In my HR “life” back in the UK, I often found myself providing advice on managing change, whether it be restructuring, TUPE transfers or subtler cultural change. I now find myself on the other side of things, as Happy Holidays and one of their former competitors, Smiley Holidays, have both been acquired by a large French company. While these purchases took place a while ago now, it is interesting to see how the changes have now started to trickle down to the staff (me!).
So, can these changes create one new, contented holiday company / family? At the moment, the views of myself and colleagues are mixed – we’re not entirely convinced that things will be better, or even as good. What could be done to change our minds and to keep us engaged and motivated? Here are some suggestions:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
With any changes or takeovers there are always rumours about what will and won’t happen. Clear, regular communication is key if you are to stop the rumour mill and keep staff feeling engaged, rather than worried for their jobs. A monthly newsletter is better than nothing but it doesn’t really do all it needs to. How about using social media and other forms of communication too? – Especially if staff are based in multiple locations or work different shift patterns. Certainly face-to-face updates and briefings tend to be the most popular method with staff themselves, so can this be done in any shape or form? (Skype, Facetime, podcasts etc)
- It’s not all about structures…..
Most people tend to think of “change” as being about restructuring, but that isn’t always the case. Yes, it can make sense to join up some teams and to make some efficiencies and savings while doing so, however, this shouldn’t be the knee jerk reaction. If you are keen to keep current brand identities then you need to keep some differences in place, which means not merging and restructuring everything. Be clear on what structures will change, why and when, so allowing other, not directly affected teams / departments to stop worrying about what might happen to them. (at least for now) At least they can focus on their roles properly again and not be distracted or worried about what may lie ahead.
- Timing is everything
Make sure you understand what the businesses do when and why. Are there any critical or very busy times when it would be unwise to change things? For example for Happy Holidays, changing all of the company mobile phones over to a new network provider with new phone numbers perhaps should have been done outside of the holiday season! There would have been no customers in resort trying to call old numbers or not knowing about new numbers, and would have avoided a number of problems, upsets and complaints.
- Who are we again? What do we do?
Staff do identify with the organisation they work for and can often be surprisingly loyal to it. Staff will feel that they have their “psychological contract” in place with their employer, as well as their actual employment contract. Any change can potentially challenge the trust between employer and employee, and potentially sever the “psychological contract”.
It’s really important that staff can see and understand what the future holds and what will be changing. They can then choose whether they want to be part of this or not, and act accordingly. This can include seemingly obvious things such as – are we still planning to deliver the same product(s) or service(s) to the same customer(s)? Will we keep the same company values (eg. “green” or “ethical” commitments)? Will I still wear the same uniform? Will I still work in the same place? Will I be working the same hours? Things like this can really make a difference to someone deciding whether they will stay and go through the changes, or leave now to avoid them.
Even though this is about the two holiday companies I hope that the suggestions will be helpful for your business too. If anyone from Happy Holidays is reading this, you know where I am and I’m more than willing to make this change a positive one!