Kenya: Don't Look Here, Businesses Are Changing

Businesses globally are facing a myriad of challenges. They hit the organisations from various sources including the marketplace, economic downturn, an influx of competitors, changing laws and regulations affecting the business, changes in operations, changes in work procedures or organizational structures.

It is natural for management to implement or initiate changes measures to get a competitive advantage. For employees, change in the business environment could be as simple as operating out of a different office, change of teams or cities. While the company could benefit if employees understand, commit to and embrace change. Why do most employees resist change?

Change management is a systemic method dealing with the transition and transformation of the goals, processes and technologies of organisations. This approach enables establishments to devise various strategies which are essential to effect and control change whilst enabling people within the organisation to adapt to change. This continuing evolution enables companies to face and counter a range of challenging situations.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to global disruption. This has meant that businesses have had to alter certain aspects of their operations to keep afloat. Organisations continue to adapt to different ways to communicate and engage within the workplace and with clientele.

Customer service

The ability of the management and business resilience has also been put to test. Company leaders may act on improving certain aspects of operations with greater focus on customer value, quality management and follow up on plans to improve supply chain management, manufacturing, financial prudence and customer service.

But these changes cannot be executed successfully without the support of the workforce. Management usually expects subordinates to be agile to changes, enthusiastic, committed and goal oriented. However, many employees could misunderstand or disregard the implications of change and show resistance to change as they are too comfortable in their existing roles and habitually cling to the known while fearing the unknown.

Organisations should be dynamic and should persistently develop and adjust to various situations. This warrants for effective change management structures to be in place.

Work-from-home or work-from-anywhere models have been globally embraced more so over the past 18 months. Has this led to a strain on effective communication between the management and staff? There is a need for businesses to continually invest in effective messaging frameworks and purposeful communication. Never before did as many organisations use the live streaming, video conferencing and collaborative softwares for engagement with staff, clients and stakeholders as they do today. Poor internal communication could easily lead to project failure. Communication needs to be timely, efficient, purposeful and consistent now more than ever.

When endeavouring for an effective transformation, management must consider the diverse perceptions of individuals initiating and executing the changes. According to the Resistance to change theory by John Kotter and Leonard Schlesinger, there are mainly four situations which cause resistance to change: Self-interest whereby employees could come up with reasons why the proposed changes would not work and the minutest of errors and downtime can be blamed on the change.

Misunderstanding and lack of trust amongst the executives devising changes and the personnel required to implement it aggravates this misunderstanding. Different evaluations whereby junior colleagues envision the impacts of the proposed transformation inversely to their management.

Swift change

Fourth is low tolerance of change due to fear. This is evident as individuals dread workplace transformations fearing that they may not cultivate the skills and abilities desired promptly.

This is predominantly true of projects that necessitate swift change. The larger and quicker the change, the greater the difficulty for employees in accepting the change. A question one must ask is "do all the front line managers understand why the change is taking place?"

It is of principal importance to observe and listen keenly to the issues of the staff which will in turn enable management to foresee and address any ideological or human resource related difficulties in good time. Some important insights from employees about the organization which could be beneficial for improvement often gets neglected or unnoticed. Fostering an environment of teamwork and collaboration is crucial to the effective functioning of any business.

Every situation presents an opportunity. This is the time to examine data and create innovative and informed decisions. Businesses must strive towards establishing emerging patterns in this disruptive environment and generate solutions that would encourage the teams to be continually engaged and productive with added focus on seeking feedback, suggesting improvements, asking for help, encouraging trust, mutual respect and psychological wellbeing of the workforces.

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