Industrial Relations & Workplace Change

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Introduction

Change in the workplace is often viewed with negative connotations. Generally, this attitude can be best described as fear. It is vital that support of staff is sought for every anticipated change within an organization (Pettigrew 1992). This calls for planning. Planning involves more than a single level of decision-making. It involves consultation between the staff and management and preparing for the after-effects of the change before its implementation. The recent business environments have called for a change in workplace processes and organizations in order to facilitate the growth of corporations and business entities (Preece & Steven, 1999). These adjustments have been necessitated by the knowledge-based economies and the business transformations across the globe to suit client needs. These new business realities are not only a challenge to the management teams but also the entry-level staff.

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Change in itself is inevitable, and though it presents difficult paths within work settings, they ultimately alter individual people’s careers and style of life (Senge, 1990). Often when change is foreseen, employees are gripped with fear of job losses and possible transfers to undesired regions. Without proper control, these fears may degenerate into tensions, uncertainty and elevated forms of anger which may hamper job performance (Preece, Steven, & Steven, 1999). It follows then, that management of the workplaces in such a way that there is no fear or resistance to change and challenging situations, empowers employees as well as the management with the necessary work skills. Strategically, this is only possible if managers and employees are adequately prepared for better organizational performance within the organization (Gray, 1995).

Literature Review

As Pettigrew states, the more new changes are initiated, the more the need for change is established (1992). After decades of wrestling global competition effects, the impacts of mergers and acquisitions, stockholder demands, changing customers, and accelerated technological advancement, the corporate entities have resigned to the fact that change is inevitable. Restructuring and implementation of improvement programs to realign to the emerging needs is an ongoing process that has become part of the parcel of everyday operations of the corporations (Lewin, 1958). Such efforts often call for management changes, identification of the stakeholders likely to be affected, analyzing the effects, and coming with ways of ensuring that effects are minimal in impact. Additionally, the organizations have to assess the risks versus benefits that the change is expected to bring (Senge, 1990).

Research conducted in 2003 had indicated that more than half of organizations undergoing change were using non-formal approaches with a success rate of between 20 and 50%. However, in the recent past, research indicates that more than 80% of the organizations are using formal approaches to the management of change with a success rate of up to 90% (Buchanan & Badham, 1999). Formal change processes often value communication with employees. Communicating change to employees helps them view change beyond mere pronunciation. The planning process should therefore involve consulting the workforce on the best way to implement change. Taking views of employees makes them more committed to the process of change. They view themselves as part of the change rather than spectators at the sidelines. This facilitates harmony between workplace practice and the anticipated change. The change process is best summarized within the five ideals proposed by Storey.

Storey five ideal types

Storey, proposed five workplace change ideals which tend to summarize the approaches often adopted by organizations. These include top-down/systematic, piecemeal, bargaining for change, systematic jointism, and mixed models (Smith, 1992).

Top-down/systematic approach

Top-down/systematic approach incorporates interplay of the various components of the firm. It often adheres to project management rules. However, it is often lacking in participation, and local managers play little or no role and hence a little sense of ownership. It is mainly applicable when the management is not keen on consulting staff but rather on communicating already made the decision to them.

Piecemeal

Piecemeal on the other hand, takes into consideration different communication forms ranging from briefing of involved teams, open dialogue use, scheme of pay re-examination, and subcontracting services are employed where appropriate. In an approach similar to old styles, bargaining for change involves securing concession between the stakeholders, and in many instances, compensations are offered to those affected negatively. This is mainly applied when the management is concerned about the effect that the proposed change is to have on the employees.

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Systematic-jointism

The other type is systematic-jointism, where a full package is put together in a negotiated manner (Cummings & Huse, 1989). It is founded on the principle that successful change can only be achieved if the union’s management are engaged at corporate level consultations with regard to the process of strategically transforming. This model is mainly applicable when a consultative process is to be adopted whereby the employees and other stakeholders are also expected to participate in the change process. It helps employees to identify and feel as part of the change.

Mixed models

Mixed models, just as the name suggests involve neither a total package nor a series of discrete initiatives. It is to some extent mid-way incorporating various elements of other models. However, this approach is often tedious and complicated to implement. The model is applicable where the change involves a number of actions, some of which require consultation while other doesn’t. It takes into consideration the best possible approach to ensure maximum success.

Company example

The airline’s industry is one of the most competitive industries globally. Service provision is prime to its operations and any slight faults in the same could cost the airline a fortune. British airways know this better. Having been created after a merger between BOAC and BEA in the early 1970s, the company’s culture was often termed as militaristic and bureaucratic. Most of its senior pilots had undergone socialization within the armed forces and hence they lacked the appropriate work ethos to attend to customers as necessary. Rather than see customers as a person who was willing to pay for quality and perfect service, they saw them as people who wanted help from the airline.

As a result of their approach to serving clients, BA lacked competitiveness and became threatened by rival National Carriers as well as some other players venturing into the market. To restore profitability, the company embarked on a cost-cutting drive where 22,000 staff were lost in the ’80s and in 1981, over 14,000 lost. This process was driven by fear and a lot of uncertainty by clients as well as a reduced level of motivation. Ultimately, only a limited level of improvements in efficiency and productivity was achieved. It was further claimed that the achievement attained was merely a result of sterling pound value decline.

In the face of rising challenges, from the mid-1980s on, the management gained willingness term vision based on staff development and the enhancement of customer quality. This facilitated the program that took into consideration all stakeholders involved. The new initiative put much emphasis on staff growth, engagement of employees and a more collaborative approach to relations within the industry. A model of sustainable work change processes was adopted based on the following guidelines.

To ensure the right support was acquired, forward planning, smooth change transition and high success levels, a number of procedures ewer initiated including Seeking of advice from professionals taking any action or making plans, Providing the staff with a clear rationale for the need to change, encouraging of staff involvement decision-making process by setting up of systems to ensure participation and engagement in strong consultation, Confirmation of discussions/consultation outcomes in written form, Seeking the help of consultants where appropriate (Sawbridge, 1996). The consultants assist with career transition, financial advice, HR advice and mentoring of leadership team. Additionally, staff are informed what is being done and when it is to be done, Dealing directly and swiftly with any emerging rumors, and regularly checking on staff to ensure they understand the process of change and any new roles assigned to them (Scott, 1987).

In general, the overall model adapted to the process of change within the institution is systematic-jointism. This involves presentation of a fully packaged deal between the employs and the management (Bloomfield & Danieli, 1995). The participation of the employees union is largely important as they represent the interest and opinions of the workers (Halford & Savage, 1995). Additionally, a link is created between the staff and the management in order to ensure that the management is well aware of any ongoing processes during the process of restructuring.

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SWOT analysis

As mentioned earlier, the model employed is systematic jointism where workers through their unions are provided with fully packaged deal in the process of change. This model is however not without shortcomings and pitfalls which affect its success. However, it also has advantages and strengths which make it an ideal choice to the institution. This section of the paper analyses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats presented by this model of organizational change to the institution.

Strengths

First and most importantly, the process embraces a consultative approach whereby all the stakeholders are brought on board. This ensures that ever member of the organization not only identify with the change process but also seem themselves as part and parcel of the changes. It additionally helps the staff realize that the change is probably for the better and not necessarily meant to negatively impact on their career. This helps spell myths that often accompany the process of change (Scott, 1987). When the views of staff are adequately addressed, rather than feel threatened with the process, the embrace it and provide suggestions that would work to the benefit of the organization. Additionally, the model eliminates possibility of union resistance and hence avoids possible litigations and industrial strikes which may hamper the process of change (Pettigrew & Whipp, 1991).

Weaknesses

The process however comes with some weaknesses which may interfere with the overall processes of implementation. Firstly, the process emphasis on employs involvement may compromise the overall object of the change process in a bid to protect the employs. The process may additionally, is vulnerable sabotage by opponents who would largely be well informed in advance about the impending changes (French & Bell, 1995). This provides them with an ample time to plan strategies to resist the process.

Opportunities

The inclusive nature of the process offers employs opportunities to contribute their views and possibly recommend areas that they feel need change based on experience. This allow the organization to apply real time information in deciding which change approach to adapt. Often employs have first hand information of operations and have a better understanding of the loopholes and areas of difficulties to the operations/processes flow. Further inclusion and discussion with the union provides the management with an opportunity to bring on board all the stakeholders involved and hence ensure that the transition process is smooth and few or minimal hitches are met along the way. This provides the institution with an opportunity to achieve the highest level of success.

Threats

Finally, it must be acknowledge that competition is fundamental to processes within any organization. At times, change calls for high level of secrecy to avoid sabotage or unexpected responses by the competitors. This model lacks such secrecy and is open to the unseen hands of competition. Additionally, trade unions and some individual workers may use such processes to further selfish interests in addition to intentionally attempting to sabotage the implementation process.

However, like any other process the pros and the cons must always be there and hence the negative aspects may not render the process fully condemned. Instated, adjustments may be made to ensure that the model yields the maximum possible results.

Discussion

The overall structures adopted to ensure that all stakeholders’ interest was taken into consideration were based on the following outlay.

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The overall structures

An overview of the process reveals the importance of systematic mode approach to the process. Modeled approaches, unlike the traditional approaches employed in the past offer a strategized approach to management of organizational change (Slowey, 1995). It is this approach that ahs been able to spur the organization into greater prosperity more especially with the introduction of technology oriented learning approaches. Additionally, it has enabled the organization tore-align itself to the changing airline industry approach where students come from across the world.

Significant changes within an organization often affect its overall strategy towards achievement of success (Elton, 1995). The same can be said about BA which has successfully implemented a number of changes to further its status both locally and globally. The process is more of an evolution through a series of cycles and the success is dependent on the approach adopted.

When communicating organizational change to staff, there are several factors which assist in achieving effective internal communications. In building a communication strategy, consider who needs to be kept informed and the information they require (Slowey, 1995). While some information can be conveyed via a website or email, it is important to provide a personal interface and to enable discussion on important issues. Other tips for communicating with staff include: Maintaining of a consistent message which involves ensuring all staff has a similar understanding of what is planned and that the actions taken match the message being disseminated, practicing of two way communication whereby provision of information to staff is important, staff also need the opportunity to provide their comments and have them listened to and considered and face to face communication which involves delivery of new information to staff personally rather than through written communication, particularly if the information could be interpreted as bad news (Burnes, 1996). Any face to face communications can be followed up in writing as a letter, email or notice board memo. Remember, the majority of communication is through body language and voice tone and only 7% is through words (Buchanan & Boddy, 1999). Additionally, responsibility for communication is shared amongst stakeholders. Both bad and good information should be appropriately availed to the stakeholders.It is important to keep staff informed of all possible changes. Specifics, such as changes to duties, level or subsequent contract terms, can be communicated to staff individually (Buchanan & Boddy, 1992). Honest communication can assist in promoting staff unity when addressing the change. Informing staff of ‘bad’ news can assist in staff feeling more confident to report problems, issues and possible solutions to management. If only half the information is reported, suspicion and rumors can result. Finally, it is important to understand what staff wants to know as this will make communication more effective especially if staffs are provided with what they need to know, rather than only what you want to tell them.

Conclusion

Systematic approach provided by storey’s models offers organization a guideline upon which to approach the process of change (Kelly, 1998). Good models promote openness and support for the implementation of new ideas, systems or strategic directions (Butler, 1985). Poor change approach can have a negative impact upon productivity and staff morale and lead to uncertainty, anxiety, and resistance to change. The case of British airways stresses the guiding role that storey’s model types play in shaping the process of change within organization. They offer reference points upon which organization may choose a structured approach to adapt in change initiation and facilitation. Understanding of the processes involved in work place changes is therefore a necessary prerequisite to achieving of the set objectives. Without proper and clear guidelines the endeavor is more of a trial and error approach. However, adapting designated models provide a stepwise approach which allows evaluation as the change process progresses.

Structured approach takes into consideration the interests of all stakeholders and more so the employees who are often the victims. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) should be available for staff should they experience difficulty during the change process (Dawson, 1994). It allows continuous communication with all stakeholders and encourages individual contribution. This not only increases the chances of success but also reduce the level of hearsay, rumor and misinformation that can prevail. Put more clearly, it provides the evidence that has been collected and allows people time to think and digest, and then be available for further discussion.

References

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Buchanan, D. & Badham, R. (1999). Power, Politics and Organizational Change Winning the Turf Game, London, Sage.

Buchanan, D. & Boddy, D. (1992) The Expertise of the Change Agent: Public Performance and Backstage Activity, Hemel Hempstead, Prentice Hall.

Burnes, B. (1996). Managing Change: A Strategic Approach to Organisational Dynamics, Pitman, London.

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Halford, S. & Savage, M. (1995). ‘Restructuring Organisations, Changing People: Gender and Restructuring’ in Banking and Local Government, Work, Employment and Society, 9, 1:97–122.

Kelly, J. (1998). Rethinking Industrial Relations. Mobilisation, Collectivism and Long Waves, London, Routledge.

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Pettigrew, R. (1992). ‘Managing change for competitive success’, Human Resource Management Journal, 2, 3: 95–9.

Preece, D., Steven, G. & Steven, V. (1999). Work,Change and Competition: Managing for Bass, London, Routledge.

Sawbridge, M. (1996). ‘The politics and organizational complexity of staff development for academics: a discussion paper’, Sheffield, UCoSDA/CVCP

Scott, W. (1987). Organisations: Rational, Natural and Open Systems, Prentice–Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

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Smith, G. (1992). ‘A categorization of models of staff development in higher education’, British Journal of Educational Technology, 23, 39-47.

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