The way in which managers communicate change is very crucial to the success of a changed program in any organization. The communication style which the company decides to use should ensure that their staffs appropriately understand what will happen and why it should happen. They should also be in a position to know what is expected of them, or how the change will impact them. The strategy used needs to make sure that, the message is delivered appropriately; with no overload, and that the message is communicated with no distortion. The communication approach used by Agilent Technologies to solve the downsizing problem was not well designed. Before deciding on downsizing the company did not scrutinize the reasons for the layoffs. They should have considered other alternatives instead of the layoffs and these alternatives should have ensured that the company still accomplishes its objectives. This is achieved through the “tell and sell” approach, where the managers identify alternative interests which can help disrupt the proposed change.
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The company maintained its competitiveness after the layoffs but that was a short-term advantage. They did not consider the long-term advantages in relation to the employment cycle. It was not prudent for the company to lay off its employees who have taken years of experience and once the economic cycle change, they would need to recruit again. They should have estimated the costs they would incur in training new staff and recruiting again once the economic patterns change. Although the company tried ways to save their costs, by the pay cut off of 10%, reducing the external consultants’ and also by hiring and calling their staff in order to reduce travel expenses, their guidelines as said were not clear. They did not strategize on all the possible alternatives before deciding on downsizing. Other possible alternatives could be; reduction of working hours, the introduction of compulsory vacations, requesting for any person who wished to volunteer for a layoff. Some staff can be willing to go for early retirement and others can agree on reducing the hours they work and this approach is the best way to win people to the change.
The “getting buy-in” approach used by Agilent Technology’s
Agilent Company focused on “getting the word out” and did not mind “getting buy-in”. The manager believed in communicating the change, which actually is the ability to control instead of shaping the information in such a way that the recipient understood well the need for the change. They overloaded the employees with too much information on change by holding so many brainstorming meetings, coffee talks, several newsletters, public address meetings, emails and they did not give the employees a chance to put their views across. They should have focused on letting the staff know why the change and why it was so inevitable to maintain the change. This would have helped the staff to react hence airing their views out.
The focus should have been to “getting buy-in”; this would be done by ensuring interactions through dialogue to discuss the change. They would also share similar values and in turn made aware of the measures appropriate to those values. The managers should provide the staff with knowledge of what is going on. The managers should recognize that not all the staffs buy the idea of change. Their main aim should be to provide rich communication media.
The communication media used by Agilent Technology’s
The communication media varies according to the manager’s ability to communicate change. Downsizing is a non-routine activity that requires a richer communication style. Face-to-face meetings are richer than memos since the manager can tell the reaction of the staff when change is communicated. Immediately the management learned of the need to lay off, they should have broadly thought about different ways to communicate the downsizing. Then they should have come up with an effective strategy on how to communicate before the downsizing, during the actual process of downsizing, and also after the downsizing. This would ensure a good workforce by unifying the company’s mission, vision and also creating a new organizational structure which would have ensured better success strategies. Open communication reduced anxiety especially through the newsletter which answers most of the questions the employees have on the reason for downsizing. Emotions also determine how the staffs receive the information and react to it. The messages should be passed in an empathetic manner.
The limitations of open communication during the downsizing process
Open communication in most cases is an advantage to those who remain after the downsizing but the ones who go prefer private communication. This avoids situations like when Ray’s colleagues felt that he did not have to work so hard yet he was going to be laid off. It is always advisable to deliver the news of downsizing to those involved directly. You should inform them about the reasons for the layoff. The affected staff should be treated with dignity and respect. Most prefer the privacy of the whole process and prefer either to pick their belongings in the evening or over the weekend to avoid witnesses.
Retaining staff motivation after layoffs
Staff motivation is very crucial in an organization that has just faced downsizing. This does not only affect those directly retrenched but it’s also very devastating to those left behind since they have to work more due to less manpower. There is a possibility of low commitment among the staff and this would lead to low productivity. Layoff should not be determined by capabilities or skills but by the performance of each individual. This way the staffs feel that the criteria used to determine who goes and who stays is justified. During downsizing, the manager should be careful on how you handle the situation and ensure dignity and respect to all the staff. Downsizing should be done in the most humane way possible. This means that it should be done with utmost respect and trust, thus the loyalty of the surviving staff is maintained.
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