Ask the opinion of the employees when you make changes in your company
‘Change’ has been the defining word of the past year, whether we refer to the major transformations suffered by companies due to the COVID-19 pandemic or to the personal changes which we all experienced when the new health crisis emerged. But how do changes affect a company, namely its people and its organizational culture, and who is entitled to make changes?
Changes are made for various reasons in a company. The numbers do not look right, the employees are not motivated enough, the company lags behind on matters like international trends or new technology, or the company has new managers who want to change things around.
When we ask ourselves who is responsible of making the change, the first answer that comes to our minds is probably ‘the boss or the manager’. That is because he is the one who has the final saying when it comes to making or not making the change, but also because he has, or should have, the duty to be a model for his subordinates.
However, when we think things over, we realize it is more than that. On quite a few occasions I had the chance to hear leaders of various companies say that the employees are the most important asset. Every time I said to myself that this sounds cliché, but at the same time I realized it is as true as it gets. The teams represent the engine that keeps a company moving and change is equally impossible without their involvement as it is without the involvement of the management.
No matter how we look at this, we see that the two are closely intertwined. Changes do not happen without the approval of the managers but they themselves, no matter how motivated they might be, cannot make changes if they do not have the support of their team.
A major mistake made by many companies is that they impose changes without consulting with their staff and without taking into consideration how these changes will affect them, and by doing this they risk making their employees frustrated or even make them quit. Let’s say a company decides to move its office to the other side of a big city. Maybe the reasons behind this decision are justified – the rent is too big or they want to attract more partners, clients or investors.
But what will this decision mean to an employee who has chosen to enroll his small children in a school close to the area where his old office used to be? Or to an employee already burdened by instalments and loans, for whom a larger transportation fee will weigh heavily on his monthly payments? This kind of changes should be made known to the employees before making them, in order to find solutions. It’s true, a company cannot make every decision based on the problems of its employees – after all, the ultimate goal is to make a profit – but it can still find solutions to their problems. For example, some employees can work remotely.
Even positive changes, like starting a book club or a volunteer program, should be first discussed with the employees, not imposed on them for the sake of making a company look good or of indulging the managers’ whims at any cost.
Many times, this mistake is made together with an equally serious mistake and that is not allowing the employees to bring their own ideas of change to the table, change for the better, of course. They are not only employees with professional abilities and job responsibilities but also people who have various talents, personalities and life experiences, a diverse network of friends and a lifetime of intellectual abilities which probably do not apply to their job description but can be valuable to the company in a way or another.
The employer has only to gain from giving them the opportunity to share their opinions, to make a contribution and to find solutions. More important than the financial gains is the fact that in this way he gains the respect, dedication and loyalty of his employees. The people who feel valued by their company will be motivated to get more involved and fight for the company, to use their skills and creativity for the sake of their team.
How important do you think the opinion of the employees is when making a change within an organization?