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Trust is a must for successful organisations

29 February 2002

Trust is a must for successful organisations

EMPLOYEES who survive their companies cutbacks and retain their jobs are often left feeling envious of their redundant colleagues, according to recently published research.

Far from feeling relieved, the 'survivors' see their ex-colleagues booking expensive foreign holidays and feel disappointed not to have received the same pay-off. To make matters worse, the survivors are the ones who have to cope with the chaos left behind after a downsizing exercise. This might mean that their jobs are changed so they do some of the work of their ex-colleagues. For this they're meant to feel grateful!

The research, conducted over four years by Aston University's Dr Kusum Sahdev, looks at how four big UK companies - a ballbearing maker, a county council, a credit card company and a utility - handled redundancies. Only SKF, the ballbearing manufacturer, came out of the study with any credibility. As Dr Sahdev put it: 'SKF has learned how to take the sting out of redundancy.

'Organisations spend a lot of time and money streamlining redundancies and sometimes people who may not have been brilliant in their jobs leave with big packages,' she added. It's almost as if they're getting the reward of a pay-off for being the most indispensable. 'SKF has built up a company culture where employees understand that downsizing is now a fact of life but are groomed to have the confidence that, if the day comes, they are equipped to move on as well as out,' added Dr Sahdev.

Dr Sahdev's research suggests the key characteristics of for employees to survive a downsizing exercise include:

• the capacity to bounce back despite recurring changes

• the ability to maintain an optimistic outlook

• seeing and using change as an opportunity for self-growth

Such characteristics are the essence of resilient employees who are central to achieving and sustaining competitiveness.

The challenge for organisations is how to achieve this - what conditions need to be in place for employees to deal with change in a robust and positive manner?

The research suggests three key elements to building resilience: trust, commitment and motivation. Trust is a prerequisite in generating binding organisational commitment and the will to deliver the highest quality of goods and services.

Where trust is low, organisations rely on the goodwill of their employees to contribute to the overall goals. This means commitment and motivation levels are fragmented, ie, they exist in some people and departments but not in others. So the organisation loses the creativity and vitality of the workforce as a whole.

The clear message to those wanting to get ahead in business, suggests the research, is that trust is a must among employees.

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For further information please call 0121 204 4549 or email: b.a.l.coombes@aston.ac.uk

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research