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UK businesses struggling with unprecedented levels of workforce change

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Almost all UK businesses (94 percent) have recently or are due to undergo significant workforce changes, such as restructures, M&A, office relocation or leadership change, according to new research from global people management business, Lee Hecht Harrison, Penna. The study identified that more change is coming and won’t be slowing down, with four in five (85 percent) of respondents expecting these changeable working conditions to continue unabated or even increase in the future. When it comes to handling these fast paced changes, over a quarter of respondents (27 percent) said they feel senior management is currently lacking the skills and experience to successfully manage the transitions. 

Not surprising due to the fact that less than half (47 percent) of organisations are adequately prepping leaders and managers to manage change. This lack of development can cause disengagement from the mission as a quarter of employees (25 percent) don’t believe their organisation will be able to take full advantage of business transformation. While 41 percent of organisations cite losing their top talent during uncertain times as a reason for being unable to deliver business transformation plans successfully. 

Although Britain’s economic future remains uncertain since the EU Referendum, the research showed Brexit is not the main driving force for workforce change. A third (33 percent) of workers cited technology as the biggest driver of change versus a quarter (26 percent) for Brexit. The much feared impact of the younger demographic (Generation Y and Z) is also not seen as a significant cause of change, with just over one in 10 (13 percent) attributing transformation to them. Nick Goldberg, CEO UK & Ireland of Lee Hecht Harrison | Penna, said: “While many may fear workforce change and the impact it has, this shouldn’t be the case. By embracing change, businesses stand to better serve their customers and transformation plans are ultimately designed to have a positive effect on the organisation’s financial performance. Yet our research has shown that inadequate leadership and talent planning means many businesses are not able to realise these benefits. 

“Organisations need to acknowledge this and then take the vital steps to future proof themselves. This should begin by developing change  management capability in leaders and senior managers but at the same time facilitating a more effective relationship between the two groups, so they are ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’. The amount and rate of workforce change is only set to increase, therefore the quicker firms embrace this, the more they ensure they will be able to meet the headwinds they’ll face.” The survey also identified insufficient preparation as the leading reason for weakness in talent management during times of change. Less than two in five (38 percent) organisations are assessing their talent requirements ahead of time. Larger businesses (2,500 or more employees) appear to be finding workforce change the most challenging, with nearly a quarter (22 percent) thinking it is being managed and communicated poorly in their organisation. The figure drops to 8 percent in small businesses of 100-249 employees. 

Mel Barclay, Head of Career Transition at LHH Penna, has put together career tips for employees changing times: Actively manage your career at all times – not just when you need to. It’s essential to keep on top of this and not let it fall by the wayside. Keep one eye on the market, company activity and emerging trends to ensure you are always up to date Spend some time regularly developing your network and keeping in touch.  Follow other people’s careers, learn from their journeys and introduce yourself to new contacts. Being seen to be proactive with your career will get you noticed 

Tap into networking groups or form your own.  Motivation and support during a time of change is the key to not losing focus so meet with others who are experiencing the same changes to swap tips, contacts and ideas. Have a clear and definite career vision. If you have a career goal, use a time of change to assess how realistic this is and what your ‘plan b’ may be. If you don’t have a vision, try thinking about what you want from your career and how you might achieve this. Always ensure that your ‘marketing toolkit’ is up to date. Keep your CV current and regularly review your LinkedIn profile to reflect your experience.  You never know when you may need these

The research was conducted by Opinium in September 2016 among 1,000 managers in small and large companies in the UK.

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