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What we can learn from Robbie leaving Take That

Jamie Mackenzie, Director - Sodexo Engage
silhouette of people

In July 1995, hearts across the UK were broken as Robbie Williams announced that he was leaving the world-renowned boy band, Take That. He was a crucial part of the band and his departure had a role in their temporary break up in 1996.

Whilst all good things must come to an end, nobody can ever fully prepare for a surprise departure. Whether in a band, or in a multinational company it’s inevitable that people will leave and the only thing you can control is how you deal with it as a business and what you can learn.

Never forget: communicate  

A key part of change is making sure everyone involved knows it’s going to happen. Just as with boy bands, rumours can easily circulate about a business. To nip this in the bud and stop any spread of the wrong message or whispers going around, leaders need to be upfront and honest about what change is going to happen and when. They also need to be honest about how things will work during the period of change, and after.

Relight my fire

While we aren’t privy to the behind the scenes conversations in Take That when they faced a world tour one man down, it’s not hard to imagine how difficult it was to stand on stage every night and keep the energy up. The same can be said for a company trying to keep up with ‘business as usual’ following a major organisational change.

Many businesses are facing coronavirus triggered changes right now, such as redundancies, restructuring, or a complete overhaul of how business is done. These changes can have a huge impact on your team. In the case of redundancies, you could be dealing with survivor’s guilt from remaining employees. Or, during the lockdown, you may have noticed teams struggling to connect with the company’s mission and their role’s purpose while working remotely.

It’s vital for your business to keep employees motivated during these difficult times and any times of change. Make sure you’re reminding them of the bigger picture and focusing on the company mission, providing regular communication and asking for feedback, which can help you understand how employees are feeling.

Motivation can also be boosted with regular recognition and rewards. Taking the time to stop and reward staff, even with a simple thank you or a gift card, can really make a difference. Even the smallest gesture will go a long way towards making your employees feel valued.

Hold up a light

Following Robbie’s departure, hearts across the nation were broken and even the Samaritans had to step in and offer support. But it wasn’t only the fans that were impacted, his former bandmate Mark Owen later told a chat show that the last time he cried was “when Rob left”.

Change can have a huge impact on mental wellbeing. A large change in a company can trigger fears about job security, loss of income, and just general stress about new responsibilities. Today, many employees are dealing with these workplace stresses alongside handling the stress of a global pandemic, which could be a recipe for a mental health disaster.

Employers can and should help. Not only is there a duty of care, but, even before coronavirus, almost 13 million working days were predicted to be lost every year because of stress-related illnesses, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

There’s plenty of ways to support mental wellbeing in the workplace. Flexible working is a good option to help promote a better work-life balance, while providing team building activities(like Zoom yoga classes) can not only be a great way to relax, but also boost team morale.

Another solution is providing an Employee Assistance Programme. These provide employees with free, confidential mental health support, including face-to-face counselling, e-mail, and phone support. This kind of benefit can be hugely impactful on employees’ lives, providing them with much needed support and advice during a tough time.

Change is scary, and uncertainty only adds more strain to a stressful situation. But, several years after the break-up, Robbie re-joined his bandmates for a new album and tour, showing that change can be navigated, and everyone can come out the other side. Business can definitely do the same.

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