the latter options aren’t very desirable. The key to avoiding creating disengaged and resentful employees is to make sure that they are supported through the changes made, especially in regards to loss of job benefits or pay.

The Change Curve (link to model) is a model of how an individual employee may react to changes in their company. Typically, they will become less effective at their job while trying to cope with the changes imposed, and gradually rising in competence again after further testing and rationalising of the company plans. This is to be expected, especially if they haven’t been fully informed of the changes well in advance.

What is less expected is the more human cost to a company changing. Studies in Denmark have indicated that many employees seek medical prescriptions for stress-related illnesses in the wake of a major change at their job, as some feel overburdened or scared about their job security.

Loyalty is another issue that comes with change, especially when making cuts to pay or benefits. Those that can leave for greener pastures will, while those that cannot find another job will quickly become resentful for losing money and/or benefits, which in turn leads to less motivation and possibly an unwillingness to perform their job up to usual standards. Other employees may simply spend less time than usual working, such as showing up late, taking longer lunch breaks and leaving exactly when the day ends.

For obvious reasons, an employee with a family to care for will likely leave or become worse at their job in this scenario. Proper communication and support will allow these employees to reconsider and hopefully maintain a good quality of work.

On a broader level, changes can cause a great deal of friction in-between departments. Decisions such as outsourcing or shrinking a department, or hiring new staff from different walks of life can significantly affect work performance and satisfaction. Preventing this friction is difficult but it can be abated by discussing these changes with staff and taking suggestions on how to avoid the blowback that may occur.

Change in your company is a difficult time for everyone, from stakeholders to interns. People may not accept these changes and leave, but the best way to prevent further staff losses or a potential breakdown of the company is to make sure everyone’s voices are heard and accounted for. Sometimes, the simple reassurance of knowing you were heard is enough for employees.