Company X is a company in transition. In the past few months, Company X has experienced several unplanned changes, the results of which have raised red flags with the Human Resource department. In order to recover, it is the responsibility of the Human Resource Manager to develop an action plan that will improve employee morale by increasing communication, training, professional development, and teamwork.
The first step in designing an action plan is to recognize what the problems are. Diagnosing an organization is a complicated process that begins with an analysis of what is happening and what problems are resulting. Managers should collect information from employees at all levels of the organization to ensure that all problems are recognized and that each problem is described from all points of view. During the diagnosis phase, it is not uncommon for managers to employee several methods of data collection including questionnaires and diagnostic interviews of both internal and external stakeholders. These methods of data collection can provide essential information relevant to the correct diagnosis (George & Jones, 2008).
Two of Company X’s problems are related to inadequate training. The first problem is that line employees do not receive adequate training. There is some indication that the hectic production schedule has led to this situation. Although there is currently no indication that a line accident has occurred due to inadequate training, the risk of such an accident grows as long as this problem goes unresolved. Not only does this problem create a safety risk, it also reduces productivity and efficiency as line employees struggle with technical decisions.
Similarly, front line supervisors suffer from a lack of management development training. Historically, front line supervisors have been promoted from within the company and expected to perform their management duties immediately. Since Company X does not have an existing management development program, these promotions are most likely based on what Natalie Griffin (2003) would call workaholic employees, those employees that work long hours and show great skill at their assigned tasks. Unfortunately, workaholic employees often lack the tools necessary for effective leadership.
Company X will need to implement two new training programs. The first will be a technical training program for line employees. This training will verse them in proper safety practices, as well as, technical information they can use to increase productivity and efficiency. Additionally, this training should alleviate employees’ fear for their personal safety. The second program will be a management development training program for front line supervisors. The goal of this training is to develop new and potential front line supervisors into capable. The responsibility for developing these training programs will fall to the Human Resource department, but input from all levels of the company should be expected. The Human Resource department may be forced to bring in outside consultation if the required expertise cannot be found in-house.
The final problem Company X is experiencing is a general lack of communication between all segments of the workforce. Front line supervisors are not receiving adequate communication from upper management and line employees are not receiving adequate communication from front line supervisors. Consequently, neither of these groups feels comfortable communicating upward, since they are not receiving feedback. This lack of communication has created uncertainty among the front line supervisors, and fear within the line employees. This fear and uncertainty has reached the point where many employees are paralyzed by it. The opportunity for healthy innovation has disappeared since the creative environment necessary for such innovation does not exist.
Developing and implementing a training program is a five-step process. The first step in the process is to assess what training is required. This includes identifying necessary job skills, assessing the skills of prospective trainees, and deciding on measurable objectives (Dessler, 2008). Company X recently hired a few engineers to help optimize the production process. These engineers will be invaluable in designing the line employee training. They can provide vital knowledge regarding how the production system will evolve. Similarly, the front line supervisors have the experience to define what line employees need to understand at the current time. Design decisions for the management development training will require significant input from upper management. Understanding their strategic goals for the front line supervisors will help the Human Resource department design the training.
After all information has been gathered regarding the content of the training, the next step is to actually put the training together. This includes higher-level decisions such as what training format to use, as well as, content and materials that will be distributed to trainees. Training for line employees is best presented as job instruction training. This training method is especially suited to jobs that followed an ordered procedure, such as factory work. Coupled with an official on-the-job training program that pairs trainees with experienced personnel, job instruction training can be an effective instructional tool. Management training should also use a more individualized form of on-the-job training that pairs new and prospective front line supervisors with experienced management. Additionally, group-based case studies can give front line supervisors an opportunity to analyze situations they have not previously encountered and work out solutions with their peers (Dessler, 2008).
Before presenting the newly developed trainings to their audiences, the Human Resource department should deliver these trainings to a small group of evaluators. It will be the responsibility of these individuals to verify the accuracy of the information, as well as, its effectiveness. Therefore, the test audience should include experts in the content field and representatives from the proposed list of trainees. Only after this group has signed off on the training should it be considered ready for presentation (Dessler, 2008).
The final steps in training development are to implement the training and evaluate its success (Dessler, 2008). Management should perform the final evaluation of the success of the training. Measurable objects were chosen during the design phase of this process to facilitate this evaluation process. Once management has all the measurements in hand, they can decide if the training has been successful, or if a new training program needs to be devised to meet a new set of criteria.
Since the fulcrum of the communication problems seems to be the front line supervisors, it makes sense to put off addressing this problem until after the management training plan for front line supervisors has been implemented. Communication and empathy techniques will make up a significant portion of this training. It is likely that the combination of improved communication skills in front line supervisors and improved morale from line employees receiving the training they have requested will result in a far more communicable environment. However, should the two new trainings not produce the desired outcome, communication related training will need to be developed to meet the needs to upper management, front line supervisors, and line employees.
These proposed changes represent a major shift in Company X’s attitude toward developing employees. Although this new attitude is beneficial to the entire Company X workforce, it is probable that these changes will meet with resistance at various levels. Change often benefits some workers and groups at the expense of others. Large functional groups within an organization may resist changes if they feel they are paying the price for another functional group’s benefit. Organizations with multiple levels of management can also be resistant to change as the members of middle management are often set in their ways and unable to change how they operate. Finally, an organization’s culture may present challenges. Fro example, many employees at Company X have worked at the company for over five years. Many of these employees will have adopted negative attitudes related to the long-standing problems the company has endured. These organization-level resistances to change can be the most difficult since they require effort from the highest levels of the organization (George & Jones, 2008).
The changes brought about by the new training programs may find opponents at the group level. Groups within an organization develop informal rules that dictate how the group’s members interact. Additionally, groups develop a cohesion based on their shared experiences. This cohesion can lead to groupthink, a phenomenon in which group members ignore facts in order to support the claims of other group members (George & Jones, 2008). The new training programs may challenge the way in which group members interact. The group as a whole will feel compelled to resist these changes as they may lead to a shift in how the group functions.
Finally, management can expect to see individual resistance to these changes. Employees that have been successful in the old ways of doing business may feel insecurity as the organization begins to change. It is possible that they will feel unable to cope with the changing work environment. Absenteeism is a common affliction among individuals that feel insecure about their workplaces (George & Jones, 2008).
In order to effectively overcome the various resistances to change within the organization, Company X upper management will need to implement a change management plan. Two change management methodologies that will not be implemented by Company X include Kurt Lewin’s unfreeze, change, refreeze method and the chaotic theory of creative innovation. Although Lewin’s methodology has been popular since its introduction in the 1950s, it has become somewhat dated in the fast-paced world of technology driven organizations. On the other hand, relying on creativity to give rise to innovation has not worked for Company X so far. The company has become stagnant within its current structure. This stagnation inhibits the creativity necessary for the company to evolve without intervention (Clegg, Kornberger, & Pitsis, 2008).
The preferred change management process for Company X is processual change. This methodology recognizes that today’s organizations are in a constant state of motion and cannot be frozen. Therefore change should occur incrementally in a natural way. Although a few understand the direction in which the organization is heading, the majority of the workforce only realizes that changes have happened over time (Clegg, Kornberger, & Pitsis, 2008). For example, as the Human Resource department begins to do research about the various training programs that will be implemented, employee attitudes will shift as someone begins to take an interest in their complaints. Since employees will have had input into the design of these training programs, their implementation will be a source of pride, rather than of uncertainty.
Once the changes have taken place, it will be time to evaluate their effectiveness. Company X already tracks certain information regarding the performance of the factory lines. Since the line employee training focuses on improving job skills, these variables should improve. After the training, there should be a decrease in work-related accidents and increases in productivity and efficiency. The effectiveness of the management development training will be harder to analyze. Since front line supervisors interact with upper management and line employees, it is anticipated that this training will have the widest reaching impact. One measure of improved employee morale brought on by a better management style employed by front line supervisors is absenteeism. As employee morale rises, it is anticipated that absenteeism will decrease.
Other results of the management development training will have to be gathered by the Human Resource department. This includes interviewing employees at all levels of management. These interviews should seek to discover a change in employees’ perception of the problems. In other words, do employees still feel that the problems still exist? Observation will be another invaluable tool in this regard. Human Resource researchers will observe the behavior of employees and detect any changes in attitudes. Employees will hopefully display improved morale as they go about their daily activities. Whether the situation has improved or not, it will time to start the change management cycle over again and begin to diagnose the new problems.
Clegg, S., Kornberger, M., & Pitsis, T. (2008). Managing and organizations: An introduction to theory and practice (2nd ed.). London: SAGE.
Dessler, G. (2008). Human resource management (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
George, J. M., & Jones G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Griffin, N. (2003). Personalize Your Management Development. Harvard Business Review, 81(3), 113-119. Retrieved June 4, 2009, from Business Source Premier database.