The ‘Treacle Layer’ – Are your middle managers resisting change?

Employment & Skills | Legal | Reports

Written by Rebekah Wallis, Director of People and Corporate Responsibility, Ricoh UK

While junior employees are often eager and comfortable to learn, this isn’t always the case with middle managers. Enter the treacle layer.

For business leaders often hungry for change in order to reduce costs and achieve greater productivity, encountering this sticky resistance from senior leadership can be a major problem.

Change management, the red thread running through every transformation project, needs to be focused especially on this group, and with the right support mechanisms in place.

So how can organisations empower employees to change behaviour and support collaboration?

Understand your employees’ needs and preferences

The first step to empowering your staff is listening to them. If design solutions which maximise workers’ productivity are to be implemented successfully, there needs to be an understanding of challenges they face and how the workplace affects this. Early involvement in the change process will ensure staff feel their point of view is being considered and result in support for new processes and technology.

Provide change management support

A recent study from Ricoh found that while 98% of employees are enthusiastic or excited about the introduction of new technologies, a third don’t feel equipped to get the most from traditional software, let alone new technologies such as AI. If you introduce new processes, technology or workplace solutions, you need to ensure employees understand why they were introduced, how best to use them, the benefits and who to ask for help. Doing so will mean people are more able to change their behaviour and that changes will stick.

Instil a culture of continuous improvement

Encouraging and empowering staff to adopt new processes may require training. The availability of a broad range of different courses can also instil a culture of continuous improvement and help to unlock a ‘growth mindset’.

Adapt processes and technology for remote working

Mobile and flexible working is no longer about working from home. Rather, it’s about giving employees the right tools and technology to work out how and where they will be most productive. New collaboration technology may also be required, such as video conferencing services and interactive whiteboards, which enable teams in different locations to collaborate seamlessly.

Deploy resources to fill resource gaps

Empowering staff can also mean introducing them to specialists who can help them overcome their own knowledge gaps and upskill them. This is particularly important as work becomes more specialised and businesses find they can’t do everything themselves. It also allows managers to scale teams up or down according to need, making headcount more agile.

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