Change is a common feature in organizations. The capacity to handle such changes is the core competence of success in organizations (Weick & Quinn, 1999, p. 362). Over the last two decades, the main drivers of organizational changes have been technological advancements, stiff competition, and fluctuations in the global economy. This has led to the exploration of mechanisms for achieving competitive advantage through increased radical forms of change (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997, p. 50).
In the context of business survival, growth and normal operation, it is imperative to respond to transformational processes and explore the available opportunities. The current competitive business environment calls for high level of flexibility, based specifically on human resources. Therefore, human resources are considered as a significant asset capable of enforcing change in organizations. This is partly due to the fact that employees are the custodian of organizational values, which is one of the principal strategic elements determining companies’ potential (Kaplan &Norton, 1992, p. 74).
Therefore, employee resistance has been identified as one of the main reasons why many organizations are still lagging behind with regards to the implementation of new changes. For this reason, employee resistance to change is a vital element that needs to be given keen attention (Kaplan &Norton, 1992, p. 74). Many scholars have pointed out to the fact that conflicts in the organizations are caused by the employee resistance.
The unity of the employees is considered to be strength to the organization. But when the employees have divergent views and attitudes towards a new proposed change, the business will be highly affected. These divergent opinions and attitudes are the contributing factors to employee resistance. The resistant employees are perceived to be radicals who believed that the goals and the views of the company clashed with their own individual goals and needs. Resistance is an impediment to change, and for change to occur, the company needs to eliminate resistance (Coch & French, 1948, p. 512).
Some employees can reason that the perceived change will result in job losses, others may have the belief that the perceived change can result to decreased salaries or allowances, while others might argue that their skills and talent will become obsolete and no longer needed by the company. Therefore, this implies that the bigger problem to solve in this case is not the resistance to change, but rather to look at the bigger picture of the outcomes of the change.This paper will explore the role of a solid communication strategy in change management, and will be based on a case study of Delta Airline (Coch & French, 1948, p. 512). The paper will apply different theories and concepts and key arguments between authors and different theoretical positions.
Delta Airline is one of the leading American Airlines based in Atlanta, Georgia. It is also a widely recognized and celebrated brand name in the air transport industry for over 80 years. This is attributable to its route network that covers over 334 cities in more than 64 countries and up to date air transport system. In addition, Delta Airline is a member of the Sky Team Alliance which has increased its global presence to roughly 140 countries (Delta Airline, Inc., 2015, p. 1).
The market environment of Delta Airline is highly competitive with global, regional and local competitors. Just like the tech companies, the greatest threat facing Airline Companies, including Delta Airline is rapid technological change and global economic conditions. For this reason, Airline Companies are always under pressure to come up with new products that match the existing demand. Those that cannot keep up are forced out of the business (Delta Airline, Inc., 2015, p. 3). As a result, change management is significant for Delta Airline sustainability.
The Delta Airline is proposing a positive change program, which is bound to be received with hostility from senior managers and other employees. The proposed changes will create a paradigm shift in regards to the relationship between the owners of the company and the employees. The changes are necessary as they are to determine the survival of the airline company. The owners have come up with a plan that will ensure the introduction of new changes and their successful implementation. The plan is to be executed within a period of six months. It involves creating awareness with regards to the urgency of the situation. Besides, training and facilitations will be done in order to prepare employees. The proposed changes involve setting of new targets and operational activities and, therefore, are highly concentrated in some areas.
Probable Causes of Resistance
The three causes of resistance include; first, the goals of the organizations are unlikely to match with the goals and needs of the employees; second, the proposed changes will require some form of behavioral changes on part of the employees; third, the employees will feel that they do not have adequate knowledge and skills to tackle the new challenges.
The new targets are high and the newly set goals are not in conformity with the personal goals of the employees. This will bring about a slowdown in operations as the employees will slowly start to resist the proposed changes. The new policies and procedures of working will also demand the behavioral changes from the employees. As a result, Delta Airline will start registering high rates of absenteeism and high rates of the employee turnover.
In addition, the employees will be less motivated, which will compromise the quality and quantity of the output. For this reason, the airline will experience increased costs of operation as resources will be wasted and productivity lowered. Last but not least, the employees will feel they did not have adequate skills and knowledge to tackle the new challenges since six months is too short to master the new concepts. They will believe the new changes are meant to frustrate them, whereas the management will feel the employees are sabotaging operations. All these will bring discomfort at the workplace.
The relationship between change resistance and communication
Any form of change in the organization requires constant communication between the owners and the employees. The employees need to know about the proposed change in advance and they should be given time to fully understand the nature of the change and the likely benefits that the change will have on their role as employees holding various positions. Change is inevitable, and at some point in any organization, it has to occur.
Communication, therefore, is seen as an act of preventing a likely fall out in the structure of the airline (Clampitt & Berk, n.d., p. 9; Coch & French, 1948, p. 514). The structural change in the company should not take the employees by surprise, but rather the employees should anticipate it in advance. Communication involves sharing of information and presentation of facts. The owners who are the proponents of change should have an in-depth preparation in advance in regards to the benefits of the proposed change. In this case, the benefits should outweigh the demerits (Guth & Ian, 1986, p. 320).
Communication strategies necessary to minimize change resistance
Without a doubt, communication plays a very significant role in business management, specifically change management. According to the iceberg theory, there are four communication strategies that can be used to minimize employee’s dissent to new changes based on different stages of planning. The strategies include use of multiple channels of communication, linking messages to the employee’s pre-existing perception, safety valve strategy, and proper timing (Clampitt & Berk, n.d., p. 9). However, the study will only focus on three strategies.
The use of multiple communication channels enhances the probability of the message reaching the target audience, which are the employees. As we have already seen, structural change in the company should not take the employees by surprise, but rather the employees should anticipate it in advance. In addition the use of multiple channels, for instance, electronic mail, face-to-face meetings, and internal memos can help the management to determine whether the employees are still in denial (Clampitt & Berk, n.d., p. 9). On the other hand, linking messages to the employee’s pre-existing perception will help them relate with the proposed changes. For example, when communicating to employees about the need to change a healthcare system, it is important to remind them about the existing healthcare crisis (Clampitt & Berk, n.d., p. 10).
Lastly, the safety valve strategy is all about ways of confronting employees’ doubts. Any form of change in an organization is likely to experience resistance from employees. As a result, the management needs to “harvest the dissent”, which entails taking into consideration workers concerns about the proposed changes and organizing a meeting to deliberate on the same. The deliberation should involve making amendments where necessary. If this is not done, there is a high probability that the employees will sabotage new plan (Clampitt & Berk, n.d., p. 11). The safety valve strategy is the most appropriate approach to deal with the problem facing Delta Airline. This is partly due to the fact that employees are the custodian of the change process and not involving them means the process is bound to fail.
From the above discussion, it is very clear that employees always resist change when they are not involved in the change process. Communication have defined goal as the main objective behind the setting up of numerous strategies. All the employees and the owners of the company must work as a team with the motivation to meet the organizational goals. It is through communication that the company’s identity is created.
The goal also provides motivation to the employees, thus, giving them the enthusiasm and psyche to discharge their duties in an appropriate manner. An organization can have short term goals, mid-term goals and long term goals. The top management of the organization uses the organization’s goals as a cornerstone for designing the communication strategy. The communication strategies are very helpful to the company in realizing maximum revenue, providing exceptional customer service, and enhancing the quality of the products. Therefore, in order for Delta Airline to avert employee dissent, it should follow the following plan:
- It should use multiple communications channels to avoid an element of surprise.
- The message sent should be linked to the employees’ context of thinking.
- The company must take into consideration the employees concern and deliberate on the same.
- The deliberations should be used to amend the proposed plan accordingly to minimize dissent.
Clampitt, P., & Berk, L. (n.d.) Strategically Communicating Organizational Change. Kansas, IL: University of Campus.
Coch, L., & French, J. (1948). Overcoming resistance to change. Human Relations, 1 (4), 512-32.
Delt Airline, Inc. (2015). Delta Airline: Our History. Web.
Guth, W., & Ian, M. (1986). Strategy implementation versus middle manager self-interest. Strategic Management Journal, 7 (4), 313—27.
Kaplan, R., &Norton, D. (1992). The Balanced Scorecard: measures that drive performance. Harvard Business Review, 71-9.
Reichers, A., Wanous, J., & Austin, T. (1997).Understanding and managing cynicism about organizational change. Academy of Management Review,11(1), 48–59.
Weick, K., & Quinn, E. (1999). Organisational change and development. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 361–86.