When change is bad for you

22 January 2016 -


Poorly managed change programmes are damaging managers’ morale and the performance of organisations across the UK: Powerful new research from CMI

Matt Scott

The overwhelming majority of managers (97%) have experienced change in their organisation over the last 12 months, up from 92% in 2012.

But only 27% of managers say productivity has increased as a result; just 20% report that decision-making has become faster and only 36% say that financial results have improved (see below).

These are the worrying results of the 2016 CMI Quality of Working Life study, which also found an increase in reported absence levels (up from 23% in 2012 to 26%).

The impact of organisational change


The report said: “It is concerning that a rising trend for absenteeism exists in what appears to be a healthier climate. This may be linked to working hours and the volume and pace of work, all of which are perceived to be increasing.”

Something is clearly wrong with the way that change programmes are conceived and delivered, and this is having dramatic and damaging effects on the UK economy.

Find out more about how managers are suffering from being overworked

Lack of faith

What’s going on with change programmes? Only 28% of those surveyed say that senior management was handling change well – a record low.

Too often, these are top-down programmes, emasculating managers who should be central to the process. “Senior management need to re-focus on involving managers in organisational change, allowing them to influence its direction and implementation,” the report concludes. “If there is little faith that the process will be managed well, it is unlikely that organisations will gain the necessary support to move ahead effectively – even where change is associated with investment.

“Senior managers need to be more innovative in identifying different approaches for achieving change that will enable them to sustain recovery and growth. Allowing managers more scope in delivering change may improve perceptions of change management, and further improve feelings of empowerment and trust.”

After Sunderland City Council suffered a huge cut in funding that forced it to halve its workforce, John Rawling, the council’s deputy director of human resources and organisational development had to oversee massive change across the region.

Read about the 5 greatest examples of change management in business history

For him, managing this change successfully was all about engaging with staff at all levels of the organisation.

“Driving and adapting to these changes are key requirements of our employees and leaders”, Rawling says. “Employee engagement and productivity is dependent upon

employee wellbeing – which in turn is hugely influenced by employees’ experience of management and leadership, and the trust relationships they have with each other.”

Find out more about the Quality of Working Life study and download the full report at www.managers.org.uk/qualityofworkinglife

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